Gettysburg Railroad Station

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Gettysburg railroad depot
Gettysburg spring 09 0523.jpg
The tall 1858 Italianate depot with arched windows, cornice moldings, and a low-pitched roof with eaves (the 1-story addition was in 1886,[1]:20 and a new roof was placed in 1902).[1]
Location Carlisle Street, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Coordinates 39°49′55″N 77°13′51″W / 39.8320°N 77.2309°W / 39.8320; -77.2309Coordinates: 39°49′55″N 77°13′51″W / 39.8320°N 77.2309°W / 39.8320; -77.2309
Owned by Borough of Gettysburg[2]
Line(s) Western Maryland Railway (defunct)
Tracks 1
Structure type at-grade
Opened May 1859
Closed 1942 (End of passenger service)

The Gettysburg Railroad Station, also known as the "Gettysburg Train Station," "Lincoln Train Station" or "Western Maryland Railroad Station,"[3] is a historic train station with depot, platform, museum and offices on Carlisle Street in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Operable from 1858 to 1942, it contributes to the Gettysburg Battlefield Historic District[4] and is most notable as President Abraham Lincoln's point of arrival (at about 6 p.m. on November 18, 1863) and departure (at about 7 p.m. on November 19, following delivery of the Gettysburg Address).[5] As the incomprehensible number of lingering soldiers unleashed chaos around town following the epic Battle of Gettysburg, the station served as a dispersal hub for the less severely wounded, makeshift hospital for more critically wounded, and morgue for those awaiting their final homeward passage.[6]


After an uncompleted 1830s plan for a railroad through Gettysburg, on December 1, 1858, the Gettysburg Railroad line was completed from the east to Gettysburg.[7] On December 16 at 3 p.m., a reception for railroad dignitaries was held at "a large and recently furnished building near the depot"[8] (the depot was being built on 0.4 acres (0.16 ha)[1]:9-10 purchased from George W McClellan in the summer).[9] The Gettysburg Railroad Company had contracted for Passenger Depot construction on September 18, 1858[10] for "the Corner of Carlisle and Railroad street"; and on January 10, 1859, the stockholders resolved to hold their future meetings "in the office [of] their Passenger Depot"[9] (the depot opened in May 1859[11] after its last coat of paint on April 25.)[2]

Depot configuration and reversing the train

The completed depot had two 1st floor waiting rooms (for men and for women & children) and, via a spiral staircase on the eastern side, a large open room on the 2nd floor. The ticket booth/office was a small structure attached to the southeast part of the station.[1]:10 After an 1886 expansion, the original 2-room headhouse became the men's waiting room and was separated from the women's room in the new space by a long hallway.[1]:20
Until the tracks were extended west of Gettysburg, trains reversed near the station to return eastward:

  1. Arriving westbound on the main line, an engine with passenger car switched onto a siding and stopped along a long loading platform behind the depot where passengers detrained.
  2. The engine backed the car from the 1st siding onto a 2nd siding[where?] where the car was disconnected.
  3. The engine then switched back onto the main line[clarification needed] (the engine was reversed).
  4. The passenger car was rolled back onto the 1st siding[clarification needed] along the platform for loading.
  5. The engine backed onto the 1st siding, connected to the loaded car's opposite end, and headed east.[1]:10

American Civil War[edit]

Train service to the depot was stopped when Jubal Early's Confederates burned the Rock Creek trestle on June 27, 1863.[3] The depot's telegrapher, a young daughter of "Mr. Lee (Brown Lee) in Washington county, [sic] Pa.", evacuated the station on the Battle of Gettysburg, First Day and "took the machine from the operating table [and] connected the wires so as to preserve the circuit intact and carried the instrument to Cemetery Hill" where, after instructing soldiers how to connect to the wires (e.g., along the Baltimore Pike), she used the key to relay Union Army information.[12] The station was used as a hospital, and soldiers used the station's cupola during the battle.[13] A station east of the borough was established for Camp Letterman before rail traffic was restored to the depot on July 10,[4] and by the end of July, nearly 15,000 wounded troops had passed through the station[1]:15 via the twice-daily trains.[14] A medical inspector of the Army arrived on July 8 and used the depot while "in immediate charge of the transportation of the wounded".[15]

Gettysburg Address[edit]

For the consecration of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg[16] on November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln arrived at 6:00 p.m. on the 18th and departed 24 hours later, having delivered the Gettysburg Address[5].


Commercial telegraph service in the depot began in 1866,[verification needed] (L. D. Plank replaced Charles T. Rose as the 1902 Western Union Telegraph operator in the "W. U. office")[17] and the station's railroad line became part of the successor lines: Susquehanna, Gettysburg and Potomac Railway (1870), Hanover Junction, Hanover and Gettysburg Railroad (1874), Baltimore and Harrisburg Railway (1885), and Western Maryland Railroad (1917). The last passenger train departed the depot at 4:00 p.m. on December 31, 1942, when the depot's passenger service was discontinued.[6] (scheduled Reading passenger service had ended in 1941).[7] The depot was used until 1948 for administration of freight trains and telegraphy.[1]:23 On April 1, 1955, Western Maryland leased the building to the Gettysburg Travel Council (CSX Transportation owned the station in 1987).[1]:25-6


