On Jan. 26, a storm rolled through Lincoln, carrying wind gusts
of up to 50 miles an hour.
The storm pushed the monstrous wagon askew, breaking the front and
back wheels on the driver’s side and leaving the roadside attraction
tilted at a 45 degree angle. The wagon cover was also ripped from
its mountings and destroyed.
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.
The January storm damage triggered concern from the public, from the
media and from Route 66 fans all along The Mother Road.
Among them was Bill Kelly, executive director of the Illinois Route
66 Scenic Byway Association. Kelly offered $500 in grant money to
help pay for any repairs not covered by the bureau’s insurance. The
grant will cover the $500 deductible written into the $15,000
Marty Blitstein, an officer of the Route 66 Association of Illinois,
also offered “whatever you need in the way of help,” on behalf of
David Bentley of Pawnee originally built the wagon as a project
during recovery from a heart attack. He called soon after the storm
to offer his assistance in rebuilding the wagon. Bentley will work
with Matthews as a project consultant.
Their work will include removing the 350-pound fiberglass statue
of Abraham Lincoln from the driver’s seat and repainting it.
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While still in Bentley’s possession, the wagon was recognized as The
World’s Largest Covered Wagon by Guinness Book of World Records.
Bentley has already rebuilt it once after it was damaged by a
tornado that went through the Pawnee area.
When Bentley decided to sell his creation, it was purchased by the
Logan County Tourism Bureau with funds donated by Lincoln
philanthropist Larry Van Bibber. The huge wagon arrived in Lincoln
in January 2007, and was first displayed on the corner of Woodlawn
Road and Lincoln Parkway/Route 66 on property owned by Jim and
In 2010, the wagon was awarded the title of Best Roadside Attraction
in the United States through a poll in Reader’s Digest. That same
year, it was moved to its current location at 1750 Fifth St., in
front of the Best Western Lincoln Inn on Route 66. In 2011, a Route
66 Scenic Byway Exhibit was also placed at the site.
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.
The World’s Largest Covered Wagon was hand-built from oak wood. It
stands 24 feet tall and is 12 feet wide and 40 feet long. The front
wheels are 10 feet tall and the back wheels are 12 feet tall. The
wagon weighs 5 tons. The Abraham Lincoln figure is made of
fiberglass. It is 12 feet tall (seated) and weighs 350 pounds.
[Text from file received from
Abraham Lincoln Tourism Bureau of