Amtrak's Piedmont and Carolinian
THE PIEDMONT / CAROLINIAN
POINTS OF INTEREST ALONG THE ROUTES OF THE PIEDMONT AND
The Piedmont and Carolinian travel an area of North Carolina rich
in history as they
pass through rolling hills,the piedmont and the coastal plains.
The North Carolina Department
of Transportation welcomes you aboard,and we hope this guide will
add to your enjoyment of the
The guide follows a northbound
trip from Charlotte to Rocky Mount. Passengers traveling south
should start at the end of the guide and read back to the begining.
Milepost are located along
the railroad as a guide for train crews.
Milepost between Charlotte and Greenboro are located on the the
west side of the train;between
Selma,on the south side of the train;between Selma,on the south
side of the train. Use this guide
with your timetable and the mileposts to identify points of interest
as you travel the routes.
Settled in 1748 by the Scotch
Irish,Charlotte was named for George III's queen. On May 20,1775,
Charlotte patriots signed the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence
and help set the stage for the
Revolutionary War. The Declaration was the first formal document
declaring the colonie's independence
from England and was used as a model for the Declaration of Independence
of 1776. Because of the role
it playedduring the war,British General Lord Cornwillis called
the city a "hoenet's nest". The Charlotte
Hornets,a National Basketball Association team,took its name from
that remark. Charlotte,North Carolina's
largest city,has grown to become a hub for distribution,sales,manufacturing
and finance in the South.
Between Charlotte and Selma,the trains travel over the tracks
of the North Carolina Railroad,completed
on Lanuary 30,1856,was reponsible for much of the settlement and
economic growth of region.
The community was established
in the early 1800's. Note the old houses visible from the train.
The train is now in Cabarrus County.
Harrisburg, first known as Harris Depot, grew up along the railroad.
You can see some of the earliest buildings from the train.
On the west side of the train
is a textile mill built by Warren G. Coleman in 1896. It was the
in the South capitalized,owned and operated by African Americans.
By now you probably have noticed the red clay soil that is present
throughout the piedmont ("foot of the
mountains"). As the rock that underlines this region it erodes
and weathers, iron compounds in the
rock oxidize,turn red,and decompose into fine particles,imparting
a red color to the clay.
Concord,the county seat of Cabarrus
County,was incorporated in 1798. The city was named when a dispute
German and Scotch-Irish settlers over a site for the town was
Textiles are important to the local economy,and Barber-Scotia
College is located here. Barber-Scotia,established
in 1867 as a Presbyterian seminary for black women,was one of
North Carolina's pioneer institutions in training leaders
for educational and social service.
The first of an extensive series of mills,owned and operated by
James W.Cannon in 1887.
On a Sunday morning in 1799,twelve-year-old Conard Reed, playing
hooky from church,found a seventeen-pound gold nugget
in Little Meadow Creek near Concord. The first gold rush in the
United States began shortly thereafter.
Charlotte became America's gold center,and North Carolina was
the sole supplier of gold to the Philadelphia Mint until
1829. In 1837,the goverment opened a mint in Charlotte to use
the North Carolina gold. The mint was closed the day North
Carolina seeded from the Union.
Kannapolis began as a mill village
in 1907 and grew to be the largest unincorporated city in the
nation. Its name is Greek,
meaning"city of looms". It was incorporated in 1984
and is the location of a large Fieldcrest Cannon textile mill.
Cannon Mills is the largest producer of household textiles in
the world. Cannon Mills,a predecessor of Fieldcrest Cannon,pioneered
the manufacture of towels;thus Kannapolis has been nicknamed "Towel
On the east side of the train are houses of the former mill village;on
the west side you will see the Williamsburg-style downtown
buildings and the textile mill.
Landis,located in Rowan County,was
incorporated in 1901. A textile mill was Landis'first business.
The town was named for Judge Kennesaw
Mountain Landis who had imposed a $29 million fine on Standard
Oil at the time the community was searching for a name.
The railroad station oh the west side of the train has been restored
to its original appearance and is now a museum.
