Sunday 25 August 2013

The Mystery of the Missing Train

Nine railroad cars travelled 1600 miles over six states watched by millions of spectators.  Their destination? Springfield, Illinois.  Their cargo?  The sixteenth President of the United States.  

Engine of Lincoln's funeral train courteys

The year 2015 marks the 150th anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln at Ford's Theatre in Washington D.C.  Grieving Americans filed through the rotunda at the Capitol to view the slain President's body lying in state.  Then, Lincoln's body was placed on a train, along with the body of his young son Willie who had died of typhoid fever in 1862, and sent across the country to his home state.  

To mark the occasion, one American has been given the task of rebuilding Lincoln's funeral car.  A full-size replica of the funeral train will re-trace the original route.  Historians know the train consisted of nine cars:  a funeral car, an officers' car, a baggage car and six passenger cars.  However, they can't agree on the colour of the cars since no colour photograph, lithograph or painting exists -- only black and white pictures. 

Funeral train courtesy

Chemist Wayne Wesolowski searched through newspapers and other writing from the time period and came up with various colours:  chocolate brown, claret and wine-coloured.  Given there were no chocolate bars in the Civil War era, he assumed that chocolate brown referred to Dutch chocolate, a reddish brown.

The original car was sold at an auction after the Civil War, and was destroyed by fire in 1911.  However, a Minnesota man inherited a window frame from the car, tracked down by Mr. Wesolowski.  Studied under a microscope, it was determined that the original paint colour was a dark maroon, a disappointing discovery to Wesolowski who had painted his small model red.  Now that the mystery is solved, the replica car can be painted.

It won't be long now before the new train winds its way through Maryland, rolls up and down the hills of Pennsylvania, crosses New Jersey, dips through New York States Hudson Valley, hugs the south shore of Ohio's Lake Erie, crosses the rolling farmland of Northern Indiana and steams to a stop in Illinois.  Just listen for its whistle.

Funeral train route from April to May 1865 courtesy

For more information on the 2015 Funeral Train, visit‎.

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