Survey of Endangered Norfolk Southern and Norfolk Southern-Related History
Part of the Norfolk & Southern Historical Society’s purpose is “to secure . . . the history of . . . the original Norfolk (&) Southern Railroad/Railway.” With this purpose in mind, this year the society’s newsletter begins a survey of endangered survivals of our Norfolk Southern Railroad/Railway heritage. In this age of passenger service revivals, rail trails and people’s history, we are taking the survey beyond the usual rolling stock and structures to archival materials and rail lines.
We plan to make the survey an annual feature of the newsletter, but at the same time suspect that the situation of endangered survivals may not change enough to require a yearly look at the situation. Time will tell about how often we do it, but we do plan to do a survey periodically. Also, we plan to start each segment with any good news that we might know about!
***2/25/2005*** From an e-mail passed on to us regarding the Coastal Carolina Railway:
"I have read the NS Historical Society web page in regard to the
***4/28/2004*** NS Corp to Abandon 7.3 mile segment between Mackeys &
The best news with regard to Norfolk Southern routes is the ambitious American Tobacco Trail, which uses most of the Bonsal to Durham section, including most of the newer right-of-way, of the Norfolk Southern Durham branch (the New Hope Valley Railway uses about five miles running north from Bonsal). The trail is open in Durham County, a section of the Wake County portion is open and another Wake County section will open soon. The Chatham County portion is safely under public ownership, but the county has been slower to develop its section. A small portion of the original Durham branch alignment (the branch was rerouted during the construction of Jordan Lake) survives as a trail into state game lands running about 3 miles south from Stagecoach Road in Durham to the edge of the lake. The foundation of a Norfolk Southern water tank could be seen at the end of the trail until 1996, but Hurricane Fran either destroyed the remnants or covered them with silt.
There are three ex-Norfolk Southern rights-of-way that we feel may be endangered. The first is the long-unused Weeksville branch, running from Elizabeth City to Weeksville, NC. It is leased by RailAmerica-owned Chesapeake & Albemarle from Norfolk Southern. It has little, if any, traffic potential but would seem to be an excellent candidate for railbanking and conversion to a rail-trail. A conversion would be complicated by the controlling railroad only being a leaseholder; by owner Norfolk Southern’s generally skeptical position with regard to railbanking; and by the Coast Guard, which is a major adjacent property owner and would need to be involved in the future of the branch. Carl Hollowell of the C&A would be the primary contact with regard to this trackage, which is out of service but, since the tracks still remain, not formally abandoned.
The Star to Norwood, NC section of the Aberdeen Carolina & Western was, at last report, little used. This is one of the most scenic sections of trackage in North Carolina, and certainly a leader, probably the leader, in this regard outside of the mountain section of the state. The trackage is leased from Norfolk Southern by Aberdeen Carolina & Western. AC&W, which is headed by Bob Menzies, has not to date shown an inclination to abandon the trackage.
Finally, the Carolina Coastal Railway (Pinetown-Belhaven, NC) is down to somewhere between 800 and 1,100 carloadings per year. To be sustainable, the seventeen-mile railroad would need about 1,700 carloadings per year. Complicating the situation is the fact that the line will need a significant capital investment to meet the new 286,000 lb. track-loading standard. The NC State Rail Division (headed by Pat Simmons and a part of NCDOT) is interested in aiding the railroad to rebuild, as it is regarded as essential to agribusiness interests in the area. The railroad is leased from Norfolk Southern by a Jacksonville, Florida-based company, headed by J. W. Benz, which is a subsidiary of Rail Link and Genesee & Wyoming.
The good news about structures is that there are over 50 surviving Norfolk Southern structures and we only consider a few of them endangered (see listing). All but one of the survivors are in North Carolina; the sole Virginia survivor we are aware of is the Cape Henry station.
Candor, NC Photo link
The most endangered structures, in our opinion, are the frame ex-Norfolk Southern combination stations in Candor and Lillington, NC. The Candor station is still in its original location next to the Aberdeen Carolina & Western Star-Aberdeen line. Our understanding is that it is owned by a local farm supply company and used for storage. Although its doors are padlocked and it does not appear to be vandalized, it has been slowly declining in condition for years. We know of no plans to raze it, but are also not aware of any community interest in saving it.
The Lillington station has been moved from its original location and now sits east of US-401 behind the Lillington ABC store. It was moved there to become a restaurant, but these plans fell through. It was then used as storage by the adjacent tire dealer. It is now vacant and probably is the most endangered surviving Norfolk Southern structure. We are not aware of any community interest in saving the structure.
We also feel that the Appie, NC station, which was moved to a farm 100 yards west of Appie Road, should be monitored. It is used for farm storage and is in good condition at best. The former Norfolk & Southern New Bern freight station, behind 1104 North Craven Street in New Bern, is also used for storage and is in good condition at best.
Three unpreserved, but probably un-endangered, ex-Norfolk Southern structures may represent the best possibilities for additional historic preservation at the present time. The New Bern Union Station, one of the largest surviving stations in North Carolina, is reportedly owned by the state-owned North Carolina Railroad (some sources say it is owned by local government). Folks in the area are actively seeking to restore the station; it is currently boarded up and the failing platform was removed. The station is fairly unique nationally because the tracks serving the station run down the middle of a street and passengers boarded and detrained in the street. Assisting with preservation of this structure might be a worthy project for society members in the Craven County area.
