Wednesday, April 08, 2015

The Lincoln Funeral Train

    Presidential Railway Car in Alexandria, Virginia

      In the spring of 1865, a private railroad car was constructed for President Lincoln’s personal use. It was built in Alexandria, Virginia.  Ironically, this presidential car was employed for the first time as a funeral car to transport the slain Lincoln to his home in Springfield, Illinois.  Lincoln’s funeral train left Washington on April 21, 1865, and retraced much of the route Lincoln had traveled as president-elect in 1861.  The nine-car Lincoln Special whose engine displayed Lincoln’s photograph over the cowcatcher, carried approximately three hundred mourners.  Depending on conditions, the train usually traveled between 5 and 20 miles per hour.
The locomotive’s distinctive balloon stack was intended to control sparks from the burning wood fuel.  A cab offered protection for the engineer and fireman.  Most locomotives of this period had cowcatchers to minimize damage should the train encounter livestock on the tracks.  Each engine had a tender. Which carried wood, fuel, and water.

The practice of embalming came into its own during the American Civil War.  President Lincoln eventually sanctioned the procedure for all fallen soldiers.  President Lincoln was assassinated on April 14, 1865 but his body was not interred in Springfield, Illinois until May 4.  The passage of the body home for burial was made possible by embalming and brought the possibilities of embalming to the attention of a wider public.

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