Following a 1996 meeting regarding the station's condition[citation needed] (the station was near collapse),[18] renovation was funded. The Borough of Gettysburg acquired the property on May 6, 1998; the Gettysburg Convention and Visitors' Bureau vacated the depot in 2002; and renovation began in January 2005 (completed 2006).[1]:27-31 The Pennsylvania Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission was "pivotal in the grand re-opening of the Historic Gettysburg Train Station"[8] on the 2006 anniversary of Lincoln's arrival. The borough approved a 2007 2nd floor lease for the Gettysburg International Arts Festival,[9] and the station has been operated by the National Trust for Historic Gettysburg since 2008.[10] In 2010, H.R. 4395 by Todd Platts failed in the US Senate for allowing Gettysburg National Military Park acquisition of the depot.[11][19]

Gettysburg railroad museum[edit]

Not to be confused with the Lincoln Train Museum

The depot's first floor is a museum with an information counter and is open daily (free) to the public. The museum contains models, diagrams, exhibits, and artifacts which were found during the renovation of the station.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Bennett, Gerald (2006) [1999]. The Gettysburg Railroad Station: A Brief History. Gettysburg, Pennsylvania: Gettysburg Railroad Station Restoration Project. 
  2. ^ Pitzer, Scot Andrew (2009-06-08). "Federal lawmakers OK with train station sale". Gettysburg Times (Times and News Publishing Company). Retrieved 2014-12-01. 
  3. ^ "About Us". Gettysburg Convention and Visitors' Bureau. Retrieved 2011-07-23. 
  4. ^ Printing Office, U.S. Government. "Senate Report 111-330, Boundary Revision of the Gettysburg National Military Park". Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  5. ^ Fortenbaugh, Robert (2006). Lincoln And Gettysburg: The Story Of Abraham Lincoln's Immortal Address At Gettysburg. Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing. pp. 11–16. ISBN 9781428662186. 
  6. ^ Frost, Herbert. "Statement on Senate Bill 1897 before the Subcommittee on National Parks of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee". Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  7. ^ Pleasants, Earl. "Gettysburg Railroad". RR Search (DATABASE QUERY RESULTS). Wauwatosa postal area, Wisconsin: Road completed and brought into use, December 1, 1858. Operated by Hanover Branch Railroad from December 1, 1858 to June 12, 1859. The Company now operates its own road, and also under contract the Littleton Railroad. … Operated temporarily by Hanover Railroad. P1869-70 Hanover to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, 17.00 miles. … Succeeded by Susquehanna, Gettysburg & Potomac Railroad. PMRL1 Gettysburg to Hanover, Pennsylvania. 17.50 miles. See Susquehanna, Gettysburg & Potomac Railroad. Acquired by Baltimore & Harrisburg Railroad 1886. To Hanover Junction, Hanover & Gettysburg Railroad 1874. JUNE 1868 RAILWAY GUIDE 
  8. ^ "Opening of the Gettysburg Railroad" (GOOGLE NEWS ARCHIVES). American and Commercial Advertiser -- reporting the Baltimore American story. December 18, 1858. Retrieved 2011-05-10. 
  9. ^ a b "Railroad Report: To The Stockholders Of The Gettysburg Railroad Company" (GOOGLE NEWS ARCHIVES). The Adams Sentinel (Adams County, Pennsylvania). Retrieved 2011-05-10. During the fall a contract was concluded with Messrs. Warner of Gettysburg for the erection of an Engine-house, a Freight-House and a Passenger station at Gettysburg. …ground from Messrs. 'Doersom & Codori [for the houses] and from Geo. W. McClellan, for the passenger station on the Corner of Carlisle and Railroad street 
  10. ^ "Railroad Buildings" (GOOGLE NEWS ARCHIVE). The Adams Sentinel. September 20, 1858. Retrieved 2011-07-24. On Saturday last, the contract for the construction of a Passenger Depot, Freight house, and Engine-house, for the Railroad, was awarded to the Messrs. Warners, of this place, at $4,480. 
  11. ^ "Riot on a Railroad" (SYNOPSIS AT GOOGLE NEWS ARCHIVE). The Sun (Baltimore). January 1, 1859. Retrieved 2011-07-24. 
  12. ^ "The Heroine of a Telegraphic Story of the Battle of Gettysburg" (GOOGLE NEWS ARCHIVE). Washington Daily Reporter. December 16, 1890. Retrieved 2011-07-24. story…told by Capt. O. R. McNary 
  13. ^ Sullivan, Pvt James (6th WI Inf), document tbd, ten or fifteen of us in the observatory  (quoted by Bennett, p. ~13)
  14. ^ "The Historic Railroad Station at Gettysburg". Retrieved 2011-07-22. 
  15. ^ Vollum, Edward P (July 25, 1863). report of Medical Inspector (Report). Retrieved 2011-07-26. I arrived at Gettysburg about 7 p.m. on the 8th,... about 2,000 slightly wounded men collected at a point a mile from town, where the trains stopped 
  16. ^ Lincoln, Abraham (date tbd). "expenses in attending the consecration of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg" (Report). Washington, D. C. (White House).  Check date values in: |date= (help) (cited by Klement p. 267)
  17. ^ "Miscellaneous" (GOOGLE NEWS ARCHIVE). Gettysburg Compiler. May 20, 1902. Retrieved 2011-07-28. The jury appointed to fix a value on the four tracts of land in Cumberland township belonging to Mrs. Mary A. Pfeffer, will meet in the Court-house to-morrow afternoon at 1.30 o'clock to hear testimony. 
  18. ^ unnamed architectural survey (Report). tbd firm. date tbd.  Check date values in: |date= (help) (cited by Bennett p. ~28)
  19. ^ Pitzer, Scot Andrew (2009-12-18). "Platts introduces law to include Railroad Station in park boundary". Gettysburg Times.