Wallace to Wilmington
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.
Very near the end of the CSX trackage in Castle Hayne, NC is where they began ripping up the old ACL/SCL rail. At Holly shelter Rd.(the last crossing on CSX trackage (the 371.7) the CSX line curves around to the east to serve various industries, and that is where the abandoned ACL line begins. You can still see the remnants of the old corridor. Follow that a half mile, and you come to this bridge [see pictures]. I still cannot find any history on it, though I'm feverishly trying. It is definitely a marvelous part of the history, and a beautiful sight to go there and still be able to see it. I can still picture those old locos crossing over it!
ACL passenger trains 48,49,41 and 42 offered service between Wilmington and New York City in the 1950s. While I was a member of SCL's Property Protection Dept (now Police & Special Serices), trains 116 and 117 provided freight service between Rocky Mount and Wilmington.
This route is going to be rebuilt and reopened, although there is no date set yet. CSX has its share of the money allotted for it, and are working with the state on it. Intermodal traffic to the port in Wilmington is picking up, and the possibility of passenger rail still exists. The corridor has been surveyed, and all impacts and suggestions noted. Just a matter of time.
The state has requested that the NCDOT start looking for funds to reinstall this section of track for the commuter rail that is in the planning stages from Wilmington to Raleigh.
Here's a link to a recent article on restoring the line:
Excerpt: "At this time, CSX has no interest in investing in the project, but we are happy to discuss the matter with the state," said Carla Groleau, CSX communications director.
More on possible reactivation: