Presidential Visit by Rail

On February 11, 1911, after traveling by train to Urbana and Decatur, President William Howard Taft joined Rep. William McKinley and other Illinois dignitaries on a special interurban train to Springfield. Taft was to deliver an address to the Lincoln Centennial Asociation. McKinley's private office car "Champaign" was coupled with ITS Vice President H.R. Chubbucks Executive Car 233. Taft, wanting to "see where the action was", rode in a chair placed at the front of car 233 exclusively for him. Car 271 "Danville" traveled 10 minutes ahead, securing the track and carrying the rest of the presidential party.


The Presidential Special arrives in downtown Springfield, carrying President William Howard Taft (visible in the center window) on Car 233. In the photo, he ewas flanked by the motorman (right) and Illinois Traction System President and Congressman, William McKinley (left), Taft became the first sitting US President to ride in a traction car on an official state mission.

The following year, Congressman McKinley became campaign manager for President Taft's 1912 re-election bid. Taft and former President Theodore Roosevelt split the Republican party against Democrat Woodrow Wilson. Wilson eventually won the election, which marked a national shift in popularity away from Republicans and towards the Democrats.

The Republican losses included McKinley, who lost his congressional seat. He ran again two years later and regained his seat in the House.

ITS Special Taft Train.jpg

Car 271 "Danville" is seen here on West Main Street at Millikin University in Decatur. Secret Service and other dignitaries rode this car marked by white flags signifying a special train.


The Presidential party departs Decatur for Springfield. Taft (center) is shaking hands with local dignitaries with McKinley (standing at Taft's left).