Keeping track of history Lititz train depot turns 150

By on December 23, 2013


RON REEDY Special to the Record Express

, Staff Writer

Photo courtesy of Ron Reedyâ?©The Dec. 26, 1863 dedication train.

On Dec. 26, the first Lititz passenger depot and freight station was dedicated. Ron Reedy drafted this short history of the early development of the Reading & Columbia Railroad for the occasion.

Early development of the Reading & Columbia Railroad

The development of transportation in Pennsylvania, by the middle of the nineteenth century, had progressed to the point that there were two certain arteries of railroad transport between the cities of Philadelphia and Harrisburg. However, there were not any railroads running from north to south. Consequently, the growth of northern Lancaster County was seriously handicapped. Communities such as Lititz were urgently in need of better transportation facilities. It was for this reason, primarily, that the Reading & Columbia Railroad came into being.

Shortly after 1850, the idea for a railroad between Columbia and Reading that would link Lancaster and Berks Counties began to take form. By 1857, a group of influential citizens secured the passage, through the Pennsylvania Legislature, a charter creating the Reading & Columbia Railroad Company, which was signed by Governor James Pollock on May 19, 1857.

In 1859, M. B. Lyons, a native of Ireland, was appointed chief engineer to survey the location of the route, which was completed by December of 1860. The railroad would run from Sinking Spring, where a connection could be made with the Lebanon Valley Railroad, as the starting point, and then onto Black Horse Tavern (later Reinholds), Stevens, Ephrata, Akron, Millway, Rothsville, Lititz, Manheim and Landisville, then to Columbia, a distance of 39.8 miles.

The building of the R. & C. main line came when a contract was awarded on Feb. 23, 1861 to the firm of Moore, Balch, Danforth and Company of New York City, who agreed, for the sum of $200,000 in cash and $400,000 in capital stock of the company, to grade, build the masonry and superstructure, and prepare the line for track from Sinking Spring to Columbia. By the middle of May, 1861, the actual work of grading a right of way was started.

On Jan. 13, 1862 the stockholders of the R. & C. met at the Lititz Springs Hotel, owned by Samuel Lichtenthaeler, for the purpose of electing a president and twelve directors for the ensuing year. Mr. Lichtenthaeler was elected one of the Board of Directors. At the Feb. 14, 1863 Board of Directors meeting, another Lititz resident, J. B. Tshudy, was elected Treasurer.

The Reading & Columbia Railroad was to be completed by Jan. 1, 1863, but with the labor and material shortage caused by the Civil War and other problems that beset the railroad, only 17 miles of the R & C. was in running order for freight and passenger trains.

Finally, the long awaited first regular train service over the R. & C. commenced between Columbia and Ephrata on June 29, 1863, but the event was overshadowed by the terrible conflict which was about to erupt at Gettysburg. At the same time, preparations were made for the community of Lititz observance of the nation’s birthday which would take place on Saturday, July 4, 1863. But because of the battle at Gettysburg, public attention was focused on this crucial confrontation and its ultimate outcome. So, the celebration’s only event was the first baseball game ever played on the grounds of the Lititz Springs.

Less than a month after the Gettysburg conflict, Mr. Rambo, the Editor of the Columbia Spy newspaper, decided to take a better look at the progress of the R. & C. and went along with other guests on a special train to Ephrata on July 25, 1863. The train made a stop at Lititz where apparently a drink from the Lititz Springs wasn’t enough to get the cinders out of the editor’s throat.

"We were invited by Mr. Tshudy to the offices of the Reading & Columbia Railroad." reported Editor Rambo. "All appeared to be interested in the directors’ room and upon stepping inside, we were invited to indulge in a glass of Mr. Tshudy’s beautifully decantered premium currant wine which, we must agree, is the nicest and best flavored we have ever tasted. This apparently slacked the thirst of the group sufficiently for them to go on to Ephrata. Mr. Hershey, the gentlemanly conductor did everything to make the trip pleasant."

Dedication ceremony and description of the first train depot in Lititz

by Henry T. Muth

A passenger train arrived in Lititz on Saturday, December 26, 1863, for the purpose of participating in the dedication of the new passenger depot and freight station. Tobe Martin, the grandfather of Henry T. Muth, the writer, was a young man of twenty-six years of age who was there and made the following mental notations:

"The train consisted of a powerful looking locomotive with a funnel shaped smokestack pulling three passenger cars. The last of the cars was filled with dignitaries and railroad officials dressed in high silk hats and cutaway coats while the ladies wore silk dresses and seal skin furs. The other two cars carried the fare paying celebrators of the memorable occasion. From the front to the rear the train was decorated with flags and bunting and a small band played a triumphant tune on the rear platform of the last car. After the train conductor and his crew braked the train to stop at the new station on the west side of Broad Street just north of the railroad all the passengers and dignitaries disembarked to join the local dignitaries on the veranda of the railroad station.

"Ceremonies began with a welcoming speech by the towns’ worthy John Beck, Headmaster of the Boys School. Mr. Beck was answered by a pompous railroad official making a speech about prosperity and the hope for a peaceful future. Reverend William C. Reichel, Headmaster of Linden Hall, the girls’ school, also addressed the gathering and among his remarks announced that within this very year Linden Hall Seminary was incorporated by the State Legislature. Bishop Edmund A. deSchweinitz offered a prayer, dedicating the Reading & Columbia Railroad to a promise of progress for Lititz and the surrounding countryside.

"After the ceremonies and during the alarming ringing of the locomotives’ bell the former passengers began returning to their cars taking additional passengers from Lititz with them. With the train gone the populace turned to inspecting the new depot. The frame structure built in great anticipation had large waiting rooms, even a men’s section where the use of tobacco was allowed. There was a ticket office, a telegraph office, a section for the United States Express Company, and in the rear of the building was the freight office and warehouse. The basement, only half of which was below ground level was designed to be a restaurant in the near future.

"The walls and ceilings of the waiting rooms and offices were covered with highly varnished four inch wide wood ceilings boards. Besides registering an effort toward cleanliness the glistening walls and ceilings served to reflect the meager light from the oil lamps ensconced between the windows. High backed benches for waiting passengers were also made with these popular four inch ceiling boards and they too were heavily varnished. Two very large potbelly stoves on in the waiting room and the other in the station agent’s office served for heating purposes. Next to the ticket office wicket was the bulletin board on which was posted the expected arrival and departure times of the trains. On the outside of the station the vertical siding was painted a somber olive drab with the window frames, trim, porch railing and benches painted a very dark brown. From the main track on the south side of the station ‘The Horn’ or public freight car siding curved away across North Broad Street a distance of two hundred or more feet to the northeast. From ‘The Horn’ cattle, farm products, tobacco, and products of the local breweries would be shipped and foreign commodities received."

Excerpts from "The Story of the R. & C." by John D. Denney, Jr.; the "Columbia Spy" newspaper of June 27, 1863 and the "Lititz Record" newspaper of June 28, 1923; and the story written by Henry T. Muth


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