Almost 20,000 veterans – close to 40 percent of the attendees – were transported to and from the Great Reunion by railroad. More than $140,000 was paid by the official Pennsylvania Commission to many different railroads to cover the costs of these old veterans. (You could do the math – or look in the official report of the Great Reunion at the footnote beneath the railroad expenditure table – to see that the average cost of transportation per veteran was $7.35.)
In our modern era where railroad transportation has mostly given way to passenger automobiles and airplanes (with some exceptions of course, especially for those living in the northeastern corridor of the country), it’s sometimes difficult to imagine an era a century ago where numerous railroad companies existed and vied for business. The official Great Reunion report lists 47 railroads that operated within Pennsylvania and the number of veterans they carried to Gettysburg. Whereas the Pennsylvania Railroad carried almost half of those – 9,742 – you see railroads such as the Pittsburgh, Shawmut, and Northern Railroad and the Louisville and Nashville Railroad and the Pittsburgh, Chartiers, and Youghiogheny Railway, all of which carried only a single veteran each.
The names of many of these railroad companies echo of a past era; towns, rivers, and regions that have settled into history in many ways. They still exist – most of them – but the passenger railroads of yesteryear no longer travel through or along these places.