China Grove tooks its name from
the chinaberry trees that grew in the vicinity. It is also a textile
town founded in 1823 and incorporated
in 1889. The first mail carried on Rural Free Delivery (RFD) route
in North Carolina was dispatched from China Grove on October 23,1896.
The maximum speed for trains in
North Carolina is 79 mph,and under normal operating conditions
the train will be traveling that speed now.
On the east side of the train
south of the station,you will see a National Cemetery where 12,391
Union soldiers are buried. This cemetery is
on the land that was part of the site of a major Confederate Government
prisoner-of-war compound during the Civil War.
Salisbury is the county seat of Rowan County. The Spanish Mission-style
railroad station (built in 1907)has been converted to an office
and restored to its original appearance. The railroad track on
the west side of the train leads to Asheville.
This is the site of Southern Railway's
former Spencer Yards and Shops. The shop cpmplex,built at the
turn of the century,covered 160 acres of land
and was named for Samuel Spencer,the first president of the Southern
Railway System (1894-1906). The railroad was a major employer
On the west side of the train is the site of the North Carolina
Transportation Museum. The museum,which is housed in several of
the Spencer Shops
buildings,offers displays and train rides,and is well worth a
This river was originally called
the Sapona because of the Sapona Indian settlements nearby. A
short distance upriver is a cave where Daniel Boone is
said to have hidden once from the Indians.
Downriver was a ford,called Trading Ford,that was on an Indian
path running across the central part of Northern Carolina. It
was at this location that
General Nathaniel Greene's army crossed the Yadkin during the
During the Civil War,there was a Confederate army fort on the
hills on the north side of the river to protect the railroad bridge.
At this location on
April 12,1865,Southern troops turned back Stoneman's Union cavalry
which had been conducting raids throughout Western North Carolina.
Dr.William Holt named the community
of Linwood for his plantation. West of the train is the Norfolk
Southern Railway's new Spencer Yard,one of the most
modern frieght yards in the country. It is used to classify frieght
cars destined to all parts of the Southeast.
Lexington,the county seat of Davidson
County,produces lumber,furniture,textiles and hoseiry. The town
was named for the Revolutionary War Battle of Lexington,
A style of barbecuing pork shoulders over hickory coals originated
here in the 1920's. Many consider Lexington-style barbecue to
be the best in the state.
Thomasville,founded in 1852,is
the site of several major furniture plants. Look for the world's
largest Duncan Phyfe chair on the west side of the train while
passing through the downtown area. This chair has had two incarnations.
The first chair,built of pine in 1922,was 13.5 feet tall. By the
1930's the pine had decayed,
and the chair was dismantled. A new steel chair,18 feet tall,was
built in 1951.
The railroad station was built in 1870 and is one of the oldest
surving frame depots in the state.
High Point,located in Guilford
County,was so named because it is the highest point on the North
Carolina Railroad between Goldsboro and Charlotte. Surveyors of
railroad noted the elevation when they crossed the old Salmen-Fayetteville
plank road,drove a stake at the intersection,and labeled it "high
point". The railroad station
(built in 1907)is located at this point in the center of downtown,but
is not visible from the train because the tracks were lowered
below street level in the late 1930's.
The town was chartered in 1859,but the area was first settled
by Quakers during the 1700's. The Religious Society of Friends
was given the name "Quakers"by a British judge
who heard a statment by the founder of the group that they "trembled
at the word of the Lord".
The city is known as the "Furniture Capital of the World".
A major furniture market is held here each April and October.
High Point is home to an internationally-known library
devoted exclusively to books on furniture. The city is also the
world's largest hosiery producer.
One mile south of the station on the east side of the tracks is
the Thomas Built Buses plant. This plant built the streetcars
used in New Orleans (and made famous in Tennessee
William's play,"A Streetcar Named Desire"). Thomas now
produces most of the yellow school buses seen on North Carolina
streets and highways.
First settled in 1770,Jamestown
was the states leading Quaker community during the 18th and 19th
centuries. The town was named for its founder,James Mendenhall.
In the Quaker fashion
of humility,only his first name was used.
