This abandoned railway line was built in 1840 as part of the Wilmington & Raleigh, which actually went from Wilmington to Weldon, NE of Raleigh. The road was renamed the Wilmington & Weldon in 1855. The W & W connected with the Wilmington & Manchester in Wilmington, which went into South Carolina and connected with the Northeastern which went to Charleston. On the northern end, the W & W connected with the Petersburg Railroad at Weldon. After the Civil War, these roads gradually came under the control of William T. Walters of Baltimore, and they became known as the Atlantic Coast Line. At that point it was really just an association of independent railroads. In 1889 Walters formed a holding company to control the roads, renaming it the Atlantic Coast Line Company in 1893. In 1900, the W & W was merged with the ACL. By that time, the Wilson cut-off had been constructed between Wilson, NC and just E of Florence, SC. This bypassed a lot of north-south traffic around Wilmington.
The line became part of the Seaboard Coast Line in 1967 when the ACL and SAL merged. A passenger train still traveled these rails up until the merger. The line became part of CSX in 1982. CSX decided to consolidate the traffic going into Wilmington onto 1 line (the former SAL main to Wilmington), and abandoned this section in 1986. Rails and cross-ties were removed in December 1986. CSX still operates the line from Wallace north to Goldsboro and Wilson, where it hits the old A-line. CSX also operates the line out of Wilmington, across the NE Cape Fear River to a paper mill and other industries in Castle Hayne. At one point NC DOT owned the ROW, though it is not clear if they still do. Towns on the abandoned segment include Willard, Watha, Burgaw, and Rocky Point.
Thanks to Joe Benson for contributing information about this route.