Martinsburg, West Virginia is a town located in the eastern panhandle of the state. It is not a place that is on many lists of places to visit. It can be overshadowed by nearby Harper’s Ferry that is known for its role in the American Civil War. Martinsburg also had a role in the war. The town has a few historic sites, but there is one site that stands out.
Welcome to the Baltimore and Ohio Roundhouse in Martinsburg, West Virginia. When the railroad came to Martinsburg in 1842, the roundhouse was built in 1849. Trains were serviced here as they traveled east and west across the county. Very few roundhouses remain as they were demolished after they were no longer needed, but historian and preservationist fought to save this one from demolition. Why? It is the oldest roundhouse in the world built with iron trusses supporting the roof that covers the turntable.
During the American Civil War, Martinsburg was destroyed, and the railroad yards suffered much destruction by the hand of Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson. Locomotives that were seized in the ‘Great Train Raid of 1861’ were brought to Martinsburg. He commanded his troops to destroy bridges and the tracks between Martinsburg and Point of Rocks, Maryland stopping train traffic. The roundhouse and the shops plus many locomotives and rail cars were destroyed. The war ended in 1865, and the roundhouse and shops were rebuilt in 1866.
Through the years, the roundhouse went through the ‘Great Railroad Strike of 1877’, and the shops remained in service until 1988 when the work was sent to other locations. The roundhouse was abandoned and was vandalized in 1990 leaving only the other walls. The roundhouse was purchased by the Berkeley County Commission from CSX, and the preservation began.
Today, trains still pass by the roundhouse, but only passenger trains stop here to pick up passengers at the nearby Caperton Station. You can get a great view of the roundhouse from the parking lot. Also, tours are also available on select Saturdays from March to November.
The Martinsburg Roundhouse in located at 100 Liberty Street in Martinsburg, West Virginia. It is across the tracks from the Caperton Station. Tours are available for $5.00. Please note that the roundhouse is currently not handicap accessible, but they hope to make it accessible in the future. Access to the roundhouse does require climbing stairs, and much of the floor is uneven. The roundhouse also has a room that can also be rented out for events. You can get more information at https://www.themartinsburgroundhouse.com/.
Martinsburg, West Virginia is a place of much history, and it has much history around the railroad. Now you have a reason to visit Martinsburg, and if the roundhouse is not open for tours, worry not. It is still a great site to see.