Greensboro is named for General Nathaniel Greene,a Revolutionary
War officer whose troops fought the British at the Battle of Guilford
Courthouse on March 15,1781. This was General
Cornwallis' last major battle before surrendering at Yorktown
seven years later. Greensboro,North Carolina's third largest city,is
the county seat of Guilford County and a major commercial
center. It is also the birthplace of the First Lady Dolley Madison
and writer O.Henry (William S.Porter).
An historical maker on the east side marks the location at which
the Confederate cabinet,while fleeing south by train from Union
forces occupied a parked railroad car from April 11-15,1865.
Greensboro served as a temporary capital of the Confedercay. Jefferson
Davis met with General Joseph E.Jhonston here ang agreed to allow
him to negotiate an armistic with the Union army.
While passing through downtown Greensboro,you will see the Jefferson
Standard building,a modified Gothic and Renaissance Revival building
constructed in 1923 and since inlarged. To the east
is Old Greensborough,a revitalized commercial district.
McCleansville is a small town
in Guilford County named for a pioneer family of Ulster Scots
who settled here.
This town is located on the line
between Guilford and Alamance Counties. It was established in
1855 and named for Joseph Gibson (1785-1857),a large landowner
who also was engaged to do contracting
and grading for the North Carolina Railroad.
This small town in western Alamance
County was originally named Mill Point since it served as a freight
depot for shipping mill products manufactured nearby. Elon College
was established here by the
Christian Church and opened in 1890.
The town was incorporated in 1893. Elon College took its name
from the Hebrew word for "oak" in recognition of the
large number of oak trees on its site. The first buildings burned
in 1923,but rebuilding
began immediately. The campus is visible on the north side of
the train. The national archives of the American Theater Organ
Society are housed here.
The town was originally named
Company Shops for the railroad car repair shops built there by
the North Carolina Railroad in 1851. The name "Burlington"
was selected in a contest,and the town was renamed in 1887.
The shops were moved to Spencer in 1896. Burlington Mills,now
one of the world's largest textile manufactures,was founded here
in 1923. Today the manufactures textiles,hosiery,paper boxes and
The railroad station a Victorian Tudor building,has been relocated
from the railroad tracks and is visible from the south side of
On May 17,1771,in a field six miles southwest of Burlington,a
group of framers (named the Regulators) battled forces dispatched
by Royal Governor William Tryon. The Regulators had challenged
the malpractices of local
office holders,but were defeated by Tryon's troops. One of the
Regulators was hanged at the battlefield,and six were later executed
Graham,the county seat of Alamance
County,was laid out in 1849. It was named for William A.Graham,governor
of North Carolina from 1845 until 1849. During Graham's term as
governor,the legislature passed a proposal to
build the North Carolina Railroad.
This area was settled as early
as 1747. Textile mills were later built along the river for which
the town was named.
Mebane,a furniture-and textile-producing
town,was established in 1854. The rown was named for Alexander
Mebane,a Brigadier General of North Carolina Militia and a member
of Congress in the 1790s. The mural painted on
the side of the building north of the train tracks depicts Mebane
in the 1940s and includes a Southern Railway passenger train built
by a steam locomotive. Between Mebane and Hillsborough,the train
route parallels the
route of a colonial trading path (dating from the 17th century)from
Petersburg,Virginia to the Catawba and Waxhaw Indian settlements
Hillsborough,the county seat of
Orange Coutny and an important colonial town,was first settled
as an Indian village named Acconeech. White settlers arrived in
1754,and the town was successively named Orange,Corbinton
and Chidsburg. Finally the town was named for the Earl of Hillsborough,British
Secretary of State for the American colonies. It was the focal
point for the Regulator movement,an early insrrection which was
step in precipitating the American Revolution.
During the Revolution,the town served briefly as the seat of state
This river took its name from
a Tuscarora Indian word,e-eon,meaning "a long way".
During the early part of the 20th
century,this railroad junction was the transfer point for railroad
passengers en route to the University of North Carolina at Chaple
Hill. The line to Carrboro is on the south side of
The train is now in Durham County.
