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Baltimore and Ohio Railroad
Martinsburg Shops


The presence of The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company in Martinsburg, West Virginia dates back to the 1840's when the first engine and machine shops were erected for the expanding company. When West Virginia seceded from Virginia in 1861, the regions social and government institutions were thrown in turmoil.

The Civil War decimated the region, Martinsburg specifically, because  of the railroad yards. On May 22, 1861, Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson's troops stopped all trains going East from Martinsburg and Point of Rocks. Once he determined that all of the trains that could be caught had been caught, he blew up the bridges to the West and blew down the rocks onto the tracks to the East, and the pirating of the B&O Railroad was on. In total, 42 locomotives and 386 cars were stolen and destroyed. 36 1/2 miles of track, 17 bridges, 102 miles of telegraph wire, the Colonnade" Bridge and the B&O roundhouse and machine shops were destroyed.

Martinsburg changed hand more than 50 times through-out the war, leaving this once-thriving community a desolate wasteland, unable to feed its inhabitants, much less export anything. Following the war in 1866, the B&O began reconstruction of the roundhouse and the associated shops that stand on the site today. They were completed in a span of six years, from 1866 to 1872. The facilities were used until the mid 1980's when all local operations were transferred to other locations and the complex remained vacant ever since. The facility played a significant role in the railroad and the city of Martinsburg. It was a major regional transportation node and one of the major employers of the region.

The history of the facility and the history of the city of Martinsburg and Berkeley County were intertwined in a number of ways. The railroads prosperity brought wealth to the region. Conversely, the decline of the railroad had a profound effect on the local economy in a cyclical manner. The loss of jobs resulted in further economical hardships.

The buildings are rare and outstanding examples of their types, designed by the engineers of the B&O. It is believed that all original design concepts were developed in-house by B&O and it also appears that there was a significant influence in the design from the visionary worl of Willer-le-Duc, the pioneer French architect and theorist, as well as the work of Henri LaBrouste, who was responsible for the design of the Biblioteque National in Paris, construction between 1854 and 1872, the same periods as the B&O structures.

The B&O architects and engineers developed simple modular designs for cast iron components that could easily be executed in remote locations with readily available materials and components, such as bricks, wood trusses, and typical metal roofs. The designs were simple, precise, elegant and typical of the great structures of the industrial revolution which form followed function in clear ways. The architecture of those structures provided strong, visual clues as to how they were to be used. In their simplicity, they were, indeed, brilliant designs. The Martinsburg Roundhouse is the only iron framed roundhouse still standing in the world today.

The Iron Horse: A Civil War Prize

By Tricia Lynn Strader

On June 19, 1861, Colonel Thomas J. Jackson was given an order by Brigadier General Joseph Johnston to destroy the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad tracks and roundhouse at Martinsburg. Union troops were advancing from Williamsport, Maryland, and Johnston did not want them to have the benefit of a working rail line or machine shops.

"Our troops are very anxious for engagement," Jackson wrote his wife. He and his troops had not seen much in this early stage of the Civil War. He did not want to disrupt rail service so vital to the civilian population and Confederate forces. He thought the equipment could be saved and transported on the Winchester and Potomac line to safer ground. But, orders were orders. To keep the Union troops from advancing easily, Johnston's troops destroyed the "Colonnade Bridge" from east Burke St. at the B&O crossing on May 23, 1861, and details lit torches to approximately 56 locomotives and tenders, and 305 coal cars. They were set afire, thrown into the Opequon River, or dismantled. Tracks were torn up from Point of Rocks to Cherry Run.

Stonewall Jackson

Colonel Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson

Jackson continued in his letter, "by order of General Johnston I have destroyed a large number of locomotives and cars on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad." Eventually, Jackson devised a plan to accomplish both military destruction and military confiscation.

Thirteen least damaged locomotives were dismantled and the pieces sent by horse-drawn teams to Strasburg, Va. The machine shops and roundhouse were stripped of all tools, and the turntable was removed from the roundhouse. This was in anticipation of General Patterson recrossing the Potomac,which he did on July 2nd where he engaged Jackson in the Battle of Falling Waters. Hence, the beginning of Martinsburg's Civil War railroad history. The railroad remained inoperative until April 1862. Eventually, all machinist tools and engines except one were returned to Martinsburg.

History used to say Jackson burned the buildings. Now, that theory is being challenged as false. But it was destroyed and rebuilt, only to be damaged again years later.

