The History of Funeral Trains

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Back to Blog shutterstock 356134373 The History of Funeral Trains Winston Churchill Oak Ridge Cemetery Lincoln Funeral Train Funeral Train We found an interesting story about the history of “funeral trains” that highlights current projects to restore the funeral trains that carried President Abraham Lincoln and Sir Winston Churchill to their final resting place.
When the London Necropolis Company debuted funeral trains in 1854, many believed they were not as sophisticated as horse-drawn hearses. But a decade later, funeral trains became world famous when President Abraham Lincoln’s body was transported in a funeral train to his hometown of Springfield, Illinois.

Since then, people who lived in the 20th century saw many of its leaders, like Winston Churchill, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and V.I. Lenin – take funeral trains to their final resting place.

The appeal of the funeral train was it gave a large number of people from across the world a chance to pay respects to their beloved statesmen. But with the decline of train travel, the practice has mostly gone out of fashion in the 21st century.

One exception was in 2013 when the loved ones of Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, who was an avid train supporter, enlisted a private Amtrak train to transport the deceased senator to his final resting place.

Lincoln’s Funeral Train

This year marks the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln’s funeral train procession. To commemorate the event, a reenactment of the ride will depart on April 21st from Washington, D.C. and arrive in Lincoln’s hometown of Springfield, Illinois on May 2nd.

The recreated Lincoln Funeral Train will follow the same dates of the original ride and travel through many of the cities and towns that saw the original procession.

Lincoln’s funeral car was originally his presidential railroad car, which he never rode in until his death. Built by the U.S. Military Railroads, it was modified after his assassination to carry the coffins of Lincoln, and his son, Willie (who died in the White House at age 11) back to their hometown.

When Lincoln’s funeral train arrived in Springfield, his coffin was laid to rest in the reception vault at Oak Ridge Cemetery on May 4, 1865.

Churchill’s Funeral Train

January 30, 2015 also marked the 50th anniversary of the great statesman Sir Winston Churchill’s last ride in a funeral train to St. Paul’s Cathedral. To commemorate the event, the National Railway Museum in England resurrected and restored his original funeral train.

Before carrying the illustrious body of England’s Prime Minister, the steam locomotive had originally only carried vegetables and mail. But the train’s one-day special deployment would make it part of British history. “The locomotive earned a place on the national stage due to the part they played in Churchill’s final journey,” said Anthony Coulls, the museum’s Senior Curator of Rail Vehicles.

Painstaking detail went into the restoration project, “The structural work on the coach carried out by our team of staff, trainees and volunteers has been comprehensive,” said Richard Pearson, the Workshop and Rails Operation Manager who oversaw the train’s restoration.

Footage from Churchill’s funeral was seen by millions worldwide and was screened at the National Railway Museum on the anniversary of his funeral alongside the restored No.34051, the Battle of Britain Class engine who pulled the Prime Minister’s train.

In the story you will also find photographs from other famous funeral trains that carried statesmen like President Ulysses S. Grant, Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Read the story here.

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