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Abraham Lincoln’s ‘Gettysburg Address’

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Fourscore and a good number of years ago in early July of 1863, the Confederate Army led by General Robert E. Lee had pushed their way into the state of Pennsylvania to a town known as Gettysburg.  They entered into the North in hopes of winning the American Civil War, but the tide turned.  The Battle of Gettysburg was the turning point of the war, and the Confederate Army was forced to retreat back to the South and, years later, to their surrender.

On November 19, 1893, President Abraham Lincoln arrived in Gettysburg to dedicate the National Cemetery.  It was at this very ceremony where he gave his famous speech known as ‘The Gettysburg Address’.  It is considered to be one of the greatest speeches in history.  Although it mentions about what happened in Gettysburg months earlier, there is a story behind the speech on how it was delivered.

If you are wondering if the speech was delivered by the railroad, you are absolutely right.  This speech was delivered by the railroad.  The ride began in Washington D.C.  It went north through Baltimore, and he continued into Pennsylvania all the way to Hanover Junction.  (The tracks between the state line and Hanover Junction remains and can be ridden by the ‘Steam Into History’ excursion train.)  While at Hanover Junction, he switched trains, and he rode the line to Gettysburg.  (Only a small section of the spur exists today.  The rest of the tracks between here and Hanover were taken up.)  Abraham Lincoln arrived in Gettysburg by train at what is now called the Lincoln Train Station.  (It is a museum today.)  From there he stayed at the home of David Wills to prepare his speech, and the next day, the speech was made.

Whether you are in your American History class of if you are visiting the National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania of even if you visit the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., you can see the words of the Gettysburg Address:

(Copied from Wikipedia)

 

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

 

The next time you hear or read these words, remember that these words were delivered by a man who rode to train to Gettysburg.

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The Story of Brunswick, Maryland

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The town of Brunswick, Maryland is a suburb of Washington D.C. that sits on the Potomac River.  Originally named Berlin after the numerous German settlers who made their home here and later changed to Brunswick, the town was a small stop on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal which ran from Washington D.C. to Cumberland, Maryland.  It remained a small town until something new came along.

The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad had arrived to the town, and everything changed.  A roundhouse and shops and a rail yard were built which brought workers to the town causing the population to grow.  In a short time this town was a railroad town.

Today, Brunswick holds it railroad heritage in spite of the fact that the rail yard was reduced in the 1950’s and that the roundhouse was demolished, but the original yard tower still stands.  (It is currently not open to the public and is on CSX Railroad property.)  You can see the old passenger train depot where passengers rode the train from Brunswick to various places across America.  (Today, the depot serves as a commuter train station for those going to and from Washington D.C.)  You can stroll through the commuter parking lot and stand where rail cars were once stored waiting to be connected to trains.  Of course, you have to watch the passing trains.

At the intersection of Maple Avenue and Potomac Street, you will find a small park with a gazebo and a large mural of a train plus and old rail signal.

Then you make your way west on Potomac Street to the Brunswick Heritage Museum.  You enter the museum, and you can visit the C&O Canal Museum and Visitor Center on the first floor.  You go up to the second floor, and you can see displays of life in Brunswick and how the people lived.  Then you go to the third floor, and you will see a model train display of the railroad between the town of Brunswick and Union Station in Washington D.C.  The museum is open from Thursday to Sunday, and admission is free, but they gladly accept donations to help with the costs of keeping the museum running.  You can learn more about the museum hours and upcoming events at http://brunswickmuseum.org.

As you walk through the town, you will feel that this is a true railroad town.  Every fall, the town has it Railroad Heritage Days to celebrate the town’s railroad heritage.  For two days there are model train displays, and there are trains rides available where you can ride along the tracks the Baltimore and Ohio originally ran on.  If you need a souvenir, you can visit the Brunswick High School booth where you can buy a shirt.  Their team name is the ‘Railroaders’ in case you are wondering.

The town of Brunswick, Maryland is a quiet town situated far from the major roadways of U.S. Routes 15 and 340 as well as Virginia Route 7 to the south.  It is always a great spot to sit and watch the trains roll by.  If you get hungry, there are a few great restaurants and ice cream shops a short walk away.  You can learn more about the town at https://brunswickmd.gov.  It is a town truly worth your time.

The Ghosts of the Trains

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You park your car in the lot next to the rail trail.  You get out and walk to the old train station that now serves as a rest stop for those using the trail.  You sit on the bench to take a brief rest, and then… it hits you.  You look left.  You look right.  It is just a trail that was once a right of way of a railroad line, but the tracks were taken up many years ago.  You look at the old train station… and it hits you again.  You begin to imagine the days when the trains passed through here.  You hear the whistle.

