Lincoln Presidential Library celebrates trains

SPRINGFIELD – A new exhibit celebrating the history of railroads through models, photographs and children’s activities opens May 10 at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

“All Aboard: America’s Love of Railroads” will be housed in historic Union Station, a former train depot that is now part of the presidential library’s campus in downtown Springfield.

The grand opening marks the 150th anniversary of the first transcontinental railroad, a project championed by Abraham Lincoln. The exhibit will include a detailed model showing trains from east and west meeting as the railroad was finished with a ceremonial golden spike. 

The exhibit also features toy trains for children to play with, learning stations explaining how the transcontinental railroad changed the nation, a model of the funeral train that carried Lincoln’s body, and a place for visitors to share their own railroad memories.

“All Aboard” opens with free activities in Union Square Park from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Admission to the exhibit will be free that day.

Children can ride around the park in a “barrel train” and learn about railroad safety from Clifford THE BIG RED DOG. Visitors can watch a blacksmith and meet Harvey Girls, the waitresses who worked at a groundbreaking restaurant chain along western railroad routes. There will also be a photo booth, craft table and telegraph station.

Union Station, a former railroad depot that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, will house “All Aboard” for the rest of the year. The exhibit is included in the regular admission price for the Lincoln museum.

The HO gauge 1:87 scale model of the golden spike ceremony was created by the Springfield Railroad Society Inc. A team of nine members donated 900 hours of work designing, building, molding and painting the replica for guests to enjoy.

“This is a truly fun exhibit. It celebrates railroads, explains their connection to President Lincoln, brings new energy to a beautiful building and engages children of all ages,” said Alan Lowe, executive director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. “We’re so grateful to the Springfield Railroad Society for their help in making it a reality.”

The Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum uses a combination of rigorous scholarship and high-tech showmanship to immerse visitors in the life and times of Abraham Lincoln.  Visitors can see ghosts come to life on stage, watch TV coverage of the 1860 presidential election, roam through the Lincoln White House, experience booming cannons in a Civil War battle and come face to face with priceless original Lincoln artifacts.

The library holds an unparalleled collection of Lincoln books, documents, photographs, artifacts and art, as well as some 12 million items pertaining to all aspects of Illinois history. 

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