Showing posts with label funeral train. Show all posts
Showing posts with label funeral train. Show all posts

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

Friday, August 12, 2011

Funeral Transports through History

Funeral Procession on Foot
Over the centuries, numerous systems have been used to transport the dead to their final resting places. In ancient times, a procession of mourners would bear the wrapped body to the burial grounds.   Transportation of the body has continued to changed throughout time to accommodate whatever modes of transportation we have available. 

Wooden Bier
With horses and the invention of the wheel, a bier would be used.  This flat wooden frame could be used to carry the shrouded corpse to the burial location and then used to display the body.  A bier is still used today, but is now made from aluminum and is on wheels.  Known as a ‘church truck,’ it is draped with cloth to create a more dignified display, but is still easy to move.

An English Lych Way
When the population began moving into and out of the countryside, a means of transporting a body to or from the city became necessary.  Corpse roads were created and provided a sensible means by which to relocate the body from a rural community to a parish cemetery or chapel.  In Britain, these roads were also known as bier roads, coffin roads or lych ways.

Cemetery Maze
Superstitions and legends abound about these roads regarding ghosts, spirits and wraiths tormenting travelers or following mourners home.  There are old cemeteries created around mazes.  This was done as a way to confuse the dead and keep them from returning as a spirit.  In the 19th century, the deceased was to be carried out of a house feet first to keep the spirit from looking back and beckoning others to follow.  Even today, some still consider it prudent for the funeral procession to return from the gravesite by a different route than the one taken with the deceased.

Trains were also a way to transport the deceased.  A funeral train is one that has been contracted to carry a coffin or coffins to the final location.
Necropolis Railway Train
In London, the first funeral train left the Necropolis Railway Station on November 7, 1854.  The train carried the dead and their mourners to Brookwood Cemetery.  Even the deceased’s final ride was based on their station in life.  If the deceased was traveling on a first class ticket, more attention was paid to their transport and more care taken with the body.  The train ran seven days a week from 1854 until 1900.  Trains were then scheduled on an “as needed basis.”  They continued to run until 1941 when the station was bombed during the Blitz.

Lincoln's Train
When President Abraham Lincoln was shot in Washington, D.C., in 1865, his body was carried back to Springfield, Illinois by train.  The train took almost 2 weeks to make the 1,654 mile journey, due to numerous stops to allow the public a final goodbye.  Lincoln’s train was the first time a president’s body had been borne across the country by rail.

19th Century Hearse
Hearses are what we think of when the subject of moving
a dead body comes up.  Hearses have always come in many shapes and styles.  Hearses drawn by horses were ornate, stately, and many times glass enclosed. 

1926 Buick Hearse
Photo by Nelson Brothers
When the automobile took over in the early 1900’s, hearses took on a variety of shapes that suited the vehicle’s body.

A Combo Car
Ecto 1 "Ghostbusters"
Photo by Chad Davis
Some hearses were known as combination cars – a combination of an ambulance and hearse, equipped to carry gurney or a coffin.  These were popular from the 1950’s through the 1970’s.  They were discontinued in 1980.  The Caddy used in the movie ‘Ghostbusters’ was a combo 1959 Miller Meteor coach.

Modern U.S. Hearse
In the U.S., a hearse is usually crafted from a luxury brand of auto like Cadillac or Lincoln.  The body is more of a landau style with heavy vinyl padding on the roof.  The windows are curtained.

Modern English Hearse
In England, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar and Rolls-Royce luxury cars are used as hearses.  The limousine style is more popular, and the windows are left uncovered.

Japanese Hearse -
Photo by Jim Epler
In Japan, a hearse may be a small ornate Buddhist temple covering the rear of the vehicle.  Nissan and Toyota are two companies that build these types of hearses.

Motorcycle Sidecar Hearse
There are also the unique hearses and burial vehicles, such as a motorcycle with a side hearse.

Space Burial
A space burial in which the ashes of the deceased are enclosed in a capsule about the size of a lipstick tube, and launched into space using a rocket.

President Kennedy's
Riderless Horse Black Jack
Then there is symbolic transport, such as the rider-less horse, usually found following the hearse, or caisson, carrying the casket.  In the U.S. this is part of military honors given to an officer with the rank of Colonel or above.  U.S. Presidents and the Secretary of Defense are also honored in this manner.  Abraham Lincoln was the first U.S. President to receive such an honor. 

The Final Goodbye
You’ll notice a pair of black riding boots reversed in the stirrups.  This represents the fallen leader looking back upon his troops for a final time on that final trip to the grave.