The Bennett Place is located approximately one-half mile north
of the train. On April 26,1865,Confederate General Joseph E.Johnson
formally surrendered to General William T.Sherman,bringing
the Civil War to a close in North Carolina. Later surrenders in
Alabama on May 4 and New Orleans on May 26 disbanded the Confederate
forces. The tobacco industry in Durham (and the entire state)
increased when Union and Confederate
were introduced to "bright leaf" tobacco which they
smoked at the Bennett Place while waiting for the surrender to
Durham was named for Dr.Barlett
who donated the land for the first railroad station in 1851. The
campus of Duke University is visible on the south (Duke Chaple
with its 200-foot-tall Gothic tower is prominent) and north (the
Georgian-style East Campus) sides of the train.
The tobacco industry has been important in Durham's history;tobacco
warehouses and factories are visible on both sides of the train.
Some warehouses have been converted to shops and stores.
On the south side of the train west of downtown Durham,you can
see the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Building. This firm
is the largest African-American-managed financial institution
in the world. The building was the first
highrise building in the United States to be built of prestressed
post tensioned concrete. The architectural firm Shreve,Lamb and
Harmon,designers of the Empire State Building,provided by the
concept for the Central Carolina Bank
Building that may be seen on the north side of the train in the
downtown area. East of the station,notice the Bull Durham Tabacco
Factory (constructed in 1875 and now closed) on the south side
of the train. The factory's name came
from the picture of a bull on jars of Coleman's mustard produce
in Durham,England. The tabacco was an instant success,and the
"Bull Durham" appellation became world-famous. The baseball
term "bullpen" was coined because a Bull Durham
Tabacco ad was painted behind the dugout of the New York Yankees.
The New York Times labeled the
Research Triangle Park (RTP) as "one of the nation's most
successful ventures into the concept of the geographical concetration
of research facilities". The existence of the Park contributes
the fact that there are more Ph.D's per capita here than in any
of the nation's metropolitan areas. The 6,750 acre park area is
heavily wooded,with research facilities visible from both sides
of the train.
The town of Morrisville,settled
in 1840,was named for the owner of the land,Jerry Morris. The
train is now in Wake County.
Cary was first settled in 1863,and
became one of the fastest-growing towns in North Carolina in the
During the late 1800's,the Page-Walker Hotel servedtravelers arriving
in Cary by train. The hotel,listed on the National Register of
Historic Places,was built by Allison francis Page,the town's founder
and first mayor. This building,now
being restored to its original appearance,may be seen on the north
side of the train.
Passengers may catch a glimpse of Cary Elementary from the south
side of the train. Originally Known as Cary Academy,the school
is a half-mile from the track on Academy Street. In 1907,the academy
became the first public high school in
North Carolina. The railroad track joining our route from the
south is CSX Transportation's line to Southern Pines and Hamlet,North
Carolina;Columbia,South Carolina;and Savannah,Georgia.
Raleigh,named for Sir Walter Raleigh,was
selected as the state Capital in 1792 and is now North Carolina's
second-largest city. West Raleigh,the train passes the State Fairgrounds.
The building with the unusual shape is Dorton Arena,built
in 1953 as a parabolic suspension structure and recogized worldwide
as an architectural triumph.
The train also passes through the campus of North Carolina State
University. On the south side of the train is Central Prison,North
Carolina's only maximum security prison. East of the station,look
to the north for a fine view of the downtown
This area was first settled in
the early 1800's. The town was incorporated in 1883,taking its
name from its founder H.C Garner.
Clayton,in Johnston County,was
incorporated in 1869 and originally known as Stallings Station.
Today it porduces textiles and wearing apparel.
The Neuse River,formed in Durham
County at the confluence of the Eno and Flat Rivers,flows to Pamlico
Sound. East of the Neuse,the train travels
in the Coastal Plain. Here the soil is sandy and the land is whiter
and flatter than in the piedmont's rolling hills.
Selma was established in 1867
when the need for a depot on the North Carolina Railroad developed.
On May 1 of that year,acreage surrounding the station
was sold as building lots during a barbecue and dance.
In 1892,the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad was built through Selma,crossing
the North Carolina Railroad at the present passenger station.