Wait!  There is no train here.  The tracks have been gone for years.  The whistle blows again.  You look around, and passengers are arriving at the depot.  The train arrives.  People get off and on the train.  The platform is full of people.  Where did the come from?

“All aboard!”  The conductor shouts.

The train starts to pull away, and the people are leaving the station.  The train is gone, but all you see is an empty rail trail and an old train station.

Imagine the days when the rail trails were once rail lines where people rode the trains and where freight trains rolled along.  Imagine the days when those old train stations were the center of activity in the town where the ticket master sold tickets and where people sat and waited for the trains.  These are the ghosts of the trains.

 

The photo is of the old train terminal at Liberty State Park in Jersey City, New Jersey.

The Story of Los Angeles Dodgers

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Yes, we are talking baseball.  It is still baseball season with the World Series in full swing.  What is it about baseball?  Well, you have the Los Angeles Dodgers, a major league baseball team that play at Dodger Stadium in, of course, Los Angeles, California.  From April to October they played 162 regular season games, and they have won the National League Pennant.  They are now playing World Series of which they have succeeded in winning a few times, and they hope to defeat the Boston Red Sox to become World Series Champions again.

Now some of you are saying, “I love baseball.  It is one of the most unique sports ever played.  As for the Los Angeles Dodgers, they are a baseball team, and I am not a Dodgers fan, and they have nothing to do with railroads.  Therefore, I will be dodging the Los Angeles Dodgers as I have always done.”

That is a very interesting thought.  The question is where the name ‘Dodgers’ came from.  For some people, it would not be a name that you would choose for any sports team.

Some of you are saying, “Maybe they came up with the name because they had to dodge things that were being thrown at them, or maybe it is named after a man or pet named Dodger.”

Those are a good answers, but neither one is the correct answer.  Where did the name come from?

They are the Los Angeles Dodgers, but they were not always in Los Angeles.  The team moved to Los Angeles from Brooklyn, New York, and it is here where the name originates.  The original name was the ‘Trolley Dodgers’ because people were dodging the trolleys as they came down the streets of Brooklyn.  The name was eventually shortened to Dodgers, and they have had that name ever since.  They did win the 1955 World Series, but their time in Brooklyn was short as they had a hard time finding a spot for a new stadium, and they were up against two other local baseball teams (Giants and Yankees).  In 1957, they played their last season in Brooklyn, and the team was moved to Los Angeles the next year.  You can say that the team moved from a city with streetcars to a city that has lots of streets with lots of cars.

Next time you are watching baseball and the Los Angeles Dodgers are playing, think about a team that derived from the streetcars of Brooklyn.

Autumn and the Railroad

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There is a crisp coolness in the air.  Autumn has arrived.  The leaves on the trees are changing color, and they will eventually detach from the branch and fall to the ground.  It is a time when many people flock to the forest.  Some will hike.  Some will drive.  Some will take the train.

People arrive at the train station.  They get their tickets.  The train comes.  People get on the train.  The hoot toots.  The whistle blows.  The train has begun the journey.  All around you the colors of fall are on display.  The kids have their faces glued to the windows.  The lady has her bare feet across her man’s lap.  Two elderly men are just sitting talking about the good old days.  The train rolls down the track crossing bridges and grade crossing and passing through rock cuts and tunnels.  Everyone is enjoying the ride.

Enjoy the train ride through the autumn leaves.  Let the memories last for a lifetime.

Gathland State Park, Burkittsville, Maryland

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You have heard of Gathland State Park in Burkittsville, Maryland.  You probably would not think you did, but if you have heard of the Blair Witch Project, then you have heard Gathland State Park as this is where the Blair Witch Project took place.  It was the mountain home of George Alfred Townsend, a Civil War journalist who bought the land in 1884 because of its proximity to the Antietam Battlefield and because of the South Mountain Battlefield of which a portion of the battlefield is within the park boundaries.  The property consisted of close to twenty structures.  The name of the park comes from his initials ‘G.A.T.’ with the ‘H’ on the end.  Today, two of the remaining structures are a museum depicting the Battle of South Mountain, the first major Civil War battle in the state of Maryland that is often overshadowed by a more famous battle at Antietam which is to the west.  There is also the Civil War Correspondents Memorial Arch which is the main attraction to the park.  There are also a few ruins of structures to include a mausoleum, and for you hikers you can walk the Appalachian Trail which passes through the park right past the historic area.  Everywhere you step in this park you will be stepping on history.

