North Carolina Railroads - Atlantic Coast Line Railroad

Acronym

Year Chartered or Incorporated

Year Line Operational

Year Service Ended

Original Starting Point

Original Ending Point

ACL RR

1889

1889

1967*

Wilmington, NC

Weldon, NC

* 1967 - Merged with the Seaboard Air Line Railway to form the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad
+ 1958 - Acquired the Franklin & Carolina Railroad (abandoned in 1972).
+ 1930 - Ceased operations on the Midland Branch - Smithfield to Goldsboro.
+ 1927 - Leased the Washington & Vandemere Railroad on May 1, 1927.
+ 1923 - Jointly leased with the Louisville & Nashville Railroad the Carolina, Clinchfield & Ohio Railroad from May 11, 1923, by indenture of lease dated October 16, 1924, and the properties delivered to the lessees on October 16, 1924. The leased properties are now being operated for the lessees by a separate organization known as Clinchfield Railroad Company.
+ 1922 - Leased the Virginia & Carolina Southern Railroad.
+ 1922 - Acquired the Rockingham Railroad
+ 1899 - Acquired southern half of Cape Fear & Yadkin Valley Railway which became the Atlantic & Yadkin Railroad, then the Atlantic & Yadkin Branch of the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad, then ACL.
+ 1898 - Acquired Southeastern Railroad.
+ 1897 - Acquired Wilmington, Chadbourn & Conway Railroad.
+ 1897 - Acquired Wilmington & Newbern Railroad.
< 1890 - Acquired/merged in the following railroads associated with North Carolina:
-- Albemarle & Raleigh Railroad
-- Cheraw & Salisbury Railroad (later sold off and reorganized as the Cheraw & Darlington Railroad)
-- Norfolk & Carolina Railroad
-- Petersburg Railroad
-- Wilmington, Columbia & Augusta Railroad
-- Wilmington & Weldon Railroad  

"As long as railroads were purely local affairs, each locality might charter and run its own. The moment any through traffic grew up, this was found to be a wasteful way of doing business. If they changed cars at every point of junction, the expenses were vastly increased. If they did not change cars, there was still an awkwardness of dividing responsibility, and the evil of having two separate organizations where one would do the work better." [Hadley: Railroad Transportation]

It was inevitable, therefore, with the development of railroads as the chief means of transportation, that the separate lines serving the Atlantic seaboard should be forced into a closer relationship with each other. The more important the individual roads beceame and the heavier the traffic, the closer the relationship.

The Atlantic Coast Line Railroad was the result of the consolidation of more than a hundred railroads stretching along the Atlantic Coast from Richmond, Virginia, to Fort Myers, Florida. The period of consolidation came later than most other railroad systems further north, primarily due to the retarding influence of the U.S. Civil War followed by the Panic of 1873.

The main period of railroad consolidation in the South was in the decade following the Panic of 1893. This is roughly forty years later than the beginning of the consolidation of the New York Central lines. The roads in the South most comparable with the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad are Southern Railway and the Seaboard Air Line Railway, chartered in 1894 and 1900 respectively. They are each the result of a series of integrations and consolidations very similar to that which took place with the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad.

On April 29, 1889, the American Improvement & Construction Company was chartered under the laws of Connecticut, and this new company was "given power and was authorized to acquire, build, own, sell, convey, equip, lease or maintain and operate by steam of other power, any railroad, street railway, tramway, telegraph lines, telephone lines, water works, canals, bridges, steamship or steamboat lines, boats and vessels of all kinds, and the appurtances thereof." The original capital of the company was $500,000, divided into $50 shares and the maximum capitalization was $10,000,000. By an amendment passed on June 22, 1889, the maximum capitalization possible was increased to $30,000,000.

After four years, this "holding company" changed its name to the Atlantic Coast Line Company by an act of May 5, 1893. Its shares of stock were then made to $100 instead of $50. An additional right granted at this time is of particular interest, bringing the company within the scope of the present history; namely, the power "to hold or acquire or otherwise get possession of shares of stock in other corporations, bonds, securities, obligations, and to transfer, sell, or otherwise dispose of such obligations."

By exercise of this power, the company secured the majority of the stock of many railroads, including that of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Company itself, which it retained until 1914. In 1914, this holding company gave up controlling interest in the railroad, but continued to hold much of its stock.

