December 20, 2014

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Replica of Abraham Lincoln’s funeral train to visit Lorain County

A replica of the Lincoln Funeral Train will visit Wellington this weekend. PHOTO PROVIDED

A replica of the Lincoln Funeral Train will visit Wellington this weekend. PHOTO PROVIDED

WELLINGTON — David H. Kloke spent years researching and building a detailed replica of Abraham Lincoln’s funeral train.

Admittedly nuts about trains, it was something else that drove his dedication to the project.

“Mostly it’s about Lincoln,” the master mechanic and former construction trades worker said Tuesday by phone from the Elgin, Ill.-based shop of his nonprofit Historic Railroad Equipment Association. “He was the guy who inspired me to build the locomotive.”

Kloke’s replica of the Leviathan, the steam engine that pulled Lincoln’s funeral train from Washington, D.C., to Springfield, Ill., in April 1865, will visit Lorain County this weekend for train buffs and riders alike, courtesy of the Lake Shore Railway Association, which is sponsoring the visit.

Kloke’s admiration for the assassinated 16th president is due largely to what Kloke said was Lincoln’s little-recognized efforts that led to construction of the Transcontinental Railroad linking the eastern and western halves of America.

“Lincoln worked on that long before he was elected president,” Kloke said. “He had a vision for this.”

Due to railroad regulations, the engine won’t travel on active rail lines. Instead, it’s re-tracing the Lincoln funeral train route on highways courtesy of a tractor-trailer rig, said Jack Siffert, association president.

“It’s a very exacting replica,” Siffert said. “He’s such a stickler for detail and accuracy.”

Kloke echoed Siffert’s words. “Everything is going to be correct or we’re not going to do it,” Kloke said.

The tour of the replica will generate funds to help Kloke and a small but dedicated band of paid and volunteer workers to design and build an equally exacting likeness of the remainder of Lincoln’s funeral train for a 150th anniversary Washington-to-Springfield trip in 2015.

The Illinois group is using model makers’ detailed likenesses along with precise drawings to re-create the train car that carried Lincoln’s body, as well as a third car used to carry an honor guard, family members and others.

Kloke estimates it will cost close to $500,000 to build the Lincoln funeral car alone. Current federal railroad safety and construction codes require the replica to have a steel rather than wood frame.

That is why railroading groups such as the association are sponsoring stops for the locomotive, which will pull passenger cars along a stretch of the 20 miles of private tracks owned by the Wellington-based group.

The organization is offering 11 scheduled runs during the weekend, although more could be added if demand warrants, Siffert said.

The actual Lincoln funeral train was seen by about 3 million people as it passed through Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York City before heading west into Ohio and Lorain County in the early hours of April 29, 1865.

“It was the biggest presidential funeral ever,” Kloke said. “There was never one bigger before or after.”

So many bonfires were lit on rail line sidings by those waiting to glimpse the passing train that the train’s way was illuminated well enough that its headlight wasn’t needed, Siffert said.

The body of 11-year-old Willie Lincoln accompanied that of his father back to Springfield, Ill. The child died in 1862 in Washington from typhoid fever and was initially buried in the nation’s capital.

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.

If you go:

  • Cost for the Leviathan rides are $20 for adults, $15 for seniors and $5 for children 12 and younger.
  • Train trips are scheduled for 2, 3:30 and 5 p.m. Friday, 10:30 a.m., noon, 1:30, 3, and 4:30 p.m. Saturday, and noon, 1:30, 3 and 4:30 p.m. Sunday.
  • Anyone wanting to ensure a seat for a particular time is urged to purchase tickets in advance by phoning (440) 731-9163.
  • To learn more about the Leviathan, the 2015 Lincoln Funeral Train, or donating to the project, visit www.leviathan63.com or www.the2015lincolnfuneraltrain.com/
  • For more on the Lake Shore Railway Association, visit lsra.org.