A storm on Jan. 26 with 50 mph wind gusts broke two of the wagon’s wheels, making the wagon list precariously on one side. The wagon cover also was ripped away.
A number of Route 66 aficionados expressed concern the wagon would be totaled by its insurer and the Logan County Tourism Bureau would take a cash settlement. However, the bureau gave assurances the wagon would be repaired. Last week, that faith was rewarded:
During a Tuesday evening meeting, the board of the Logan County Tourism Bureau awarded a $15,328.87 contract for repair work to Matthews Construction of Lincoln. Company owner Brad Matthews did some repair work on the wagon late last year.
Matthews’ contract stipulates that the wagon will be returned to an upright position no later than March 14 and that the repair work will be completed by April 30, in time for the 2014 tourist season. […]
Their work will include removing the 350-pound fiberglass statue of Abraham Lincoln from the driver’s seat and repainting it. […]
When repairs are completed, the 5-ton wagon will face in a north/south position in an effort to reduce wind resistance and possible future wind damage.
Bill Kelly, executive director of the Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway Association, also offered the bureau a $500 grant to cover the insurance deductible. Members of the Illinois Route Association and original builder David Bentley also offered help in rebuilding.
The wagon, also called the Railsplitter Covered Wagon, once was in Divernon, Ill. Geoff Ladd, former executive director of the Abraham Lincoln Tourism Bureau, was instrumental in having the wagon purchased and moved to Lincoln in 2007.
The wagon measures 40 feet long and 24 feet tall. The statue of Lincoln, seated in the front while reading a book, weighs 350 pounds and is 12 feet tall. The wagon was recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records. It’s at the Best Western Lincoln Inn at 1750 Fifth St. in Lincoln.
(Photos by WLCN radio and Route 66 Heritage Foundation of Logan County via Geoff Ladd)