In 1898, the Richmond & Petersburg Railroad, chartered in 1836 and only twenty-two (22) miles in length, acquired the Petersburg Railroad, a longer and less prosperous neighbor, and the merger created the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad of Virginia. This in turn, in 1900, acquired a system of roads of greater mileage than itself, the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad of South Carolina, the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad, and the Norfolk & Carolina Railroad, and was rechartered as the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Company.

The Atlantic Coast Line Railroad of South Carolina had been incorporated on March 5, 1897, as a consolidation of five railroads - the Wilmington, Columbia & Augusta Railroad, the Northeastern Railroad of South Carolina, the Cheraw & Darlington Railroad, the Manchester & Augusta Railroad, and the Florence Railroad. The Atlantic Coast Line Railroad of South Carolina was absorbed into the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad of Virginia on April 21, 1900.

The absorbing road, the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad of Virginia, though less than a hundred miles long, acquired over 1,500 miles of line. The stock per mile of the purchasing company was greater than that of any of the other roads. Although its bonded debt per mile was almost twice that of any other, its earning power was also double.

Farther south, the Savannah, Florida & Western Railroad developed from a large number of unsuccessful roads into a successful system created by Henry B. Plant and named the Plant System, which was purchased outright by the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Company in April of 1902. This acquistion provided an additional 1,665 miles of road to the young Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, doubling its size within two years.

The last important acquisition in the early days was that of the majority of the stock of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad. Control of this system, secured by accident rather than by design, proved profitable. Neither the original parent company nor any of its successors had ever undergone a reorganization. The Atlantic Coast Line Railroad made great profits on its L&N stock, but never attempted to get involved in the day-to-day operations of the railroad.

When physical connections were made, gaps closed, and the gauges standardized, through trains were possible. Although originally constructed for local purposes, the various lines developed into a continuous system and became the main thoroughfare of north-south travel, thus entering into competition with many steamship companies. Only when acting as a unit could the roads successfully meet this competition.

The consolidation of the many previously-independent railroads into one large railroad has had many challenges not fully recognized at the founding of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad in 1900. Each of the six states that the road ran through had totally different laws with respect to property taxation, and they had different regulations on rates to be charged for freight and passengers. With the formation of the Interstate Commerce Commission by the Federal government added new twists.

The states frequently require safety appliances which are forbidden by Federal authorities. One law and one set of rules govern liability for employees injured while engaged in interstate commerce and as many laws and rules as there are states, when the employee is engaged in intrastate commerce.

The Atlantic Coast Line Railroad of the early twentieth century was also in the anomalous position of being unable to run its trains from one state into another state without violating one or more laws. This situation came about largely from regulations in one state which required certain additions to equipment, while in other states the use of this equipment was forbidden. It was evidently impossible, for example, to obey the laws of two states when one required cinder deflectors, screens, and cuspidors, and the adjacent state forbid the use of these; or when one kind of headlight was demanded by one state, and forbidden by another.


Excerpted with edits from "A History of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad" by Howard Douglas Dozier, 1918.

The Atlantic Coast Line Railroad was formally established in 1889. The Atlantic Coast Line consolidated the operations of more than 100 separate small railroad companies that stretched along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, from Virginia to south Florida and westward into Georgia and Alabama. By 1950, the Atlantic Coast Line possessed more than 5,500 miles of rail.

The oldest constituent railroad to become part of the Atlantic Coast Line was the Petersburg Railroad. The Petersburg Railroad was chartered by the Virginia General Assembly on February 10, 1830 and it opened for operation in 1833. The Petersburg Railroad connected Petersburg, VA to Weldon, NC, which had the effect of increasing trade between Petersburg and North Carolina's Roanoke River country.

The second constituent railroad that was later integrated into the Atlantic Coast Line was the Richmond and Petersburg Railroad. The Richmond and Petersburg Railroad, chartered on March 14, 1836, built a rail network that connected Richmond, VA to Petersburg, VA, effectively connecting the James and Appomattox Rivers. The Richmond & Petersburg Railroad is considered the "corporate progenitor" of the Atlantic Coast Line because the Atlantic Coast Line operated under the Richmond & Petersburg's charter until May 13, 1946. After May 1946, the Atlantic Coast Line conformed with general corporate laws of Virginia.

