GDG- The Gettysburg Electric Railway/Trolley

Margaret D. Blough mdblough1 at
Thu Jan 12 13:30:05 CST 2012

Nancy-All though it doesn't actually appear to have had much impact on the Gettysburg Electric Railway itself (it died by other means), the U.S. Supreme Court decision in U.S. v. Gettysburg Electric Railway Co. 160 U.S. 668 (1896) established the principle that battlefield preservation was a public use for which the US government's Constitutional power of eminent domain could be used. I highly recommend reading it. Mr. Justice Peckham, who wrote the opinion, did an extraordinary, moving job of it. It also has a very good short history of the efforts to protect the battlefield, particularly via the federal government, up to the date of the decision. 



----- Original Message -----
From: "Nancy Householder" <pipecreek1430 at> 
To: "Gettysburg Discussion" <gettysburg at> 
Sent: Thursday, January 12, 2012 9:09:02 AM 
Subject: GDG- The Gettysburg Electric Railway/Trolley 

Esteemed GDG Member Contributes: 
The Gettysburg Electric Railway, also known as the Trolley was incorporated on July 28,1892. 
They planned to run it, not just around the town, but around the battlefield. 
William Tipton, who was one of the people who helped with granting access for the trolley tracks, 
and while they were planning this, eventually purchased 13 acres of land just east of Devils Den 
for his own park. He knew the trolley line would be passing thru there, and probably made 

arrangements with the trolley company for his park to be a designated stop. 
The proposed trolley route was leaked in a Philadelphia newspaper in March 1892: 
" It will start from the square in Gettysburg, run out the Baltimore Pike, pass 

Cemetery Hill,encircle the National Cemetery,thence along the Emmittsburg Rd 
to the Peach Orchard,through the Wheatfield to Devils Den,and through the 
Valley of Death to Little Round Top Park. The return will be made via the 
Bloody Angle and Hancock Avenue to Gettysburg." 

On April 17 & 18, 1893 a gang of Italians arrived from Baltimore and shanties were 
set up for them on the lot belonging to Mr. Tipton in Devils Den, and work began on 

the Round top end of the Electric Railway. During the next few days the sound of 
dynamite blasting rocks on Tiptons land was heard in town more and more frequently. 
One eyewitness described the work: 
" All along the line, in the vicinity of Devils Den, there is heavy blasting and digging 
and filling; and great havoc is played with the landscape. Huge masses of rock are 
displaced, great bouldlers are moved, the valley is to be filled the width and height 
of a track from the bridge over Plum Run in front of Round Top to the north end 
of the Valley and a whole new appearance will be given to the famous field of 
For the next few weeks, veterans and concerned citizens watched in disbelief as the 
trolley company cut a thirty foot wide path through some of the most sacred ground 
on American soil. Historic trees were felled, streams were forded, and rocks that still 
should the scars of battle were forever blasted from the face of the earth. In some instances' 
the trolley roadbed passed within feet of monuments that had been dedicated just a few 
years before. Public outcry was immediate and in some cases very bitter. 

John Bachelder was sent to Gettysburg in June to make a preliminary report to the Sec 
of War on the work being done by the railway company. 
Part of his report: 
The boulders which covered the combatants in the desperate engagement between 

the Fourth Maine and the 44th New York of the Union Army and the 44th Alabama 
and the right of Bennings Brigade of the Confederate army are already blasted, and 
the fragments broken under the hammer and are covered with earth to form a roadbed. 
And it is this locality which has been turned into a park to which cheap excursions are 
to be run from Baltimore and other cities. This is the most wild and picturesque 

section of the field. For the distance of over one mile before reaching this locality, the 
road cuts ruthlessly through the scene of some of the most desperate encounters of the battle. 

Can you imagine this happening today? 
Nancy Householder 
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