National Train Day

National Train Day is observed every year on the Saturday closest to May 10, and this year it falls on May 13. The holiday is intended to spread awareness about the history of railway networks in the U.S. 

Railroads were vital for the movement of troops and supplies during the Civil War. One of the most important railroads for the Army of Northern Virginia was the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad.

When it opened in 1840, it was the longest railroad in the world, running 161.5 miles from the coast at Wilmington to Weldon near the Virginia border. At Weldon the rail line connected to the Richmond & Petersburg Railroad, allowing for a continuous connection between the port of Wilmington and the cities of Petersburg and Richmond.

walking path in Wilmington
The beginning of the line: the route of the railroad is now a walking path in downtown Wilmington.

The Wilmington & Weldon Railroad had 23 locomotives when the war began, and during the height of the conflict could haul 200 tons of material a day, well below its capacity. As with all Confederate railroads, lack of skilled staff, limited repair facilities, and lack of supplies and parts hampered the operation.

It was a vital source of supply for Confederate forces in Virginia, bringing weapons, ammunition, food, and clothing. Much of this material came through the blockade to the port of Wilmington. The railroad was targeted many times by Union forces from their toeholds on the coast at New Bern, but never permanently cut.

railroad bridge
The end of the line: Site of a wartime railroad bridge in Weldon.

Today there is a railroad museum at the start of the line in Wilmington, and several historic markers at the terminus site in Weldon.


2 Responses to National Train Day

  1. Thank you, Bert. So many newcomers to my city and evern natives do not realize they are walking on history!

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