I was in the library at the time, just minding my own business, when one of the librarians rushed in and told me the news. As quick as I could, I dashed out onto the library steps, where I stood gaping. I could see other residents of Glen Rock hurrying to the center of town. It looked like a scene from a 1950s B-movie, in which the townsfolk all come wandering out of their dwelling places to gawk at the flying saucer that has just landed. But this time, the technology we all came running to see was not so advanced. As a matter of fact, it was pretty old school: a beautiful 19th century steam engine with a huge funnel and cowcatchers, panting and belching out smoke like a dragon in repose. It was a wonderful sight.
I have always been an admirer of trains, especially steam engines, as far back as I can remember. So, naturally I was thrilled to learn that this train would be stopping at Hanover Junction later in the month. This visitation would be part of the various ceremonies marking the 150th anniversary of Gettysburg. In the days to come, the train passed by my home on a regular basis. I would be fishing in the stream, and I would hear a steam whistle hooting. Sure enough, I would soon see the train chugging along, pulling in its wake a load of lucky passengers.
Today, my family and I drove to Hanover Junction, a small Civil-War era train station, for the grand opening of “Steam into History.” There were all kinds of re-enactors in period costume there—soldiers in blue and gray and butternut uniforms milling around. The Union and Confederate soldiers seemed on surprisingly friendly terms with each other. They did take part in a little laid-back banter for the benefit of the tourists:
“See you in hell, Johnny Reb!”
“You Yankees are gonna skedaddle today!”
One soldier showed me his nine-shot French revolver. Another explained the golden Masonic insignia pinned on the front of his homespun uniform. He told me that the soldiers who were Masons, both North and South, wore their Masonic badges in hopes that if captured, they would well treated by the Masons in the opposing army.
We waited in the heat for the train. I pitied the re-enactors who must have been sweltering in their wool uniforms. Finally, I heard someone say that due to a malfunction of some sort, the train would not be running today.
I felt slightly disappointed by this news, but I cheered up in time to watch the reenactment. The air was thick with gunsmoke as the two groups exchanged fire, in imitation of a skirmish that occurred at Hanover Junction back in 1863. The whole event was very dramatic, and even though all the gunfire made my eardrums pop, I enjoyed myself.
Still, it would have been even better had the train been there.