In 1891 The Gettysburg Electric Railway Company was established. Its purpose was to provide motorized trolley tours of the Gettysburg Battlefield. Construction for the railway took two years, and it was completed in 1893. In 1894 the line opened for business. The system consisted of seven trolley cars, and was powered by its own dedicated generation plant specifically built to energize the system.
From its inception, the system invited much controversy. Proponents of the system pointed out the many benefits it brought to both the town of Gettysburg itself as well as its famous battlefield.
One benefit of the system was that it brought electrical street lamps to the town of Gettysburg; until that time no consistent electrical service was available for public service†. It was also the first motorized transportation system for the battlefield, and could provide tours to larger masses of people.
Its opposition, including Civil War Veterans Groups and the United States Government itself, disagreed with the appropriateness of the line, and felt it was both a desecration of, and a danger to, the sanctity of battlefield.
Illustrated below is the circuit of the trolley system. The circuit began at the Carlisle Street Railroad Station, proceeded down Baltimore Street, traversed around to the southern end of the battlefield, and returned sharing a portion of the Gettysburg-Harrisburg-Reading Railroad. The segment pictured in green, along with the blue, shows the circuitous route. The red was a portion of the line originally planned, but never implemented.
Over the life of the railway the system was sold several times. In 1897 the system was renamed the Gettysburg Transit Company. In 1909 its name was changed again to the Gettysburg Railway. Initially when the system began, paper tickets were used for passage. Later in the system’s history, tokens were used.
The railway operated until 1916, when the system was finally forced to shut down.
Pictured below is a Gettysburg Electric Railway token. Listed in the Atwood-Coffee guide, the token is cataloged as PA405-A, circa 1893.
The lower left quadrant of the obverse, and the lower right quadrant of the reverse show some discoloration. Despite this, the token has survived quite well.
Axial lighting photography was used in an effort to reveal if the token was cleaned sometime in its past; no evidence is apparent.
Given its condition, this token’s grade is AU.
It should be noted that given the name of the system identified on the obverse, it can be surmised that the token dates sometime between 1893 through 1897, given the history of the line and its evolution of names.
Notes and Sources
- ‘Gettysburg Electric Trolley, Parts 1-8’, Gettysburg Daily, Rich Kohr ©2009
- ‘A Brief History of Gettysburg’, Gerald Bennet / Kevin A. Trostle
- Pennsylvania Interurbans and Streetcar Railroads
- ‘Desecration of the Battlefield’, Harper’s Weekly Magazine, July 1, 1893
- The Atwood-Coffee Catalogue Fourth Edition Volume II, John M. Coffee Jr., AVA
- The Atwood-Coffee Catalogue, John M. Coffee and Harold V. Ford, AVA
- U.S. National Park Service