07/11/05 — The background on the railroad

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The background on the railroad

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on July 11, 2005 1:45 PM

If passenger trains return to Goldsboro in the next few years, it would end nearly four decades of not having service.

But the city can trace its origins and its significance to Wayne County to the railroad.

In 1840, the Wilmington-to-Weldon railroad was built, at the time the longest railroad in the world at 162 miles, according to historian William Powell. The mid-point of the line intersected the Raleigh-to-New Bern stage route in Wayne County, about two miles east of Waynesborough, then the county seat.

The new community was originally called Goldsborough's Junction, after a surveyor for the railroad. By 1847, Goldsboro had become the county seat.

Union Station opened in 1909 and provided passenger service for several decades. But train travel declined as cars became more available and the interstate highway system was developed. The station closed in 1968 and was sold. It's now owned by Carolina Builders Supply Co. and used as a millshop and storage.

The N.C. Department of Transportation has operated twice-daily rail service between Charlotte and Raleigh for several years. During the late 1990s, it began looking for western and eastern routes to add. In 2001, DOT announced plans to extend passenger train service to Asheville.

In May 2001, DOT announced that it had done a preliminary study of two routes for Raleigh-to-Wilmington service, one through Goldsboro. The initial recommendation, however, was for a Fayetteville route.

Local officials had not known that DOT was even considering the possibility of passenger rail. They also found several errors in the preliminary study, which DOT officials promised to correct in the more detail study that was announced today.