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Town seeks vintage locomotive

The small Virginia town of Strasburg, about 80 miles west of Washington, needs a Civil War-era locomotive to help tell its part of the story of the Great Train Raid of May 23, 1861. Col. Thomas Jackson stole some 50 locomotives and 380 railroad cars from the B&O Railroad in Martinsburg (now WVa.) and transported some of them over rail and road to Strasburg, where they were sent south to Richmond.

“I need a locomotive,” is how Strasburg Councilwoman Sarah Mauck began an organizational meeting yesterday with local historians, tourism officials and others with an interest in re-creating the historic event next year.

Strasburg, a busy crossroads during the war, is participating in the sesquicentennial commemoration of the war that begins officially in April, 2011.

Mauck’s plan calls for an actual vintage locomotive to be dragged about five miles along Rt. 11 (Old Valley Pike) by teams of horses from the Cedar Creek battlefield in Middletown to Strasburg. She said the reenactment would be a strong draw for tourists interested in the Civil War as well as those who like horses. Coordinated events would be planned for both the battlefield and the town.

However, historians in the audience objected to changing the historic account, saying Jackson transported pieces of the locomotive to reduce the weight. Another concern was voiced about getting the Virginia Department of Transportation to approve the movement of anything as heavy as a locomotive along the pike and over its narrow bridges.

Discussion turned to creating light-weight replicas of the locomotive pieces. Although Mauck appeared to like that proposal, she wasn’t giving up on a real locomotive. “If we could find one and someone was willing to bring it here by rail, we could park it at the old depot,” she said. “That would be really good.”

By Linda Wheeler  |  June 10, 2010; 11:25 AM ET
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