The New Bern station’s famous waiting room mural has been restored and may be seen in the New Bern Academy Museum. The section of street running beginning at the station and running in Hancock Street to the Trent River Bridge is one of the most significant remaining street-running segments in the Southeast.
Colon, NC Photo link
The present Norfolk Southern has, reportedly, recently stopped using the unique ex-Norfolk Southern station in Colon. Like the New Bern station, this structure is one of the most interesting surviving railroad structures in the state—because it is, we believe, the state’s smallest surviving railroad station. Its sturdy, well-preserved brick construction and small size mean that it would be easy and relatively inexpensive to move—something the railroad would certainly require of any group attempting to preserve the structure. The Railroad House museum grounds in nearby Sanford, which hosts the last surviving Norfolk Southern steam locomotive (see list and below) might be a good home for the station. This is, perhaps, a worthy project for the society or for society members living in the Triangle or Triad.
2-2-2005 - After about 8 months, they finally moved the old D&S Varina station about 100 feet to the East (closer to the road) and are rebuilding a foundation underneath it. Compare before and after photos:
4-30-2004 - Finally, folks in the Fuquay-Varina area would like to see the former Durham & Southern combination station, already reportedly owned by the community, better preserved. It would probably help the building’s future prospects if it also was used more often for some community activity(ies). It is of interest to us as a society because it was used as the Varina passenger stop by Norfolk Southern passenger trains (the former Fuquay Springs station, which was on the Norfolk Southern Fayetteville branch in the Fuquay section of Fuquay-Varina, no longer exists).
Photos of work in progress to move Station. Notice that they have removed
the decking around the doors. Also you can see in the Northside photo
that they must have expanded the size of the station at one time.
The news on the equipment front is mostly good (see listing); especially because two items of rolling stock from Norfolk Southern-related lines are newly slated for preservation. The significant locations of ex-Norfolk Southern and Norfolk Southern-related equipment are the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer, NC; Pullen Park in Raleigh, NC; the New Hope Valley Railway (East Carolina Chapter, NRHS) in Bonsal, NC; and Railroad House in Sanford, NC.
New Hope Valley (East Carolina Chapter)-owned Beaufort & Morehead Whitcomb #75, which spent almost its entire service life at the Beaufort & Morehead, is slated to receive diesel engines and traction motors from a less historically significant Whitcomb now stored on Radio Island in the Beaufort-Morehead City area. The shell of this Whitcomb, which is also owned by the East Carolina Chapter, may then become an attraction next to the relocated Morehead City ex-Norfolk Southern passenger station. B&M #75’s less fortunate sisters were moved to a location near Ocean City, Maryland and are now probably unrestorable.
The Atlantic & East Carolina business car “Carolina,” closely associated with famous North Carolina railroad executive and Edwards Railway Motor Car Company head Harry Edwards, has long been owned by the North Carolina Transportation Museum. The car was originally the “Wisconsin” from the Ringling circus train. The NCTM has transferred (given at no charge between non-profits) the car to the Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida, which plans to restore it. This is a car that many interested in Edwards and his role in railroad history have long wished to see restored.
Other surviving Norfolk Southern equipment we know of is probably unrestorable. A camp car, a near sister to the car at the New Hope Valley Railway, survives in derelict condition off Capital Boulevard in Raleigh, NC. At last report, a cheese shop in Conover, NC is based in a (probably) unrestorable ex-Norfolk Southern caboose. And, reportedly, a number of ex-Norfolk Southern hopper cars sit in a field at a failed industrial heritage museum site near Chickamauga, Georgia. We have also heard reports of a preserved ex-Norfolk Southern caboose well outside of the former Norfolk Southern’s service area. And, of course, a number of the newer ex-Norfolk Southern diesels survive.
Of course, anyone interested in the old Norfolk Southern needs to make a trek to Sanford, NC to see Atlantic & Western 12 (formerly Norfolk Southern 203), the last surviving ex-Norfolk Southern steam locomotive. Perhaps this calls for holding an annual society meeting at Railroad House in Sanford someday, despite the fact that the Norfolk Southern never served Sanford (it did serve nearby Colon and Lillington—see the stations mentioned above).
This is the area, apparently, where the least ex-Norfolk Southern material survives. We believe significant records may be in the possession of individuals. We hope any owner of such records might make a provision for leaving them to some reputable archive (such as the Academic Libraries of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill). In the mid-1990s, it was reported that the Kennedy family of Raleigh still had some Norfolk Southern records in the attic of their house. It is unknown whether this is true and, if it was, whether these materials still survive today. The most significant collection of archival material is the photos held by the (North Carolina) State Archives in Raleigh, NC (see listing). Finding and arranging for the preservation of this type of material is perhaps the greatest preservation need that could be served by society members, since such records are apparently so rare.
So, compared to many other former regional railroads, the Norfolk Southern Railroad/Railway is represented by a healthy number of preserved structures and equipment. In addition, a surprising large amount of its 1974 trackage still survives. If members know of other surviving Norfolk Southern structures, records or equipment, or believe other sections of ex-Norfolk Southern trackage should be considered endangered, please let us know. We feel sure that other ex-Norfolk Southern equipment survives.
We extend thanks to Elizabeth Smith, of the North Carolina Transportation Museum; Dick Lasater of the New Hope Valley Railway/East Carolina Chapter, NRHS; and Art Peterson of the Old North State Chapter, NRHS and of our society, for help with this 2003 survey.