North Carolina Railroads - Wilmington & Raleigh Railroad


Year Chartered or Incorporated

Year Line Operational

Year Service Ended

Original Starting Point

Original Ending Point





Wilmington, NC

Weldon, NC
* 1855 - Renamed to the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad.

The 1820s saw the entire nation's economy struggle and there were particularly tough times in the South due to the drastically falling prices of cotton worldwide. The commerce of Wilmington, NC increased only slightly during the entire decade and the future prospect of growth was dismal, at best.

As the largest city and port in North Carolina, Wilmington and its residents were proud of that status and refused to sit on their laurels or wring their hands. All roads still led to Wilmington when it came to shipping goods out of the state.

In recent years, several experiments of very short railroads were attempted within the young country, but none had been proven to be successful, although much talk about them spread like wildfire. Around this time, a young northerner who had recently relocated to Wilmington - P.K. Dickinson - went to New England for a summer visit and witnessed a small railroad in operation. It was built of wooden stringers, with narrow, flat iron on top, and the carriages were of light construction.

Mr. Dickinson was so impressed with its capabilities that he hurried back to his new hometown and began pressing everyone he knew. He was so enthusiastic and persistent that his news quickly got the citizens of Wilmington to act. Mr. Dickinson also happened to own one of the largest lumber mills in the area.

In January of 1834, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a bill to incorporate the Wilmington & Raleigh Railroad, but the terms of the charter were so restrictive that an amended charter was issued in December of 1835, conferring more priveleges and altering the course of the proposed railroad, and providing $1,500,000 in capital stock. At the time, the plan was to simply connect the state's largest port with the state's seat of government - the towns of Wilmington and Raleigh.

However, as the proposed project was more thoroughly considered, the advantages of connecting Wilmington with the Roanoke River area seemed more prudent, especially since the state of Virginia was quickly outpacing all other states in the construction of new railroads. In fact, the first railroad operational within the state of North Carolina was the Petersburg Railroad, which was completed in 1833 to Blakely Depot (later renamed to Garyburg in 1838), North Carolina near the Roanoke River in Northampton County. The railroad, as constructed, did not come within fifty (50) miles of Raleigh.

The first meeting of the new Wilmington & Raleigh Railroad Company stockholders was held on March 14, 1836. The stockholders elected Edward B. Dudley as President, with a yearly salary of $2,000, and the following directors - Andrew Joyner, W.D. Moseley, James S. Battle, Aaron Lazarus, Alexander Anderson, William B. Meares, James Owen, P.K. Dickinson, R.H. Cowan, and Thomas H. Wright. Alexander MacRae was elected as Superintendent, and James S. Green was elected as Secretary/Treasurer.

Construction commenced seven months after the first stockholder meeting - in October of 1936, at both ends of the road - Halifax and Wilmington. One March 7, 1840, the last spike was driven on the 161.5 mile railroad - the longest in the world at that point in time. On April 5, 1840, a celebration was held in Wilmington with fifty-seven toasts and eleven letters with toasts.

Twenty-one and a half (21-1/2) miles consist of curves, and 138-1/2 miles are straight lines, one of these straight lines is forty-seven (47) miles in length. Maximum inclination is 30-feet per mile, but nearly all the gradients are level. The minimum radius of curvature is 3,730 feet, most of the radii are 12,200 and 30,000 feet. The radius of one curve is 67,240 feet, which is deemed for all practical purposes, equivalent to a straight line.

The company acquired twelve locomotives and the first ten were named after the counties that had subscribed to the railroad construction: Nash, Wayne, New Hanover, Edgecombe, Brunswick, Duplin, Bladen, Greene, Halifax, and Sampson. There were also eight passenger cars, four post office cars, and fifty freight cars.

In 1849, the Wilmington & Raleigh Railroad upgraded its entire line with T-rail that had been acquired from England. On February 15, 1855, the state finally agreed to grant a new charter and the line's name was formally changed to the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad.

Towns on Route:




Battleboro (1840)

Rocky Mount

Vicksville (1839) > Joyners Depot (1846) > Toisnot (1873) > Elm City (1891)

Toisnot Depot (1840) > Wilson (1849)

Black Creek (1840)

Bardens (1840s)

Nahunta > Fremont (1872)

Goldsboro (1841)

Dudley (1840) > Everittsville (1849)

Mount Olive (1853)

Faisons Depot (1838) > Faison (1883)

Warsaw (1839)

Stricklands Depot (1841) > Magnolia (1857)

Rock Fish > Gamaliel (1839) > Teacheys Depot (1839) > Teachey (1841)

Leesburg (1840s)

Sills Creek (1844) > Camera (1865) > Willard (1883)

South Washington > Washington Depot (1841)

Cypress Grove (1849) > Burgaw Depot (1871) > Burgaw (1879)

Northeast (1850s)


Line #2 - Tarborough Branch (1849):

Rocky Mount

Medora (1898)

Kingsborough (1866) > Hartsborough (1876) > Kingsboro (1883) > Penelo (1888) > Kingsboro #2 (1919)



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