Planes, trains and automobiles, that’s how we get from place to place. For the Port City, transportation is more than just getting around. It’s part of what put our city on the map.
Between the port and the railroad headquarters, Wilmington was much more of a cosmopolitan city than a lot of southern cities,” said Frank Funk of the Railroad Museum foundation board.
The Atlantic Coast Line’s national headquarters were here for more than a century. It began in 1840, when a company called Wilmington and Weldon railroad finished building its tracks.
The company merged with Atlantic Coastline near the turn of the century. Along with the glamour of the dining car, the railroad brought visitors, development and wealth to Wilmington.
But in 1960, that changed when Atlantic Coastline moved to Jacksonville, Florida, deeming Wilmington geographically illogical.
The development of a direct railroad line from New York to the Sunshine State meant Wilmington was out of the way.
Falling back on Wilmington’s other thriving industry, its port, the city continued to grow.
But when Atlantic Coastline pulled out, it took with it the passenger railroad.
Now, the state has plans to revive what are now over grown rails, bringing back the passenger train, and make tracks once again.
“There are a lot of things that can be done to make this a significant addition to the community and a significant economic development tool,” said Laura Padgett of the National Transportation Committee.
A multi-modal transportation center is on the horizon. It’ll be a place where folks can catch a train to Raleigh, in addition to cab and bus service.
The state has already purchased the land between Third and Fourth streets for the center. City leaders hope the three million dollar project will open up commuting possibilities, and bring money through tourism.
“People come visit here, there’s a lot of vacations here and of course conventions that are coming here, so I think it’s an important initiative to connect our rail line to Raleigh as quickly as possible.”
It may be three to four years before the project even begins. Two routes to Raleigh are being considered, one through Goldsboro and one through Fayetteville.
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