1866 West Roundhouse. The building to the right was originally the Car shop, but was later used as the Frog and Switch shop.

It was a cool day in late October in Martinsburg, West Virginia. The buildings I had come to see were bathed in the warm light of a late autumn afternoon and all was silent and still behind the vacant windows.  It wasn’t always so.

Since before the Civil War and well into the 20th century, Martinsburg was a busy railroad town. That is all in the past now, a handful of silent brick buildings the only reminder of a time when the railroad fueled the towns pride and prosperity.

The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad reached Martinsburg on May 21, 1842. Shops were erected along with a passenger station. During the Civil War, both sides fought to control this valuable railroad link, and the city changed hands several times. In October, 1862, “Stonewall” Jackson’s troops burned the shop complex and station, much of the rail line was torn up, and 21 engines along with other tools and machinery were dragged south to Winchester, Virginia.

Looking west at the 1866 West Roundhouse and the Bridge and Machine shop.

At the end of the war, B&O faced  massive rebuilding throughout its system. In 1866, the West Roundhouse was constructed. Designed by Albert Fink, the unique cast iron frame was assembled in Baltimore, then taken down and shipped to Martinsburg where it was erected and bricked. In 1872, the East Roundhouse was built to the same design. Both roundhouses were re-purposed by the railroad in 1898 when locomotive maintenance was moved to  Brunswick, Maryland.  The East Roundhouse was destroyed by fire in 1990 and today the West Roundhouse is the oldest fully covered roundhouse in the United States.

The diminutive NA Tower stands just east of the shop complex.
Martinsburg Fruit Exchange

In 1877, railroad workers in Martinsburg rebelled against wage cuts and shabby treatment by the B&O, sparking the famous Strike of 1877 which spread across the nation and forever changed the relationship between labor and industry. But that is a story for another time.

In 1988, CSX transportation closed the facility. The property is now owned by the Berkeley County Roundhouse Authority.

Ruins of the 1872 East Roundhouse

Edd FullerPhotographs and text Copyright 2017

10 thoughts on “Railroad Town:
  Martinsburg, West Virginia

  1. It’s gratifying to see that there is still some of the old structures in the yards. If anyone is remotely interested in viewing literally hundreds of photos of the railroad facilities there at Martinsburg when it was the property of the B&O Railroad, contact me at agelliott88@yahoo.com I have a CD that sells for $10.00 with not only photos from Martinsburg, but from Harpers Ferry to Patterson Creek. All of them are the former B&O !

    1. Bruce, I would be happy to have more material on RR shops and maintenance facilities. Perhaps you will consider submitting an article to us in the future.

  2. Edd, great story, love the classic brick roundhouse and Civil War narrative. Only been to Martinsburg three times, all of which to the huge Quad Graphics printing plant. Never had time to explore the railroading sights.

    1. Thanks Bob. I had some dealings with Quad Graphics many years ago, but never visited any of their plants. As far as I know the plant in Martinsburg is still in operation.

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