The third ancestor on the Atlantic Coast Line's genealogical chart was the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad. On March 7, 1840 the Wilmington & Weldon opened a 161-mile-long track from Wilmington, NC, to Weldon, NC. This stretch of track represented the longest continuous railroad line in the world at that time. The Wilmington & Weldon is considered the parent company of the Atlantic Coast Line because it was used as the new company's administrative headquarters when the Atlantic Coast Line was formally established. Although the Atlantic Coast Line operated under the Richmond & Petersburg Railroad's charter, the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad became the holding company that operated the rail network.

During the 1840s and 1850s, railroad companies experienced unprecedented growth and they enjoyed tremendous economic success. By the time of the American Civil War, rail had displaced water as the primary means of transportation in America. However, during the final two years of the Civil War, Federal forces sabotaged railroads throughout the South; they destroyed bridges, water stations, and railroad cars. Southern rails deteriorated and fell into a state of disrepair during the late-1860s.

In 1869, a group of Baltimore capitalists purchased several small railroad companies scattered throughout North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia such as the Petersburg Railroad, the Richmond & Petersburg Railroad, and the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad. The new owners allowed the various railroad companies to retain their previous names; yet these railroad companies remained independent in name only. The new owners unified these railroad companies under one management and established the Wilmington a& Weldon Railroad as the administrative center for this new railroad network.

Throughout the 1870s and 1880s the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad closely managed the various companies in the network, beginning the difficult process of integration and consolidation. In 1886, for example, the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad ordered all affiliated companies to change their track gauge to a standard 4' 8.5" width. In addition, all trains and cars were rewheeled. The Wilmington & Weldon completed the process of assimilation in 1889, when they formally established themselves as the holding company for all affiliated lines and they officially changed their name to the "Atlantic Coast Line Railroad."

The Atlantic Coast Line continued to acquire smaller railroad companies throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Between 1898 and 1902, for example, the Atlantic Coast Line took over all local railroads in South Carolina and Virginia. Further, in November 1902, the Atlantic Coast Line bought the majority of stock in the Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company, the Western Railway of Alabama, and the Atlanta & West Point Railroad Company. In 1924, the Atlantic Coast Line signed a 999-year lease to operate all rails owned by the Clinchfield & Ohio Railway and, in 1927, they acquired the majority of common stock of the Atlanta, Birmingham, & Coast Railroad Company. All these companies were immediately integrated into the Atlantic Coast Line network.

On 1 July 1967, the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad and the Seaboard Air Line combined their resources to form the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad. The Seaboard Coast Line possessed assets of $1.2 billion and 9,629 route miles in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama; among contemporary railroad companies, the Seaboard Coast Line ranked eighth in mileage and ninth in both assets and revenues.

The final phase of consolidation occurred on 1 July 1986 when Seaboard merged with Chessie System Railroads to form CSX Transportation. 

The Sixth Annual Report of the North Carolina Corporation Commission for the Year Ending December 31, 1904, with Compilations from Railroad Returns for the Year Ending June 30, 1904, includes a breakdown and the routes of the various branches and divisions of the Atlantic Coast Line, including mileage:

Atlantic & Yadkin District (118 miles):
Wilmington
Richards
Montague
Currie
Rooks
Atkinson
Ivanhoe
Kerr
Tomahawk
Garland
Parkersburg
Mints
Roseboro
Autryville
Stedman
Vander
Fayetteville
Manchester
Spout Springs
Rock Branch
Swanns
Jonesboro
Sanford

Bennettsville Branch (32.90 miles in NC):
Parkton
McNatts
Lumber Bridge
Shannon
Red Springs
Wakulla
Floral College
Maxton
John's
Hasty
McColl, SC
Tatus, SC
Bennettsville, SC

Cheraw & Darlington Division (14.32 miles in NC):
Wadesboro
Bennett
Morven
McFarlan
Cheraw, SC
Florence, SC

Clinton Branch (13 miles):
Warsaw
Crate Factory
Hawkhurst
Turkey
Summit
Clinton

Conway Branch (46.04 miles in NC):
Elrod
Raynham
McDonald
Ashpole
Proctorville
Orrum
Boardman
Ilion
Chadbourn
Roseland
Clarendon
Emerson
Mt. Tabor
Loris, SC
Bayboro, SC
Conway, SC

