Tuesday, March 9, 2010

When Trains Took 8 Hours
From Goldsboro To Weldon

That today's railroads form an effective and constantly improving communications arm in the scheme of national defense is emphasized by comparing a troop train time table issued 87 years ago during the War Between The States with today's Atlantic Coast Line schedules.

The Wilmington and Weldon Railroad, a Coast Line predecessor, issued the time table to govern the movement to Confederate Army troop trains between Goldsboro [Wayne County, NC] and Weldon, [Halifax County, NC],a distance of 78 miles. According to the schedule, the trip took eight hours in those days compared with three hours and 39 minutes now.

That portion from Goldsboro to Rocky Mount [Edgecombe/Nash Counties, NC] took four hours and 15 minutes in 1862. Today [1949] it is a one hour and 40 minutes run.

W.D. Rice, retired lumber mill foreman, Emerson [Railroad] shops, Rocky Mount, found the old time table recently in his father's trunk.

Also holding special interest is the wording carried at the bottom of the time table: "Trains returning will keep out of the way of all trains running on this table. They will leave Weldon at 6:15, 9:15, 12:15 and 3:15, day or night, passing the up or schedule trains at the principle turnouts, going through in about eight hours. Trains that have fallen one hour behind time will lay back for the next train and run its schedule. Not more than three trains to be run by one schedule and they will keep at least one mile apart.

"After one hour and ten minutes have elapsed from the time any train should have arrived, any empty or returning train may proceed cautiously, observing all the rules of safety prescribed on the general time table.

"When this time table goes into effect, all other time tables will be suspended until further notice. It will be announced by telegraph and an extra engine running with flags on both sides. [T]hen all section masters as well as trains will keep out of the way. Wood and water will be got ready immediately and kept ahead by some 25 to 50 cords, with extra hands at the pump. Section masters will at once have old sills cut up on their sections and all pumps kept in order. On this may depend the victory or defeat of our troops. All must do their duty efficiently and safely.

"S.L. Fremont.
Eng. And Sup't.
"Goldsboro, April 3, 1862."

The Richmond and Petersburg, the Petersburg and the Wilmington and Weldon, with approximately 245 miles of main line, formed the principal and most important means of communication with the country that supplied Lee's armies, particularly during the campaigns in Southeast Virginia and were, in effect, the "Bread Line" of the Confederacy. Their importance was further magnified by the fact that Wilmington [New Hanover County, NC] was the principal, and for a long time, the only open port that could be used by blockade runners bringing essential supplies for the forces of the Confederacy. Fort Fisher, commanding the mouth of the Cape Fear River below Wilmington, was of utmost importance to the Confederate plan of strategy and the railroads connecting Wilmington and Richmond furnished a line of communication that enabled the quick transport of troops and supplies.

Today, the Atlantic Coast Line, operating over the only double track route between the East and Florida points with its network of rails serving the six Southeastern states, is still a "Bread line"; but, in addition, in time of national emergency it represents an even stronger link, 5,568 miles long, in the communications system of the entire Eastern seaboard.

Source: Rocky Mount Evening Telegram, Rocky Mount, NC, 3/19/1949

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