Reenacting the Final Journey and Funeral of Abraham Lincoln

by M-Gillies

On April 21, 1865, President Lincoln’s body and the body of his 11 year old son, Willie, left Washington D.C. in "The United States".

Sevenscore and eight years ago, one man defined the Civil War as a rededication to the ideals set forth in the Declaration of Independence. He spoke of the country’s forefathers who were dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal and further created a new nation. He preserved the Union, ended slavery and promoted economic and financial modernization. With his untimely death in 1865 when he was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth, Lincoln also shaped the future of the modern railway.

After lying in state, Lincoln’s body was placed in “The United States” a funeral car that had been made for the President but which had never been used by him. For 12 days the train travelled to more than 160 communities. The body of Willie Lincoln, President Lincoln’s son who had died in 1862, was exhumed and accompanied his father’s on the funeral train so he could be buried with his father at the Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois.

Now, with the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination and funeral approaching in the next two years, Kloke Construction and Kloke Locomotive Works, LLC have been diligently working to build a replica of the Lincoln Funeral Car as part of 12 day reenactment of Lincoln’s funeral procession scheduled to begin on April 21, 2015.

David H. Kloke is a master mechanic, is the owner of Kloke Construction and Kloke Locomotive Works, LLC. He is building a replica of the Lincoln Funeral car, Dave’s goal is to present an accurate, operating 19th-century steam locomotive and train to re-create Lincoln’s journey into history.

For over forty years Dave Kloke has built a career within the construction business, operating heavy equipment and machinery. Twenty years ago, he moved to Illinois where he set up shop with Kloke Construction and Kloke Locomotive Works, LLC. But through all his accomplishments over the years, it was the replica of the 1868 Leviathan No.63 Locomotive that Kloke built from scratch that sparked a new found hobby.

Since that day in 2009, when the Leviathan replica was completed, Kloke has spent his time rebuilding replica steam locomotives. With the finishing touches being added to the Civil War-era York No.17 steam locomotive replica, Kloke plans on beginning construction on creating a replica of the Lincoln Funeral Car, with construction set to begin in February.

“He (Dave Kloke) has been gathering and making parts for the trucks for the last two years,” executive director Bill Werst said of Kloke’s upcoming project. One which will see the Lincoln Funeral Car reenact the 12 day funeral procession from Washington, D.C. to Springfield, IL. “The drawings and the research items go back more than four years.”

In fact, as Kloke (a self-proclaimed Lincoln fan) explains on a video posted to the 2015 Lincoln Funeral Train website, “I was watching a documentary on Lincoln and I happened to see that locomotive (The Leviathan No.63) and I liked the look of it and thought, boy that’s cool. So I did some research to see if I could find a locomotive like that, but there weren’t any available – they were either in museums or private hands. Then I found out the prints were available and soon found out I could get the patterns the casting the wheels and cylinders were available through the parts service, so I started building my own locomotive.”

A project that took Kloke ten years to complete.

In early 1865, the United States Military Railroad delivered the 1865 equivalent of Air Force One to President Lincoln, a private railroad car. Lincoln never used the railroad car, named The United States, while he was alive.

“We’re currently building the Lincoln Funeral Car right now, which will be on display on 2015 for the anniversary of Lincoln’s death and we’re hoping to recreate the route from Washington to Springfield with the engine and two cars.”

Those additional cars, depending upon funding received, would include an officers’ car and a passenger car.

Meanwhile, in preparation for the 2015 anniversary, Kloke and the 2015 Lincoln Funeral Coalition have been working on including cities between Washington and Springfield.

“We have had contact with people in Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Chicago,” Werst said. “New information will be going out to all of the communities that the inaugural train, the funeral train and the return train went through to determine other possible interests. (At this time) Some do not know about us yet, and we have to bring this to their attention.”

However, as Werst said in the Lemont Reporter in September, “It is community support that will drive this. We want to get interest and people talking about it so they can look forward to the date.”

At this time, the funeral train route will follow the same route taken on April 21, 1865, traveling through 1,600 miles and passing through 160 communities with tentative stops in the passing communities.

“The first phase revolves around the tour dates, to generate interest and provide the teaser,” Werst explains. “After May 4th, the hands-on tour will begin. We will be going back to any of the cities and towns that would like to have the train – not necessarily limited to just those that were on the routes such as Boston or Detroit who may want to have the train. In 2016 we plan to take the train west so that more people can be exposed to it.

In the meantime, Werst said of the future of the Lincoln Funeral Car, “Several of the tentative sponsors may want it and several cities have expressed an interest, with Springfield being at the top of that list. (Though) We will see how the interest goes for future tours.”

The original route that the Lincoln Funeral Train travelled.

At this time, Kloke and the Lincoln Funeral Coalition have been working together to formulate activities and ways to involve the communities in participating in the anniversary, which would allow people to take tours of the cars, take rides on the train and attend short educational briefings. As well as a potential of including passenger trains which would shuttle interested individuals to the locations with a cost between $100 to $1000 per passenger, depending on how far they travel.

As Werst explains, “All of the feedback has been very positive to date. We all feel that this is a very positive influence on anything to do with Lincoln.”

In fact, the Lincoln Funeral Train will give the public a hands-on experience of being able to participate in a historical event that changed not just how railroads were used, but also marked the greatest funeral in the history of the United States as Lincoln’s funeral train was the first national commemoration of a president’s death by rail.

With 2015 soon approaching, Kloke is looking forward to bringing a glimpse of history to Americans and sharing his passion to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the influential president.

Read more:

The 2015 Lincoln Funeral Train

 

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