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A piece of history

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Donnie Shifflett, manager of King James Galleries in Winchester, holds a copy of Mort Kunstler’s train raid painting that was unveiled during the Great Train Raid Committee meeting at Strasburg Town Hall on Wednesday morning. Rich Cooley/Daily

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Renowned artist completes series of paintings depicting Great Train Raid of 1861

By Amber Marra - amarra@nvdaily.com

STRASBURG -- Children and dogs run through the dusty streets of Strasburg alongside a massive locomotive being escorted by a caravan of horses as women in large, puffy dresses look on in amazement.

It is a scene that has been chronicled in the history books and will be re-enacted by the town in honor of its 250th anniversary. Now, Gen. Stonewall Jackson's Great Train Raid of 1861 has been re-created at the hands of renowned artist Mort Kunstler, a process he started 10 years ago.

"It was so difficult I can't even describe it," he said.

Kunstler's depiction of the Great Train Raid titled "Heavy Traffic on the Valley Pike" is the third painting in a series of three showing the entire process of the raid, which began in Martinsburg, W.Va.

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 Strasburg's Great Train Raid 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 rail cars.

The parts were then sent to Winchester and Strasburg.

"The big problem is if you can see something in front of you, like take a picture of a building and then paint it, that's easy," Kunstler said. "I had to learn what [a locomotive] looked like when it was taken apart."

Another difficulty Kunstler ran into was shaping a new perspective from one painting in the series to another.

After taking a trip to Strasburg and viewing the intersection of Massanutten and King streets where the caravan of 40 horses would have had to turn to eventually make it to the train station, Kunstler knew he was in the right state of mind to finish his series, which also shows the train raid beginning in Martinsburg and then moving through Winchester before getting into Strasburg.

"I really was sort of very negative because I just shuddered at the thought of doing another one," Kunstler said.

Only 350 prints and various sizes of giclee of the original oil-on-canvas painting are available, according to Donnie Shifflett, manager of King James Galleries in Winchester. Shifflett presented a print of the painting to the Great Train Raid Committee on Wednesday morning.

"The timing was perfect because we just got that image on Saturday, so it was nice that I could unveil it on Wednesday," Shifflett said.

Anyone interested in buying a print of "Heavy Traffic on the Valley Pike" can pick one up for $225 at the Strasburg Town Hall or by calling the gallery at 869-9025.

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