The Story of the North Carolina Railroad Company
The North Carolina Railroad Company welcomes you to Whistlestop and hopes you'll return many times to read the story of the railroad. The exhibit includes a model of Company Shops which contains many little scenes of life in the late 1800's, including the photographer posing people for the picture that is seen in the mural upstairs. Enjoy the train fronts as they come through the engine house; they're accurately recreated to capture the power and size of the rail industry's iron horses.
The exhibit houses two timelines which parallel the history of the rail industry at large with the story of the North Carolina Railroad Company.
Model of Company Shops, NC
A scale model of the heart of Company Shops, built in N-gauge, and depicting the town as it would have looked in 1870. Maps, photographs, and text describing the primary structures in detail accompany the model. See the large machine shops filled with rolling stock and the Railroad Hotel come to life in this exhibit centerpiece!
4-4-0 Steam Engine
Built to represent the first locomotive to be built entirely at Company Shops, No. 8 The Pioneer. The 4-4-0 was one of the primary locomotive types owned by the NCRR in the days of Company Shops.
The General Electric Dash 9 is considered the workhorse of the NS fleet. The exhibit's train front is built to scale and weighs 7,000 pounds. A real engine would weigh 450,000 pounds.
The upstairs mural is a visual and artistic representation of the North Carolina Railroad Company then and now.
The downstairs mural is a rendering of the original interior of the engine house at Company Shops where locomotives were stored, maintained, and repaired in the late 19th century.
The "Old Rip Van Winkle" State
During the 1800s North Carolina was nicknamed the "Rip Van Winkle State" after a fictional character that slept for twenty years. The state suffered from stagnated economic, political, and social growth while the rest of America prospered from the Industrial Revolution.
North Carolina was fraught with an isolated population, poor transportation routes, and a lack of education opportunities. During the period from 1810-1850, one-third of the state's population left in search of a more promising life in the new American West.
The Tree of Life
In 1841 North Carolina Governor John Motley Morehead described the possibility of a North Carolina Railroad as a "Tree of Life" to North Carolians. The road would connect the western and eastern parts of the state, increasing trade and transportation, as well as the exchange of culture and ideas.
Through the efforts of Morehead and his supporters the North Carolina Railroad was chartered by the General Assembly in 1849 and constructed by 1856. It ran from Charlotte, through the Piedmont to Goldsboro, encouraging "Old Rip" to wake up and greet a new era of prosperity. The success of the NCRR encouraged the state's leaders to construct two more roads, the Atlantic & North Carolina Railroad and the Western North Carolina Railroad.
Company Shops was literally a town built by a railroad. From 1855-1860, the North Carolina Railroad Company constructed its repair and maintenance facilities in the newly formed county of Alamance. The location was chosen for its central location on the road, midway between Charlotte and Goldsboro. The site consisted of 631 acres that contained the principal repair shops for cars and locomotives, homes for workers and officials, company headquarters, a church, and a school.
In 1871 the Richmond & Danville Railroad leased the North Carolina Railroad for a period of thirty years, and the repair shops were relocated to Virginia. In 1887, the citizens of Company Shops changed the town's name to Burlington with "I'll tell the world" as its motto. New rail-supported industries, including textile mills, the Burlington Coffin Company, and later the Fairchild Aircraft Corporation were established in Burlington providing jobs and a stable economy for the region. In 1896, the Southern Railway leased the NCRR for a period of 99 years. Southern set up new shops in Spencer, NC, today's home of the North Carolina Transportation Museum.
Other Information:Admission : FreeHours : 7 days a week