VINTAGE: The Gettysburg Railroad

I  wrote  this  many  years  ago.  Sadly,  the  train  is  no  longer  running.  I  hope  that  you  enjoy  it.

 

Welcome to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  It is here where many major roads meet.  If you ask most people what they know about Gettysburg, they will tell you that the Civil War happened here.  It is true that a major battle of the Civil War happened here.  In matter of fact, the battle was the turning point of the war.  The battlefield surrounds the town.  However, there is more to this town than people know.

The town is a major crossroads for many traveling routes.  This is one of the reasons why this became the place where one of the greatest conflicts of the Civil War happened.

Even today it is a crossroads, but not for war.  It is a major tourist attraction.  I could spend a long time telling you about this town.  Instead, I am just telling you about one of the best kept secrets of Gettysburg: the Gettysburg Railroad.

Just a few blocks from the center of the town is the train station.  It is about thirty-five minutes before the train is scheduled to depart, and the train pulls into the station.  It comes to a stop, and people are there waiting to climb aboard.  There is a locomotive on each end of the train.  This  allows the engineer to simply go from one end of the train to another without having to detach the  locomotive, operate it through a series of switchbacks, and then reattach it a the other end to make  the return trip to the station.  This is where people take an opportunity to take pictures of the train next to the locomotive.  The time comes when people are now able to climb aboard the train.  Moments later, you hear those famous words, “All Aboard!”

Currently, those who have yet to board the train are now hustling to get aboard before they miss the train.  Once everyone is aboard who is coming on aboard, the engineer toots the whistle, and the train starts to pull away from the station.  The trip on the Gettysburg Railroad has begun.

As the train rolls along, the conductor tells everyone about the very sites as the train passes by.  He just happens to be a man who has lived his entire life in the town.  He begins by talking about his various encounters through his years.  From time to time he tries to tell a joke.  He talks about the various points along the battlefield.  He mentions a place called Herrs Ridge before he talks about His Ridge.  As the train goes along, people are enjoying the scenery and not his attempts of humor.

As the train departs from the station, the first place the train passes through is the rail yard.  There are box cars, hoppers, tank cars, and other rail cars kept here.  You may wonder why these types of cars are stored in a yard on a passenger line.  The reason is because the railroad is not just a passenger line.  It is also a freight line that serves farms and an apple factory.  When the passenger train is not running, the freight trains take over.

A railroad enthusiast would be focused on the various rail cars and locomotives in the rail yard.  Other sightseers would be looking out at the athletic fields of Gettysburg College which are situated next to the train yard.  You can get a good view of one of the games, but you would only be able to see a few minutes as the fields begin go out of sight.  At this point, you get a good overview of the college before passing on to the next sight.

The train enters the first day portion of the battlefield.  You look outside and see the various monuments.  The one that you notice right away is the one of the Pennsylvania Regiment, which is a statue of a soldier holding his gun.  On the left side, you see a ridge where the Union Army fired down on the Confederates only to be overtaken and forced back.  Unfortunately for the Civil War enthusiast, this is the only portion of the battlefield that can be seen from the train.  You will have to get into your car to see the rest of the battlefield for yourself, and, if you have not seen it, it is worth seeing.

The train continues to pass by houses and farms.  People sit out in their front yards and in the field and wave as the train passes by.  The conductor talks about the various crops that are planted.  He even points out some oversized marshmallows that are piled up in a field near the tracks.  The oversized marshmallows are bales of hay covered with white plastic.  Unfortunately for the conductor, nobody gets a laugh out of that one.

The train continues down the line.  It passes by open fields, forests, and then crosses over a creek.  This is the only bridge crossing on the trip.

The train arrives at the town of Biglerville.  The town is known for being the Apple Capital of the United States.  The Motts Apple Factory, where apple sauce, apple juice, and other apple products are made, is right next to the rail line.  You see where the rail lines go into the factory to ship the products all over the United States.  You see the box cars and other cars there that are used to brings products in and out of the factory.  It is also at this very place where the train stops and heads back to Gettysburg.  The train has finally reached the end of the line.

The train arrives at the station, and it is time for everyone to get off the train.  At the time, the ride is over, but there is still another little excursion.  This one will take you inside the one locomotive.  This is a train lover’s dream.  You just happen to be standing near the locomotive, and the engineer invites you to climb aboard.  You get into the cab, and you get an engineer’s view of the railroad.  You look out over the tracks in front of you and imagine that you are heading down the line.  It is then time to get out of the locomotive, but you do not exit the same way you went in.  The engineer takes you through the engine room.  You see one of the huge diesel engines that pulls the passenger cars along.  You then make your way off the train, and you stand there looking at the train before you.  About a minute later, the train starts to pull away.  The train is heading back to the yard to prepare for its next trip.  At this time, you can say that your day on the Gettysburg Railroad has come to an end.

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania is a town that is rich in history, being the turning point of the Civil War, a major crossroads, the site of Abraham Lincoln’s famous address, and the Eternal Flame, The Gettysburg Railroad is another part of the town’s history.  You will want to make it a part of your history as well.

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