Friday, April 26, 2013

Lincoln’s Phantom Train

Lincoln's Funeral Train
In the spring of the year, you might hear whisperings about a phantom train seen traveling through seven U.S. states.  Legend has it this is the Funeral Train of President Abraham Lincoln, still running its designated route from Washington to Springfield – and still on time.

Abraham Lincoln
Mary Todd Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States, was surrounded by odd occurrences and paranormal experiences all of his life.  His wife, Mary Todd Lincoln dabbled in spiritualism, believed in omens, and held séances trying to establish contact with her dead son Willie.

Lincoln's Dream
Lincoln’s death also held mystery. About two weeks before he was killed, Lincoln had a dream that foretold his death.  In the dream, he heard sobbing and followed it to the East Room where he saw soldiers guarding a body.  When Lincoln asked, “Who is dead in the White House?”, a solider answered, “The President.  He was killed by an assassin.”

At Ford's Theatre
Three days after relating his dream to his wife, Mary, and a few close friends, Lincoln was assassinated. It was during the evening of April 14, 1865 at Ford’s Theater in Washington D.C.  Actor John Wilkes Booth burst into the Presidential box and shot the president at point-blank range before escaping.  Lincoln lived only a few hours before dying at 7:22 A.M. on April 15th.  Flags were immediately lowered to half-mast, bells across the city began to toll, and a shocked nation went into mourning.

Oak Hill Chapel
William (Willie) Lincoln
It had been planned that Lincoln’s young son Willie was eventually to be interred back home in Springfield, Illinois. When Lincoln died, both he and Willie would make the final journey home together.  Willie had died in 1862 at the age of 11 from what was apparently typhoid fever.  Willie’s body was removed from a borrowed vault at Oak Hill Cemetery in Georgetown so that he could be buried at Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois.

Edwin Stanton
Funeral Train Route
Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton was in charge of overseeing the arrangements for the funeral train.  An order to commandeer the use of the railroads from Washington to Springfield, Illinois was issued. The funeral train would travel 1,654 miles along the same route Lincoln had taken as president-elect in 1861. The only difference was the train would not go through Pittsburgh or Cincinnati.

Funeral Train
Schedule of Route
The train left Washington on April 21st  and arrived in Springfield, Illinois on May 3rd , having traveled through seven states, and past 440 communities. The actual funeral route went through Baltimore, Philadelphia, Harrisburg, New York City, Albany, Buffalo, Cleveland, Columbus, Indianapolis, and Chicago, before arriving at Springfield.

Guard of Honor
The Nine Car Train
The funeral train was called The Lincoln Special. The engine was the known as the Nashville. The train consisted of nine cars with the funeral car being the eighth in line. A Guard of Honor accompanied Lincoln’s body, and his son Robert also rode on the train.

Mourners Line Tracks
Thousands lined the tracks during the 13-day trip.  Regardless of the time of day, or night, entire towns and communities turned out to pay their respects and watch silently as the train bearing their president glided past.

Depot at Springfield, Illinois
Lincoln Home Draped in Mourning
The Lincoln Special reached its destination of Springfield on May 3rd, 1865.  But, it
apparently still runs the same route each year during the last part of April. At least, a phantom funeral train does...

Hundreds have reported seeing the ghost train traveling through the countryside with the President’s casket aboard.  It has been rumored that clocks and watches stop running when the train passes by. The air on the tracks becomes cool and sharp, while just off to the side, the air remains warm but still. Clouds cover the moon, and a ghostly headlight pierces the night. Suddenly, with a rush of wind, the train passes by, noiselessly, as if running on a carpet.

There are reports that mournful music may be heard coming from the train, while others say that the train goes past without a sound.  Some see smoke belch from the stack, others hear an eerie whistle as the train approaches. There are reports of skeletons dressed in blue, standing at attention by Lincoln’s flag-draped casket.  Flags and streamers attached to the train whip in the wind, but no sound is heard as the train fades from view

Albany, New York
If the phantom train encounters a real train, the sounds are suddenly hushed as the ghost train passes through it and continues on its spectral journey.
Getting Ready in Urbana, Ohio

Communities throughout the seven states still hold watches for the phantom funeral train.  The best known are in Albany, New York on the nights of April 26 and 27, and in Urbana, Ohio, on the night of April 29th.

To see if a community near you is on the list of places the train passed through, visit the Lincoln Highway National Museum & Archives @
Legend has it that the phantom train never reaches its destination but simply disappears some where along the tracks out on the Illinois prairie.

Lincoln's Funeral Car
The Lincoln funeral car changed hands several times after fulfilling its duty. Unfortunately, in March 1911, the car was destroyed when a fire swept through an area near Minneapolis, Minnesota where it was being stored.

Regardless, you might want to grab a blanket and take a friend with you tonight to a lonely set of tracks where, if you’re lucky, you might get to see Lincoln’s Funeral Train solemnly pass by…yet again.

~ Joy


  1. Oh yes I really believe that one not doubt a drunk started that one off. some idiot posted on a forum that a ghost train went under Silly Bridge in our village but I have never heard of that and have lived there all my life. A made up story Mid you I might believe it if they said ghosts do walk round the bridge as it was a favorite place for the mental patients from Fairmile to jump off.

  2. Joy it is interesting that you put this article up, next year Springfield will be re-creating the Lincoln funeral out at Oak Ridge Cemetery. The Illinois State Genealogical Society has helped research living descendants of the Honor Guard as well as others who attended the original funeral. Dan Dixon

    1. Dan, I know that a group is building a replica of the train to rerun the route in 2015. Can you tell me more about the funeral, and how to get involved?

  3. Is there a citing of this in any article or book? I'd love to read a first-hand interview with quotes about this! Thanks for your interest in this, and of course, documenting it here.

  4. Kinlinda, do a Google search on Lincoln's phantom train and you'll find several places to check.

  5. That is not Lincoln's funeral car second from the bottom. Also the Nashville was one of several locomotives used to pull the train.

  6. Could this be the train I saw in rogues hollow Ohio?

  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.