CHARLESTON -- Outside the train car that now sits at the Coles County Fairgrounds, there's a flurry of activity. The scene is very much 20th and 21st century, with trucks and semis loading and unloading parts.

But on the other side of the train car window lies a decidedly 19th century environment. From the carpet to the furniture and the curtains, hours of painstaking work have gone into the replica.

It's not just any train car. It's a replica of the one that brought President Abraham Lincoln's body home to Springfield from Washington, D.C. after his assassination 150 years ago. And with the assistance of 25-30 volunteers at any given time, David Kloke built the train car from the ground up.

"A year ago from March, we laid the floor in this car -- there was nothing in this car but a steel frame," he said. "It has a steel frame to meet the new requirements for the (Federal Railroad Administration)."

Kloke had exterior photos to work with but none from the interior. Instead, he used sketches and descriptions from a book created for a museum in Alexandria, Va.

"They interviewed several people before they passed away that worked on the car," he said. "That's how we knew that there were rosettes and the crimson, and we knew there was leather below the chair rail and above the mopboard."

Many of the items inside are reproductions of what would've been in the original train, including the coffin itself; the handles on the coffin are made by the original manufacturer, but out of pewter rather than silver. The lamps hanging from the ceiling were constructed by someone in the film industry at little cost to the funeral train team, Kloke said.

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Everything down to the curtains has a story. The curtains are green facing inside and black facing outside to keep out the sun, he said. The carpet is the same style used in Lincoln's house and President Thomas Jefferson's home Monticello.

Kloke said his interest in the project came from his love of trains and history -- he's built two locomotives.

"It's a one-off car; nobody else had one like it," he said. "It was made by the military -- the only one that the government made and owned. They built it in the military shops during the war."

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There are still several projects inside Kloke would like to complete; he's trying to drum up funding for items such as a reproduction stove, which will cost approximately $7,000, he said.

Charleston is the train's first free stop on its journey across the country. It's open to the public from 3-7 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday; visitors should be aware that, because of the stairs to get into the train, it is not wheelchair accessible.

Students from area schools will tour the train between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. each day. Other special events are also planned; on Tuesday at 4:30, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m., Bob Sterling will present on Major James Connolly, who once resided in Charleston.

On Wednesday at 4:30, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m., members of the Lincoln Log Cabin play based on Lincoln's assassination will perform scenes.

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Contact Burgstahler at kburgstahler@jg-tc.com or 217-238-6839.


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