Heavy Traffic on the Valley Pike published from the Mort Kunstler original painting.
Strasburg, VA, Summer 1861
Giclée Canvas Prints
Reproduction technique: Giclées are printed with the finest archival pigmented inks on canvas.
Each print is numbered and signed by the artist and accompanied by a Certificate of Authenticity.
Signature Edition Canvas Signed and Numbered
Size: 14” x 33” • Edition Size: 50 • Issue Price: $295.00
Release Date: 2011
During the American Civil War, railroads became a vital military asset, as well as a frequent target of destruction. The ability to move a mass of men and supplies over vast distances, sometimes straight into the fight, made every locomotive, boxcar, track and bridge a precious commodity in the eyes of both armies.
One general who realized the value of commandeering railroad equipment, as opposed to merely destroying it, was Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. With nothing more at their disposal than the strength of man and beast, Jackson’s troops were able to disassemble, transport and reuse railroad equipment on many occasions. One of the most noteworthy of these incidents took place in Strasburg in September of 1861.
According to a Strasburg newspaper article that appeared on the 7th of September, “Fourteen locomotives, a large number of railroad cars, nine miles of track, telegraph wires and about $40,000.00 worth of machinists’ tools and materials, all belonging to the B&O Railroad, have been successfully hauled overland by the Confederates.”
This remarkable event was the first time that a train relocation of this magnitude had taken place on any railroad system in the world. It was in response to the Union army blockades that interrupted rail access from Martinsburg to the southern railroad system. As the only way to transport rolling stock south for future use was overland, the maintenance of a railway system was essential for both the Confederate soldiers and civilians.
The ability to achieve this endeavor was especially noteworthy, considering the existing condition of the roads and the immense weight of the locomotives. Jackson’s men, made up of crews of teamsters, mechanics and laborers, used an entire herd of horses to accomplish the task.
In order to lighten the load, every ounce of extra weight was removed from the locomotives. This included bells, whistles, pistons, cowcatchers, smokestacks and cabs. The tenders were also removed and the heavy front wheels were temporarily replaced with extra-wide wooden wheels. The rear drivers had to be widened and the effect of the flange eliminated, which was accomplished by adding more wooden wheels with iron banding.
Teams of forty horses were then hitched together to pull the massive load. These wagon teams included mules, thoroughbreds and workhorses, wearing all sorts of improvised harnesses. Their appearance, while negotiating turns and grades on the macadamized surface of the Valley Pike, must have presented an incredible spectacle, as teams, locomotives, ox carts and wagon-loads of equipment were driven south for the “cause.”
To the right of the painting, pictured in a red kepi, rides Captain Thomas Robinson Sharp, an Assistant Quartermaster in the Confederate army and the officer in charge of the operation. Raised in a railroad family, Sharp had held supervisory positions at five southern railroads including the Virginia & Tennessee and Alabama & Florida.
Mort Künstler’s Comments:
In 1998, I painted "Jackson Commandeers the Railroad". At the time, it was one of the most difficult paintings I had ever done and it was announced as the first in a series of two paintings. This complex piece depicted Jackson organizing a joint military-civilian operation in the railroad yards of Martinsburg, Virginia.
A year later, I painted "Iron Horses, Men of Steel" showing the forty-horse teams hauling the stripped down engines through the streets of Winchester. This painting was also a great challenge. After that print was released, I began getting requests to do a third painting showing the final stage of the incredible thirty-eight mile overland trip up the Valley Pike from Martinsburg to Strasburg.
Last year I received an invitation from the Strasburg 2-5-0 Committee, who informed me that they were hosting the first official event commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War in the state of Virginia. The festivities include a reenactment of my painting on Memorial Day weekend 2011. A replica locomotive was already being built for the occasion and the committee asked if I could do a painting especially for the event.
After several tours of the route of the Old Valley Pike (present day Route 11), I finally came up with an idea that does not look at all like either one of the first two paintings.
I moved my viewpoint to street level instead of an elevation and showed Engine 208 making the final turn just before arriving at the Strasburg railroad yards. I was also able to include a view of the iconic Signal Knob peak in the painting. As an added appeal, I included the buildings seen from the corners of King Street and Massanutton Street that were there during the Civil War and still stand today.
I can only hope that my new painting brings as much enjoyment as the first two railroad paintings and completes the railroad trilogy of the Valley Pike.
Historical copy written by Michael Aubracht, author/historian