North Carolina Railroads - Seaboard & Roanoke Railroad


Year Chartered or Incorporated

Year Line Operational

Year Service Ended

Original Starting Point

Original Ending Point





Suffolk, VA

Weldon, NC

Seaboard & Roanoke Number 22
* 1900 - Merged into the Seaboard Air Line Railway.
+ 1881 - Along with the Raleigh & Gaston Railroad and the Raleigh & Augusta Air Line Railorad, began the affiliation known as the Seaboard Air Line system.

From the 1st Annual Report of the North Carolina Railroad Commission, dated December 31, 1891:

The Seaboard & Roanoke Railroad Company was organized July 5th, 1847, under the laws of the State of Virginia, Act passed March 10th, 1847.

United with the Roanoke Railroad Company, under Act passed February 1st, 1848, by Virginia Assembly, and January 29th, 1849, by North Carolina Assembly, Act to incorporate the Roanoke Railroad Company, ratified January 15th, 1847. The former name of the company was Portsmouth & Roanoke Railroad Company, reorganized under Acts of Virginia, March 8th, 1832.

The company has a large interest in the Carolina Central, the Raleigh & Gaston, the Raleigh & Augusta Air-Line, Georgia, Carolina & Northern, the Pittsboro and the Carthage Railroads.

The corporate powers of this company were granted for sixty years from the passage of the Act creating the Portsmouth & Roanoke Railroad Company, passed at the session of 1832.

This corporation was chartered for the purpose of making a railroad from the town of Portsmouth in the State of Virginia to some point on the Roanoke River to be selected by the company.

Property Operated:

Seaboard & Roanoke Railroad, from Portsmouth, VA, to Weldon, NC, 78.60 miles. Seaboard & Roanoke Railroad, from Boykins, VA, to State Line Virginia and North Carolina, 2.70 miles. Roanoke & Tar River, from State Line Virginia and North Carolina, to Lewiston, NC, 32.30 miles. Total mileage, 113.60.

1847 System Map  
Was the Portsmouth & Roanoke Railroad. aka Portsmouth & Weldon Railroad.

Incorporated on September 4, 1846, the Seaboard & Roanoke Railroad was owned by the Virginia State Board of Public Works, which leased the road to the town of Portsmouth the following day. It began as the Portsmouth & Roanoke Railroad, which had recently been sold at public auction. Service started soon after being reorganized, with James C. White, agent for operations, reporting to the town board of trustees.

Trains departed for Boykins on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, leaving Portsmouth at 8 a.m. The return trip was scheduled on alternate week days with arrival at Portsmouth around 1 p.m.

The town of Portsmouth purchased the entire line from the State Board of Public Works on June 28, 1847, and one month later ownership was transferred to the new Seaboard & Roanoke Railroad Company, headed by Dr. William Collins.

The recently-abandoned seventeen (17) mile stretch in North Carolina was rebuilt and designated as the Roanoke Railroad, which was incorporated in the state of North Carolina on January 15, 1847. It was absorbed by the new Seaboard & Roanoke Railroad on February 22, 1849.

Soon thereafter, Hershaw & Company of Boston invested a large sum of money and acquired the entire line from Portsmouth to Weldon. All track was quickly replaced with T-rail imported from Wales. In 1851, new rolling stock was acquired, and the railroad again opened for business.

During the U.S. Civil War, the Seaboard & Roanoke Railroad was not considered very important to the Confederate government, especially when Portsmouth had to be abandoned in 1862. The rolling stock was transferred and leased to other more important railroads, including the company's primary competitor, the Petersburg Railroad. The government in Richmond ordered the road's iron to be stripped and shipped to Manson, NC for use in the construction of an extension to the Roanoke Valley Railroad.

After the war, the road was returned to service, but a new bridge had to be constructed across the Roanoke River at Weldon, NC, and of course, all new track had to be relaid. John M. Robinson was then elected as the new president in 1867.

With the days of the war in the past, the rebuilt Seaboard & Roanoke Railroad became a well-managed, efficient, and prosperous organization, devoted to the transportation of passengers and freight from Weldon, NC, to the seaports of eastern Virginia. Company President John M. Robinson was also the president of the Bay Line (the Baltimore Steam Packet Company), and he had his headquarters for both companies in Baltimore, MD.

Actually, the Bay Line controlled the Seaboard & Roanoke Railroad for many years. Moncure Robinson, then residing in Philadelphia, along with family and associates, controlled the Bay Line. Son John was also president of the Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac Railroad between 1871 and 1878. Even during the Panic of 1873, the Seaboard & Roanoke Railroad showed a profit.

In 1871, the Raleigh & Gaston Railroad came into control of a railroad then under construction southward from Raleigh and renamed that year as the Raleigh & Augusta Air Line Railroad. This new road reached Hamlet, NC, ninety-seven (97) miles south of Raleigh, in 1877, and formed a connection with the Carolina Central Railway, then operating across the state from Wilmington, through Charlotte, to Shelby.

The depression years of the 1870s, along with heavy advances to the Raleigh & Augusta Air Line Railroad, caused the Raleigh & Gaston Railroad to run into financial difficulties. Looking out for the best interest of both his own company and of the Raleigh & Gaston Railroad, President John M. Robinson of the Seaboard & Roanoke Railroad, in 1873, acquired control of the Raleigh & Gaston Railroad and its new subsidiary, the Raleigh & Augusta Air Line Railroad. In October of 1875, Mr. Robinson became president of both the Raleigh & Gaston Railroad and the Raleigh & Augusta Air Line Railroad.

The Seaboard & Roanoke Railroad acquired the Georgia, Carolina & Northern Railroad soon after it was chartered in 1886, and completed its construction in 1892, one year before President John M. Robinson finally passed away.

Towns on Route (in NC):

NC/VA State Line





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