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Lawmakers push to give Gettysburg train depot to National Park Service

The Gettysburg Lincoln Train Station is on the National Register of Historic Places. A half-million grant will enable the Gettysburg Foundation to buy the station from the borough and develop an interprative program.

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Sunday, May 26, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Federal lawmakers from Pennsylvania are pushing to turn the historic train station in downtown Gettysburg over to the Gettysburg National Military Park.

Officials believe the National Park Service is the organization best able to maintain the place where Abe Lincoln arrived and left when he delivered his Gettysburg Address.

“We'd love to see the train station turned over the (National) Park Service,” said Gettysburg Mayor William E. Troxell. “We were able to get state grants to do a beautiful restoration of the building in 2006, but we really can't afford the upkeep.”

The borough allows the Gettysburg Convention & Visitors Bureau to use the building as a visitor's center but requires it to pay only for utilities, said Carl Whitehill, an agency spokesman.

U.S. Sens. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, and Pat Toomey, R-Lehigh Valley, introduced legislation to incorporate the train station into the military park's boundary, along with 45 acres along Plum Run at the eastern base of Big Round Top where Union and Confederate cavalry troops clashed during the Battle of Gettysburg.

“Gettysburg is a site of substantial historical importance for Pennsylvania and the entire country,” Casey said. “The 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg is an ideal time to pass this bipartisan, fiscally responsible legislation that will preserve more historic land.

A companion bill to the Casey-Toomey legislation was introduced in the House by Rep. Scott Perry, R-York County, who represents the Gettysburg area.

A report by the House Committee on Natural Resources values the station at about $700,000 — about the amount the borough spent on renovations, according to Troxell.

To assist with transferring the station, the Richard King Mellon Foundation in Pittsburgh awarded a $500,000 grant to the Gettysburg Foundation that will go toward the purchase of the building and “development of an interpretative program” for the historic landmark.

Cindy Smalls of the Gettysburg Foundation said the organization is “very interested in purchasing the train station.”

Tony LaRussa is a Trib Total Media staff writer.

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