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Retired welder Conly Crabill of Strasburg positions a lantern on the front of Strasburg's 250th anniversary locomotive that he, Denny Cooper and Bill Wine are constructing for the re-enactment of Stonewall Jackson's Great Train Raid of 1861, which will be part of Strasburg's 250th anniversary celebration on May 29. Rich Cooley/Daily

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Denny Cooper sits in the cab of Strasburg's 250th Anniversary Locomotive. He holds a lever that controls he hydraulic brakes on the vehicle. The gauges are cosmetic. Rich Cooley/Daily

Locomotive replica to take center stage in re-enactment of 1861 raid

By Amber Marra-amarra@nvdaily.com

STRASBURG -- Progress on a road-bound locomotive for the re-enactment of Stonewall Jackson's Great Train Raid of 1861 is chugging along.

Conly Crabill, a local retired welder, picked up the project in July, but he hasn't been alone in his effort. A long list of people from across the community have donated time and materials to the locomotive, with Crabill leading the effort with an estimated 400 hours dedicated to the job, and his partner, Bill Wine, at about 200 hours thus far.

"A lot of people have made some pretty significant contributions, they really have," said Richard Kleese, who has been heading the locomotive's construction on the re-enactment and 250th anniversary celebration committee.

The re-enactment, which will be part of Strasburg's 250th anniversary celebration on May 29, also will be part of the broader observance of the Civil War's sesquicentennial starting next year.

During the legendary raid, Jackson misled the president of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad into thinking his trains were disturbing soldiers' sleep, according to members of the committee.

As a result, the trains were sent on a different route through Harpers Ferry, W.Va., which was part of Virginia at the time. Jackson set up blockades east and west of Harpers Ferry and seized 56 locomotives and 386 railcars.

The parts were then sent to Winchester and Strasburg.

According to Crabill, had all of the materials been bought, instead of mostly donated, and had he charged his normal hourly wage instead of volunteering, the locomotive would have come with an $80,000 price tag.

Thanks to the donations, Crabill estimates the final cost will be about $2,000, all of which is going toward materials, not man hours.

"This hit me right when I was retiring, no labor has been paid to anybody," he said. "I'm doing this for free."

The fabricated locomotive is 25 feet long and about 12 feet tall and was modeled after a picture of a Dutch wagon locomotive.

Even though there were technically no welders in the 1860s, Crabill and Wine have gone to great lengths to make it look as realistic as possible down to the nuts and concealing any welding seams.

"We've done a lot of stuff that is utterly ridiculous," Crabill said.

Once the finishing touches have been put on by Crabill and it has been painted, the locomotive will need to be partially disassembled to be transported. After it is delivered to its new owners, that will be the end of an extensive process for Crabill.

"I'm gonna have to set and look at it for a little bit, but I tell you, it's close," he said.

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