Gibson & Bennettsville Branch (1 mile in NC):
Gibson
Newton, SC
Lester, SC
Bennettsville, SC

Kinston Branch (86 miles):
Pender
Tillery
Spring Hill
Kitchin
Scotland Neck
Caughenors
Hobgood
Hopkins
Mayos
Goose Nest
Hassell
Parmele
Grindool
Staton's
House
Greenville
Winterville
Ayden
Littlefield
Hanrahans
Grifton
Canadys
Graingers
Rouses
Kinston

Midland Branch (22.8 miles):
Goldsboro
Copeland
Joyner
Holt's
Oliver
Smithfield

Nashville Branch (19 miles):
Rocky Mount
Winstead
Westrey's
Snell's
Nashville
Momeyer
Spring Hope

New Bern Branch (87 miles):
Wilmington
Fernside
Baymead
Kirkland
Scott's Hill
Hampstead
Cypress Lake
Annandale
Woodside
Edgecombe
Holly Ridge
Folkstone
Dixon
Verona
Jarmans
Jacksonville
Hawkside
Northeast
Maysville
Ravenswood
Pollocksville
Register's
DeBruhl's
Kearne's
New Bern

Norfolk & Carolina District (66.11 miles in NC):
Tarboro
Moore's
Speed
Hobgood
Palmyra
Neal
Kelford
Aulander
Earley's
Ahoskie
Cofield
Tunis
Eure
Sarem
Gates
Drum Hill
Whaley, VA
Suffolk, VA
Drivers, VA
Pinner's Point, VA

Richmond District (7.18 miles in NC):
Weldon
Garys
Pleasant Hill
Petersburg, VA
Richmond, VA

Plymouth Branch (69 miles):
Rocky Mount
Land's
Kingsboro
Hartsease
Tarboro
Mildred
Conetoe
James' Mill
Bethel
Parmele
Robersonville
Martin Lumber Co.
Everetts
Davis' Spur
Williamston
Vincent
Jamesville
Darden
Plymouth

Washington Branch (25 miles):
Parmele
Williams
Stokes
Whichards
Pactolus
Latham's Crossing
Wharton
Grimes
Hartge's Mill
Washington

Between Wilmington & Florence (63.33 miles in NC):
Wilmington
Navassa
Leland
Malmo
Farmers
Brinkley
Freeman
Maxwell
Wananish
Lake Waccamaw
Mustings
Bogue
Whiteville
Peacocks
Chadbourn
Grists
Cerro Gordo
Fair Bluff
Nichols, SC
Mullins, SC
Marion, SC
Peedee, SC
Florence, SC
Columbia, SC
Charleston, SC
Savannah, GA

Wilson & Fayetteville Branch (116 miles in NC):
Contentnea
Lucama
Aycock's Crossing
Boyetts or Kirbys
Kenly
Bagley
Jerome
Selma
Smithfield
Four Oaks
Benson
Dunn
Godwin
Wade
McPhail's
Beards
Luray
Fayetteville
Hope Mills
Parkton
Rennert
Cromartie
Buie
Pembroke
Elrod
Purvis
Rowland
Hamer, SC
Dillon, SC
Latta, SC
Peedee, SC
Florence, SC
Sumter, SC
Columbia, SC
Augusta, GA
Charleston, SC

Wilmington & Weldon Main Line (161 miles):
Weldon
Halifax
Enfield
Whitakers
Battleboro
Armstrong
Rocky Mount
Sharpsburg
Elm City
Wilson
Contentnea
Black Creek
Fremont
Pikeville
Goldsboro
Dudley
Mount Olive
Goshen
Faison
Bowden
Warsaw
Magnolia
Rose Hill
Teachey's
Wallace
Willard
South Washington
Burgaw
Ashton
Rocky Point
Marlboro
Castle Hayne
Wrightsboro
Wilmington

From the Thirteenth Annual Report of the North Carolina Corporation Commission, dated December 31, 1911, with Compilations of Railroad Returns for the Year Ending June 30, 1911:

