A Panel from The Lincoln Funeral Railroad Car

A Unique Artifact from Inside Lincoln’s Funeral Car 

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The railroad coach that carried Lincoln’s body from Washington to Springfield for twenty days in April 1865 was originally built as private railroad car — a “presidential coach”– named The United States. It was for the use of the president and his cabinet.

When the car was completed in early 1865, it had been more than a year in the making, and with its upholstered walls, wood paneling, decorative painted panels, and etched-glass windows. It was one of the most lavishly appointed railroad cars ever built. Its 16 broad-tread wheels could travel over nearly all gauge railroads, and its sides were ironclad, with armor-plating between the outer and inner walls. The car was 42.5 feet long and 8.5 feet wide and had a newly developed heating system. It contained a stateroom, a sitting room, and a sleeping apartment. In the stateroom was a 7-foot 6-inch sofa built to accommodate Lincoln’s 6-foot 4-inch frame. The coach was said to have cost $10,000, more than three times the cost of a standard passenger car.

But, Lincoln never used it. Immediately after the assassination, the car was refurbished to allow for Lincoln’s coffin to be transported for burial in Springfield.

In 1866 the train car was purchased by the Union Pacific railroad and taken to Omaha, Nebraska. It was used by the Union Pacific for a variety of purposes. For example, it was part of the excursion train to mark the completion of the track at the 100th Meridian. When not in use, it was stored on the U.P.-shop grounds. Many people were said to have visited it there. It was also used there as accommodations for government and other officials. As time went on, it was used for less formal purposes by UP Superintendents and foreman to live in at work sites.

Around 1870 the Union Pacific sold the car to the Colorado Central Railroad Company and it was painted bright yellow. When the Union Pacific absorbed the Colorado Central in 1878, it was used as a work train and sometimes as a bunk car or dining car for crews.

In 1898 the car underwent some restoration and was exhibited at the Trans-Mississippi Exposition in Omaha. Then, in 1903, it was sold to Franklyn B. Snow who exhibited it at the St. Louis World’s Fair and traveled it to other cities.

After Snow’s death in 1905 it was purchased by Thomas Lowry of Minneapolis. He intended it as a gift to the city, but when the city couldn’t come up with the funds for a suitable museum, Lowry moved it to land he owned and was in the process of developing. On March 18, 1911, a grass fire enveloped the area and the car was burned beyond repair. Although, it is believed that the manager of the land company allowed people to take pieces as souvenirs. The car was essentially scrapped.

This might be the time when a few State panels were recovered as souvenirs. Two such panels are permanently housed in museums: Illinois at the Union Pacific RR Museum and South Carolina at Lincoln Heritage Museum, Lincoln, Illinois.


Though in rough condition, it nonetheless carries great solemnity and significance as a witness to the Lincoln funeral journey. It lay watch over Lincoln’s coffin for the entire ride.

Also included are several photographic items related to some of the Lincoln Funerals; and a photograph related to the years the car was part of the Union Pacific holdings. 

[Lincoln Funeral Car] Decorative Wood Panel with State Seal of Delaware. 7-1/2″; x 10″; x 1-1/2″; 2-1/2″ metal connecting plate with screws on each side; dowl opening from top to bottom. Photographic ephemera of the rail car included. 

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