How the Railroad Shaped the State’s Past, Present and Future Whistlestop at Company Shops Station... The Story of the North Carolina Railroad Company
More than 150 years ago, powerful iron horses plowed through the engine house in downtown Burlington to be serviced by the skilled workers who lived there before carrying their loads of freight and passengers across the state and out into the world. The story of how the railroad was built and what it has meant for the state will be celebrated in a new exhibit opening Saturday, December 4 at the only original remaining building of the maintenance and repair facility that created Burlington, Company Shops Station. The exhibit will be open for public viewing from that time forward, between the hours of 10:00 am and 5:00 pm, Tuesday through Sunday.
The exhibit consists of three kiosks filled with images and narratives that tell how the railroad improved the fortunes of the state and became the original engine for economic development as cities and towns grew up along its corridor. Burlington, a town established as the headquarters for the NC Railroad Company, also has its story told in the exhibit through a to-scale model taken from an original blueprint of Company Shops circa 1870 that shows buildings, people, trains, animals and provides, through incredible attention to detail, a real snapshot of life in North Carolina nearly 130 years ago. Two full-size train fronts coming through the wall of the engine house—one a steam engine like ones that would have come through in the 1800s and a General Electric Dash 9 Freight engine like Norfolk Southern uses today—add excitement to the experience. Additional murals and posters that explain train safety, the railroad's role in the Civil War and a "timeline" that offers highlights of the rail industry both internationally and statewide complete the exhibit. A teachers’ guide will be available after the first of the year for educators who are interested in using the exhibit as a teaching tool for North Carolina history, economic development and transportation studies.
“The commitment of our past leaders in completing the North Carolina Railroad at a time when rail service was very new and innovative speaks to their vision and courage,” says Brad Wilson, Chairman of the Board of Directors for NCRR. “The Whistlestop exhibit reminds us of this vision and encourages us to look at the significance and potential that the railroad offers both today, and in the future, as a vital part of North Carolina’s, and the south’s, transportation infrastructure.”
The North Carolina Railroad Company, chartered in 1849, has been a driving force in the state’s growth and development since its beginning. Today, it serves the state and the eastern seaboard as a major transportation artery for both freight and passenger service. It is the state’s oldest corporation and remains a vital economic development force. The help of many people and institutions made this exhibit possible, especially the people of Alamance County, NC-based exhibit designer and builder Peter Ruocchio, Operation Lifesaver and the Norfolk Southern Corporation.
Please contact Kat Christian at 919-954-7601 for pictures of the exhibit, special story ideas or more information.