The North Carolina Railroad was incorporated to run trains from Goldsboro to Charlotte. A direct route would have sent the railroad south of most population centers including Durham, Hillsborough, and Greensboro. The northern route traveled along ridge lines and crossed shallow valleys. In 1854, the railroad reached Alamance County and crossed the Haw River at a site provided by General Ben Trollinger. Shortly thereafter the track reached the mid-point at a site chosen for repairs and named simply, “Company Shops”. Company Shops later became the town of Burlington.
Cram’s Rail Road and County Map of North and South Carolina. Textile Heritage Museum, Glencoe. Photo: Gary Mock
The route along the piedmont would connect the sites where water-powered mills would be built and allow their products to reach northern markets. Earlier routes extended to Norfolk and Charleston. Routes connected to Wilmington and later Morehead City. Later, coal arriving from the West Virginia mills would power new mills no longer dependent on water power.
Anyone doubting the importance of the railroad to commerce need only look at this Glencoe Mills check dated April 6, 1884. Check on display at Textile Heritage Museum, Glencoe. Photo: Gary Mock