End of the line? Norfolk Southern says old railroad depot will be razed

By on April 17, 2013

By: STEPHEN SEEBER Record Express Staff, Staff Writer

Photo by Preston WhitcraftThe old freight station on Water Street was built in 1921. It might be demolished in 2013.

The old railroad freight depot on Water Street may be history. Literally.

Last week, we reported on preliminary plans to retire the active train tracks on the east side of Route 501, eventually paving the way for a recreational rail trail and future economic development in that corridor.

The unique brick building that has stood alongside the tracks at the Water Street crossing since 1921 is not a part of that plan.

"We view the depot and discussion of our service as two separate issues," Dave Pidgeon, Norfolk Southern’s public relations manager for Pennsylvania, said. "There’s no relation."

The building’s poor condition means its end is near.

"We now consider it to be a safety hazard," Pidgeon said. "We are looking to demolish that building. Unfortunately, I don’t have a time frame for when that will happen."

When asked if there is any chance whatsoever for a reversal on that position, his response was not what preservationists want to hear.

"We’re moving forward with plans to raze that building," he said.

Still, those who would like to see it preserved for future use have not thrown in the towel.

"I have been in talks with a colleague at the Historic Preservation Trust in Lancaster who expressed interest in working together to save it," Cory Van Brookhoven, Lititz Historical Foundation president, posted in a discussion on the Record Express Facebook page. "In addition, I just spoke to a gentleman today who would be interested in exploring options to purchase it and then restore it for either private or commercial use. Of course, all of this is easier said than done, but we are optimistic. As this story unfolds, I will keep the Lititz Record Express in the loop."

For local historian Ron Reedy, the depot has a personal connection. His father, former Lititz Mayor Raymond Reedy, worked there in the 1920s and ’30s.

"Historically and on a personal note, I have a sentimental attachment to the freight station since it is where my father had his first full-time employment after graduating from high school in 1923," Reedy shared. "As one who grew up in Lititz, I remember the big steam engines pulling and switching freight cars onto sidings for the unloading and loading of freight. Also, the many passenger trains that would stop in Lititz on a daily basis. Historically, it is definitely the end of an era in Lititz. The freight station is the last of the three stations built in Lititz by the Reading & Columbia Rail Road, which existed from 1857 to 1945. If the freight station is finally removed by Norfolk Southern, the last remaining remnant of the R. & C. Rail Road, the "Golden Era" of railroading in Lititz, will finally be gone."

The first station was the Lititz Passenger Depot & Freight Station, built on the present site of Wilbur Chocolate in 1863. The second Lititz Passenger Depot and Express Station was built in 1884 on the grounds of Lititz Springs Park. The third, the freight station, was built along Water Street in 1921-22.

Recently, borough council inspected the building to find that while the roof is in horrible shape, the concrete foundation and brick walls are sound. Following the inspection, an attempt was made to preserve the building, but "the borough was not successful in negotiating a business-friendly lease with Norfolk Southern regarding the depot," said Lititz Borough Council President Karen Weibel. More FREIGHT STATION, page A18

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