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Now some of you are saying, “That is so amazing.  There is so much history here, but there is no railroad here.  With the Blair Witch here and no railroad here, you will not see me here either.”

You have a great point.  With all of the history in this park, there is no railroad.  There is just the main road that runs through the park plus a road that runs north plus the Appalachian Trail, but there is absolutely no railroad in this park.  Therefore, you have no reason to visit this park, and, of course, the famous Blair Witch will frighten you away anyway, but since there is no railroad here, you will not be coming here anyway.

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What does the railroad have to do with Gathland State Park or with the Battle of South Mountain?  That is a very interesting question.  There was never a railroad here nor are there any future plans to build one here.  Here is the answer to the question.

Gathland State Park is on Gapland Road with Arnoldtown Road running north.  Go east on Gapland Road, and you will come to the town of Burkittsville.  It is a small town with few people.  Go west and you will cross Maryland Route 67 and find yourself in the small town of Gapland.  Other that a small park, the town does not look like it has much of anything, but you drive on, and you notice a little long hump with trees growing on top.  You begin to think that it looks like it may be a railroad bed.  That is because it is a railroad bed.

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When George Alfred Townsend traveled to and from his mountain home, he did so by way of the railroad in Gapland.  He would ride down to the town and take the train to anywhere he needed to go.  The line was a spur line of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad that eventually connected to a main line that ran through Maryland.  Today, it is mainly overgrown with trees, but you could visit the town of Keedysville and see the ruins of one of the trestles.

Gathland State Park is located on Gapland Road one mile west of the town of Burkittsville and Maryland Route 17 and town miles east of Gapland and Maryland Route 67.  The museum is open in the spring, the summer and the fall but closed in the winter.  The park itself is open year around with the Appalachian Trail accessible day and night.  Admission to the museum is free, and parking is available on site.  You can get more information about the park and the history at http://dnr.maryland.gov/publiclands/Pages/western/gathland.aspx.

The next time you are driving around and see signs for Gathland State Park, do not think of it as another state park.  Think of it as a home of a man who made great use of the railroad.  Oh!  Do not worry about the Blair Witch.  She will not bother you.

Lincoln Railroad Station, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

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In the early years of passenger railroading, towns that were on the rail line would build a train station where trains would stop to pick-up and discharge passengers.  One of those towns would be Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  When the Italian Villa style Gettysburg Railroad Station was built in 1858, it operated like any other railroad station.  Passengers waited for the train.  The train came.  Passengers got off and go on.  The train departed the station.

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In just a few short years, everything changed.

The American Civil War began in 1861.  On July 1, 1863, the Confederate Army marched north of the Mason-Dixon Line, and there was a three day clash in and around Gettysburg.  During this time, the train station became a hospital for wounded Union soldiers.  When the Confederates were push out of Gettysburg, the wounded soldiers were located to another building, and it began to operate as a train station again.

Months later, another event took place.

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On November 18, 1863, a man arrived at the Gettysburg Railroad Station.  He had a mission.  Who was he and what was his mission?  That man was Abraham Lincoln, the President of the United States of America, and he came to deliver what many say is his greatest speech, The Gettysburg Address.

After that, it was just the Gettysburg Railroad Station until December 31, 1942 when the last passenger train bound for Baltimore left the station.

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Today, the Gettysburg Railroad Station is now the Lincoln Railroad Station.  It is no longer and active train station but a museum.  Inside, you can see displays of how the depot originally looked in it days of service.  You can read up on the history of the station.  In a short time, you will realize that this was not just your normal train station but a place where American history took place.  Oh, if you are fortunate, you may see a passing train.

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The Lincoln Railroad Station is operated by the Gettysburg Foundation.  It is located at 35 Carlisle Street (Business U.S. 15) in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania just one block north of the town square.  Admission is free, but donations are generously accepted to help with the costs of keeping the museum running.  It is open every day between Memorial Day to Labor from 10:00am to 5:00pm.  It is open from Friday to Sunday in March, April, May, September and October.  It is open select days in November and December.  It is closed in January and February.  The museum has no parking.  Only metered parking or garage parking is available.  You can also park at the Visitor Center and ride a free shuttle through the town.  You can get more information about the train station and the times the station is open plus information on nearby parking garages at https://www.gettysburgfoundation.org/gettysburg-lincoln-railroad-station/.

Next time you visit Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, visit that ordinary railroad station that become a railroad stop for American history.