By Paige Neidig – The history of Gettysburg, Pa., runs deep through the town. Also running through this small historic town is a distinguished railroad story, dating back to just a few years prior to the epic Civil War battle that stormed Gettysburg in 1863.
Much of Abraham Lincoln’s story, in fact, centers around the railroad and his journey to deliver the Gettysburg Address. And while the tale of the 16th president writing the speech on the back on an envelope on the way to Gettysburg is not true, his train ride and arrival in Gettysburg to the sights and sounds of cheering spectators are highlights of his short visit to the war-ravaged town.
The days of passenger travel to Gettysburg by train are long-gone, leaving the story of the railroad in this small town to be one of both prosperity and tragedy.
Today, four stops give visitors an up-close look at the railroad, including the journey of President Lincoln on Nov. 18, 1863. All aboard!
The Gettysburg Lincoln Railroad Station
Explore the very railroad station that served as a field hospital during the Civil War and a means of transporting the wounded to city hospitals after the war was over. This train station was a deliverance of food and supplies for local citizens to sustain themselves and to care for the wounded. It was also the place of greeting for President Lincoln when he arrived in Gettysburg on November 18, 1863 to deliver the Gettysburg Address. The Gettysburg Lincoln Railroad Station is a free attraction for the whole family to enjoy.
Located in the heart of Gettysburg, it’s a still-standing treasure that represents what this small town went through during The Battle of Gettysburg. The lives of the citizens of the town were transformed in just three short days. Inside the train station, there are a series of displays that give an overview of what happened during those three days, and the history of the railroad around this time.
Northern Central Railway – Steam Into History
In nearby New Freedom, Pa., this excursion allows you to ride on the same tracks that carried Lincoln’s funeral train in a replica of the steam locomotive that President Lincoln traveled in to deliver the famous Gettysburg Address.
A period clothed narrator will share with you the history of the railroad as you take a leisurely ride through Pennsylvania’s countryside. Be sure to check their upcoming events before you visit for special excursions that may include living historians and musicians.
I took the one-hour long train ride to Glen Rock Express. The views seen outside of my window were absolutely beautiful. The town of Glen Rock almost seemed stopped in time. It is the complete picture of small town life with cozy restaurants, little super markets and, of course, the train passing through.
The Lincoln Train Museum
This patriotic museum takes you back in time to the very beginning of American history. President Lincoln walks through time with you, narrating our country’s history up to present times. The Lincoln Train Museum left me filled with American pride and patriotism. It is a great reminder of where we started, and how far we’ve come.
Also part of this kid-friendly museum is an interactive model train that depicts the route Lincoln’s funeral train took from Washington DC to Springfield, Illinois. Even as an adult, I enjoyed pushing the buttons to move different parts within the display. End your visit to the Lincoln Train Museum with a ride on the Lincoln Funeral Car. This simulated journey with Lincoln and his son Willy to their final resting places in Springfield, Illinois is a true journey back in time.
The museum is a highlight for train lovers and history buffs, alike.
New Oxford Train Station
This century-old train station features a bright red train caboose, mail car and a museum open on most weekends. The station is a landmark in the quaint antiquing town just east of Gettysburg. Travelers sometimes stop for a break at the site, pose for pictures or take a look inside at the railroad exhibits. The station is undergoing a preservation effort to keep the building open to the public.