Wilmington to Sanford (119 miles):
Wilmington
Richards
Montague
Currie
Atkinson
Ivanhoe
Kerr
Tomahawk
Garland
Parkersburg
Mints
Roseboro
Autryville
Stedman
Vander
Fayetteville
Lakewood
Manchester
Spout Springs
Swann
Jonesboro
Sanford

Fayetteville to Bennettsvill (46 miles):
Fayetteville
Hope Mills
McMillan
Parkton
McNatts
Grahams
Lumber Bridge
Kefauvers
McLeods
Todys
Shannon
Pearsall's
Red Springs
Wakulla
Floral College
Maxton
Peterson's
Cameron's
Johns
Hasty

Wadesboro to Florence (14 miles):
Wadesboro
Bennett
Morven
McFarlan

Warsaw to Clinton (13 miles):
Warsaw
Pierce's Siding
Baltic
Hawkhurst
Turkey
Summit
Moltonville
Milo
Clinton

Elrod to Conway (45 miles):
Elrod
Raynham
McDonald
Fairmont
Proctorville
Orrum
Boardman
Evergreen
Chadbourn
Clarendon
Mount Tabor

Pender to Kinston (88 miles):
Pender
Tillery
Spring Hill
Scotland Neck
Hobgood
Oak City
Hassell
Parmele
House
Greenville
Winterville
Ayden
Grifton
Grainger
Kinston

Goldsboro to Smithfield (23 miles):
Goldsboro
Walter
Smiths
Whitley
Joyner
Holts
Oliver
Smithfield

Rocky Mount to Spring Hope (19 miles):
Rocky Mount
Winstead
Kenneday
Westreys
Fonda
Nashville
Emerys
Dunola
Momeyer
Spring Hope

Wilmington to New Bern (87 miles):
Wilmington
Fernside
Scott's Hill
Woodside
Holly Ridge
Folkstone
Dixon
Verona
Jacksonville
Northeast
Deppe
Maysville
Pollocksville
Debruhls
New Bern

Tarboro to Norfolk (65 miles):
Tarboro
Moore's Crossing
Speed
Hobgood
Palmyra
Norfleeet
Kelford
Aulander
Early
Camps
Ahoskie
Duke Hall
Cofield
South Tunis
Eure
Green
Sarem
Gates
Drum Hill

Weldon to Richmond (8 miles):
Weldon
Garys
Pleasant Hill

Rocky Mount to Plymouth (69 miles):
Rocky Mount
Lucas
Kingsboro
Heartsense
Knitting Mill
Tarboro
Mildred
Conetoe
Dawson
James Siding
Bethel
Gardner
Parmele
Robersonville
Everett
Williamston
Sand Pit
Hardison
Jamesville
Darden
Plymouth

Parmele to Washington (25 miles):
Parmele
Whichards
Pactolus
Wharton
Washington

Wilmington to Columbia (68 miles):
Wilmington
Navassa
Leland
Malmo
Farmers
Newberlin
Freeman
Byrdville
Bolton
Wananish
Lake Waccamaw
Artesia
Hallsboro
Whiteville
Pine Log
Fruit Ridge
Peacocks
Chadbourn
Grist
Cerro Gordo
Williamson & Brown's
Fair Bluff

Cronly Branch (2 miles):
Newberlin
Cronly

Contentnea, Fayetteville & Charleston (113 miles):
Contentnea
Lucama
Aycock
Boyette
Kenly
Bagley
Micro
Selma
Smithfield
Walker
Four Oaks
Benson
Mingo
Dunn
Olive
Godwin
Wade
Beard
Luray
Fayetteville
Hope Mills
McMillan
Parkton
Blanchard
Rex
Gilmore
Rennert
Cromartie
Buie
Pembroke
Elrod
Purvis
Rowland

Weldon to Wilmginton (161 miles):
Weldon
Halifax
Pender
Ruggles
Enfield
Whitakers
Battleboro
Rocky Mount
Sparpsburg
Elm City
Wilson
Contentnea
Black Creek
Fremont
Pikeville
Goldsboro
Dudley
Mount Olive
Calypso
Faison
Bowden
Warsaw
Magnolia
Rose Hill
Teachey
Wallace
Willard
Watha
Burgaw
Ashton
Rocky Point
Castle Hayne
Gordon
Wilmington

Click Here to see a map of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad as of 1914. 
Click Here to see a map of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad as of 1922. 


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