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The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad reached Martinsburg in 1842 and built a major shop complex there. Its first shops were burned by Stonewall Jackson’s troops during the Civil War.

A new shop complex was built in 1866. The beautiful domed locomotive roundhouse and two rectangular shops were masterpieces of structural engineering and railroad architecture. The brick roundhouse was especially significant. It was designed by German immigrant Albert Fink, a renowned 19th-century civil engineer and railroad economist. The roundhouse is a completely circular, domed structure with its soaring roof supported by an internal cast-iron framework. This conical, skeletal framework provides more than 20,000 square feet of open floor space, allowing ample working space and light around the central 50- foot turntable and between the 16 locomotive bays. The cathedral-like iron framework is an ancestor of the modern skyscraper’s steel framing system.

The great railroad strike of 1877, one of the most widespread and violent labor uprisings in American history, began at the Martinsburg B&O shops. For days, the Martinsburg railroad complex was awash in strikers and troops, but it escaped the destruction wrought upon other railroad facilities across the nation. After the great strike, the buildings remained in use as a locomotive service facility until about 1899.

In the early 20th century, the roundhouse and shops were converted to other railroad uses such as bridge fabrication, switch fabrication and repairs, car repairs, and so forth. In the late 1980s, CSX Railroad (the modern owner of the B&O lines) abandoned the complex and eventually sold the roundhouse and shops to a local non-profit corporation. The structures and surrounding property have been restored. The roundhouse, a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, is the oldest remaining domed roundhouse in the United States and possibly the world. The roundhouse is part of the B&O Railroad Martinsburg Shops, a National Historic Landmark.

Read the National Historic Landmark nomination for the B&O Railroad Martinsburg Shops.

This Article was written by Michael Caplinger

Last Revised on January 23, 2013


Cite This Article

Caplinger, Michael "Martinsburg Roundhouse." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 23 January 2013. Web. 18 October 2018.

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