The building was
constructed in 1924 to serve both railroads. West of Selma,the
train is on the North Carolina Railroad;north of Selma it travels
on the tracks of CSX
This area was settled in 1890
and took its name from its small size. From this point northward,agriculture
is an important part of the local economy.
This river rises in Franklin County
and flows into the Neuse River near Goldsboro.
Settled in 1875, this town was
named for J.I.Kenly,offcial of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad.
This Wilson County town was originally
Know as Luca's crossroads. Around 1883,Josephus Daniels,then
editor of a newspaper in Wilson,is said to have named the town
for his Brother's wife and her two sisters,
Lulie,Carrie and Mary Borden.
A freight train derailment in 1903 destroyed the town's first
depot, and shortly thereafter, several
diamonds were found near the railroad tracks. Townspeople speculated
that the gems must have come from the
train, although records did not indicate that any cars had been
carrying diamonds. A frenzied search ensued,but
no further diamonds were found.
This small river was named for
a nearby Tuscarora Indian village,Cotechey. The railroad track
route on the east was part of the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad.
At 161.5 miles in length, it was the longest
railroad in the world when it was completed in 1840.
Between here and Weldon, North Carolina, the train follows the
route of this railroad. Until the construction
of the railroad, Contentnea Creek was one of the few transportation
routes in this area.
Wilson boasts America's largest
tobacco market;produces concrete pipe,furniture and textiles;and
is home to a
large antique market. Tobacco is the only major crop in the United
States that is still sold to the highest bidder
through a formal auction. At one time, Wilson was the largest
bright leaf tobacco market in the world.
The well-proportioned,Mission-style railroad station,built in
1924,was designed by Wilmington architect A.M. Griffin
who worked with the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad.
The brick building (with storefronts along the first floor) located
across the tracks from the station was the Terminal
Inn, built adbout 1920. Behind the station is the Cherry Hotel,
built 1919-1923 for Rufus A.Cherry.
Four blocks north of the station on the west of the tracks is
Woodard Circle. Between 1898 and 1971, this area was one of
Wilson's most Fashionable neighorhoods.
The town was originally the settlement of Hickory Grove on the
stagecoach route between Raleigh and Tarboro. The arrival of the
railroad and the establishment of the community of Toisnot Depot
caused local land and property values to increase. In 1849
the town was incorporated and named for a distinguished citizen
of Tarboro and state legislator, Captain Louis D.Wilson
(1789-1847). Wilson had died of yellow fever at Vera Cruz during
the War with Mexico.
The Wilson-Rocky Mount area is also the home to another style
of barbecued pork-claimed by some to be superior to Lexinton-style.
In 1873, the town of Toisnot was
established on this site, taking its name from Tuscarora Indian
town. The name was changed to
Elm City in 1891 and back to Toisnot in 1895. The railroad and
the post office refused to adopt this name change, however, and
town was once again named Elm City in 1913. Relocation of the
post office to Elm City was the death knell for the town Joyner's,
formerly located one mile north of here. A major firs in 1884
destroyed the downtown buildings;they were rebuilt in brick as
see them today.
Sharpsburg is located at the corners
of Nash, Edgecombe and Wilson Counties.
It was settled in 1851 and named for an early settler, John Jay
Rock Mount, established in 1816,
took its name from the rocky mounds and leges
along the Tar River at the fall line. Historically, the city's
economy has been
based on ariculture-particularly tobacco production and processing,
and the railroad,
which maintained a large repair shop complex here for many years.
Since World War II, the economy has diversified extensively.
Jim Thorpe, a native American athlete and star of the 1922 Olympics,
professional baseball debut with a team called the Rocky Mount
Railroaders in 1909
at a ball park located one quater mile west of the railroad tracks
just south of
The railroad is the boundary line between Nash and Edgecombe Counties
in the center
of Rocky Mount. Passengers have fine view of the downtown business
district with its early
20th century buildings displaying a variety of architectural styles.
One building on the east side of the train is Kyser's son, Kay,
was a popular band leader
in the 1940s. Tobacco warehouses are located at the north end
of the commercial district.
The Romanesque-style railroad station at the south end of the
commercial district was
built in 1903 by the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad.
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