Abraham Lincoln

Dome-lounge Silver Vista was built by the Budd Company in 1947 for the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy. It was one of a number of observation cars assigned to the Abraham Lincoln in the 1970s. No. 9301, which Amtrak retired in 1976, is shown at Bloomington, Illinois, on June 29, 1973. (Photograph by Dwight Long)


Dome observation-lounge Silver Vista was built by the Budd Company in 1947 for the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy. It was among the observation cars carried by the Abraham Lincoln in the 1970s. No. 9301, which Amtrak retired in 1976, is shown at Bloomington, Illinois, on June 29, 1973. (Photograph by Dwight Long)


Abraham Lincoln

Endpoints: Chicago-St. Louis

Numbers: 302, 303

Intermediate Stations: Joliet, Pontiac, Bloomington, Lincoln, Springfield, Carlinville and Alton, Illinois

Host Railroad: Illinois Central Gulf (former Gulf, Mobile & Ohio)

Amtrak Operated: May 1, 1971-October 1, 1973; October 26, 1975-October 30, 1977.

Named for: The 16th president of the United States, who lived in Springfield before being elected president.

Pre-Amtrak History: Begun July 1, 1935, the Abraham Lincoln was the first Chicago & Alton train to feature lightweight equipment. It was also the first passenger train in the Chicago-St. Louis market to be diesel powered. The Abe initially operated on a 5.5-hour schedule, stopping only at Bloomington, Springfield and Alton. On board amenities included parlor service, the Lincoln Tavern featuring a lunch counter and a dining section, and reclining seat chair cars. On the eve of Amtrak, the Abraham Lincoln still boasted a diner-lounge and parlor service. During its GM&O years, the Abraham Lincoln operated to St. Louis in the evening and to Chicago in the morning.

Amtrak History: The Abraham Lincoln and The Limited passed into Amtrak hands on May 1, 1971. Both trains continued to carry coaches, a parlor car with a drawing room and a diner-lounge. The overnight Midnight Special was discontinued.

Amtrak immediately rescheduled the Abraham Lincoln to depart St. Louis nearly an hour earlier at 8 a.m. The southbound schedule was unchanged. The Limited and Abraham Lincoln began stopping at Carlinville on July 12, 1971.

GM&O equipment largely vanished early from the Abraham Lincoln. By July it was running with Union Pacific coaches and a diner-lounge. A Southern Pacific diner-lounge also made an appearance. However, GM&O parlor cars continued to be a mainstay on The Limited and Abraham Lincoln.

Amtrak had grand plans for The Limited and Abraham Lincoln effective with the November 14, 1971, timetable change. Both trains would be assigned dome cars and begin operating between St. Louis and Milwaukee, making them the first trains to operate through Chicago. The Limited was renamed the Prairie State. The trains received former Northern Pacific dome cars and former Burlington dome-parlor-observation cars. Southern Pacific diner-lounges, Union Pacific coaches and Santa Fe baggage cars. Motive power alternated between former GM&O F units and Milwaukee Road E units.

The GM&O parlor cars were sidelined but not for long. Parlors Springfield and Bloomington were placed back in service in December 1971 to held handle peak holiday loads and continued to see service through summer 1972, often as replacements for the dome-parlor observation cars.

In its early days of St. Louis-Milwaukee operation, patrons in the diner received an Amtrak menu wrapped in a GM&O cover and placed orders on Milwaukee Road checks. A Milwaukee Road chef and waiter-in-charge handled the diner between Chicago and Milwaukee, but south of Chicago they were joined by a GM&O chef and two waiters.

By late 1972 equipment painted in Amtrak colors had begun holding regular assignments on the Abraham Lincoln and Prairie State. In November, the trains received the Port of Seattle and Port of Vancouver, former Great Northern parlor-observation cars that had once been assigned to the International.

The Abraham Lincoln name went on hiatus October 1, 1973, when French-built turbine powered trains began Chicago-St. Louis service. The Turboliners were slick and modern, but many passengers disliked them because of their limited dining area, café-type menu and seats that did not recline more than a couple of inches.

Among those who disliked the Turboliners were state legislators, key state officials and lobbyists who regularly rode Amtrak between Chicago and Springfield. The Illinois legislature directed the Illinois Department of Transportation to acquire a dining car for use on the state-funded Statehouse, which still operated with conventional equipment. The state dining car plan didn’t work out as expected, but Amtrak got the message.

Conventional equipment, including a parlor car and full-service diner, replaced one Turboliner pairing on October 26, 1975. The Abraham Lincoln name was resurrected for this train, which operated to St. Louis in the evening and to Chicago in mid-morning. The train also offered checked baggage service.

The Abraham Lincoln did not operate to St. Louis on Saturday night or to Chicago on Sunday morning. Therefore, its parlor car, initially the Port of Seattle, shifted to the Statehouse on weekends. In early 1976, the Port of Seattle was replaced by dome parlor-lounges Silver Chateau or Silver Veranda.

The streamliner era equipment on the Abraham Lincoln was replaced with Amfleet equipment on October 31, 1976, concurrent with the extension of the St. Louis-Laredo, Texas, Inter-American to Chicago.

The Abraham Lincoln name was permanently retired October 30, 1977, when Nos. 302 and 303 were renamed the Ann Rutledge. However, the spirit of Abraham Lincoln returned October 30, 2006, when all Chicago-St. Louis trains were renamed Lincoln Service.

3 Responses to “Abraham Lincoln”

  1. David M. Johnston Says:

    What do you know about those former UP cars used in the summer of 1971 on former GM&O trains? Some passenger car historians have told me GM&O bought the cars cheap and used them to upgrade their trains and later contribute them to Amtrak as part of GM&O’s payment to join Amtrak. I am doing research for GM&OHS and can’t find anyone who can confirm this.
    Thanks, David Johnston

    • csanders429 Says:

      This is the first that I have heard of this report. It strikes me as being unlikely, although I suppose that it is plausible. The Gulf, Mobile & Ohio joined Amtrak on May 1, 1971. It was not until sometime that summer that non-GM&O passenger cars began showing up on The Limited and the Abraham Lincoln, the two Chicago-St. Louis trains that Amtrak picked up. I believe the dome cars were not assigned to the train until November 1971 when the Chicago-St. Louis trains began operating between Milwaukee and St. Louis and The Limited was renamed the Prairie State. It was during this same era that Amtrak made its first equipment purchase of passenger cars and locomotives from its contract railroads. Much of the GM&O passenger equipment was old and Amtrak didn’t want it. Amtrak did, however, either purchase or lease a pair of GM&O parlor cars that continued to operate on Amtrak trains between Chicago and St. Louis through the very early 1970s and still wore GM&O paint and markings. I would have to go back to check, but I believe that most railroads paid their Amtrak “buy in” fee in equipment. I cannot say for sure how those arrangements were worked out. It might have been that the GM&O equipment that Amtrak used in its initial weeks of service was “loaned” to Amtrak as part of the GM&O’s lease payments. You would need to have access to the financial records of that era to know for sure what arrangements that each railroad made to pay its “buy in” fees. I know that some railroads accepted Amtrak stock, but the GM&O was not among them.


    I am looking at an old 1950’s train schedule. The schedule indicates that it took only two hours to travel from Chicago and St. Louis as opposed to the current schedule of five hours plus. How is that plausible I might ask? Could this be a misprint on the part of the railroad? I am a pro at reading train timetables and I am not misreading the timetable.

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