On July 25, 1864, Martinsburg was ground zero for a fight between two well-known war generals as part of a bigger picture., the famous raid on​ Chambersburg made by Confederates. General William Averell, the Union general who met General John McCausland on the field of battle in Martinsburg's streets.​

William W. Averell

Apparently in retaliation of the raid on Chambersburg, Pa., which was in itself a retaliation by Confederates for Union troops burning the Shenandoah Valley, Union General William Averell  staged a surprise attack on the Confederate cavalry posted at the roundhouse. The Union cavalry came in from the west, and the fight was all through the rail yard. The Confederates started to retreat through town. There was pure confusion and lots of wild action. The fight lasted for a few hours back and forth through town, when Averell's trooper's drove the Confederate cavalry under McClausland, Vaughn, and "Mudwall" Jackson out through Boydville, Jubal Early and his whole army were on the Valley Pike and headed toward Martinsburg. General George Crook, Commander of the 8th Corps, was with his infantry and artillery on the high ground north of town. He ordered Averell to break off the attack when he saw the Confederate cavalry take up a position with artillery on the hill outside Boydville, knowing Early was on the way. With no support Crook pulled the Union 8th Corps across the Potomac. Averell's cavalry division provided a rear guard.

Early had control of the Valley at  that point and had McClausland head off on the Chambersburg Raid that ended in his loss of his cavalry at Moorefield. Averell would later defeat McClausland.

Casualties from both sides numbered 1,000, including wounded and dead.

General John McCausland

General William Averell

The Great Railroad Strike of 1877

The great railroad strike of 1877 started on July 16 in Martinsburg, West Virginia in response to the cutting of wages for the second time in a year by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. Striking workers would not allow any of the stock to roll until this second wage cut was revoked.The governor sent in state militia units to restore train service, but the soldiers refused to use force against the strikers and the governor called for federal troops.

Meanwhile, the strike spread to Baltimore causing violent street battles between the striking workers and the Maryland Militia. When the out-numbered federal troops fired on an attacking crowd, they killed 11 and wounded 40.


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania became the site of the worst violence. Thomas Alexander Scott of the Pennsylvania Railroad, often considered one of the first robber barons, suggested that the strikers should be given "a rifle diet for a few days and see how they like that kind of bread." However, local law enforcement officers refused to fire on the strikers.

Nonetheless, his request came to pass on July 21, when militiamen bayoneted and fired on rock-throwing strikers, killing 20 people and wounding twenty-nine others. Rather than quell the uprising however, this action merely infuriated the strikers who then forced the militiamen to take refuge in a railroad roundhouse, and then set fires that razed 39 buildings and destroyed 104 locomotives and 1,245 freight and passenger cars.

On July 22, the militiamen mounted an assault on the strikers, shooting their way out of the roundhouse and killing 20 more people on their way out of the city. After over a month of constant rioting and bloodshed, President Rutherford B. Hayes sent in federal troops to end the strikes.

Three hundred miles to the east, Philadelphia strikers battled local militia and set fire to much of Center City before federal troops intervened and put down the uprising.

The strike then spread to the American Midwest and Western, increasing in brutality and intensity. On July 21, disgruntled workers in East St. Louis, Illinois, halted all freight traffic, with the city remaining in control of the workers for almost a week. The strike was finally halted by a combination of military force, and an injunction that ordered workers not to interfere with railroad operations.

On July 24, rail traffic in Chicago was paralyzed when angry mobs of groups of unemployed citizens wreaked havoc in the rail yards, shutting down both The Baltimore & Ohio and The Illinois Central Railroads. Soon, other railroads were brought to a standstill, with demonstrators shutting down the railroad traffic in Bloomington, Aurora, Peoria, Decatur, Urbana and other rail centers throughout Illinois. In sympathy, coal miners in the pits at Braidwood, LaSalle, Springfield, and Carbondale went on strike as well.

In Chicago, the Workingmen's Party organized demonstrations that drew crowds of twenty thousand people. The mayor of Chicago, Monroe Heath, asked for five thousand vigilantes to help restore order (they were partially successful), and shortly thereafter the National Guard and federal troops arrived. On July 25, violence between police and the mob erupted with events reaching a peak the following day.

These blood-soaked confrontations between police and enraged mobs occurred at the Halsted Street viaduct, at nearby 16th Street, at Halstead and 12th, and on Canal Street. The headline of the Chicago Times screamed, "TERRORS REIGN, THE STREETS OF CHICAGO GIVEN OVER TO HOWLING MOBS OF THIEVES AND CUTTHROATS." Order was finally restored, however, with the deaths of nearly 20 men and boys, the wounding of scores more, and the loss of property valued in the millions of dollars.

The Great Railroad Strike of 1877 began to lose momentum when President Hayes sent federal troops from city to city. These troops supressed strike after strike, until at last, approximately 45 days after it had started, the Great Railroad Strike of 1877 was over.

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