Weldon in Halifax County, North Carolina — The American South (South Atlantic)
A Convergence of Commerce
—Landscape of the Iron Horse —
The shallow-draft batteau coming downstream transferred their goods to larger commercial vessels heading east to the Albemarle Sound and then north through the Dismal Swamp Canal to the sea port at Norfolk, Virginia. This seemingly efficient and cost-effective trade route, however, soon developed a competitor - the railroad.
Although the transfer point at Weldon brought prosperity to the area, leaders in North Carolina were displeased that goods passing down the river through the state were destined to be exported from Virginia. They also watched as Virginian investors took advantage of developing steam train technology to bridge the Roanoke River in 1837 and connect Weldon to Petersburg and Norfolk by railroad. North Carolinians did not sit idle for long. In 1840, the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad began operations, connecting the bustling "Wharfs at Weldon" to the state's only deep water port. At the time, the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad was the longest in the world running 161 1/2 continuous miles.
Eventually four major railroads converged at Weldon. Running east-west were the Seaboard & Roanoke and the Raleigh & Gaston Railroads which later merged into Seaboard Air
Landscape of the Iron Horse
For decades the Weldon rail industry prospered but it was not immune to the eventual nation-wide decline of railroads, and the town's importance as a transfer hub eventually disappeared. As buildings decayed and urban development required razing abandoned structures, many of Weldon's railroad landmarks disappeared. Three important structures, however, did survive.
The oldest is the Seaboard Air Line freight terminal originally built in 1838 and then enlarged in 1881. The building was actively used by the railroad until 1967 before it was purchased by a private company and converted into offices. Today it houses several local radio stations and the WNVN television studio.
The other two remaining structures were completed in 1911 and served complementary roles. These were the overhead viaduct built by the Atlantic Coast Line and the Union Station passenger depot constructed as
In 1908, the Atlantic Coast Line began building a 3,700 foot long viaduct and bridge over the Roanoke River to replace the 1837 structure. Because of Weldon's sloping landscape, the viaduct and the Atlantic Coast Line's tracks crossed 20 feet above those of Seaboard Air Line. Ironically, it was this intersection where both companies had the greatest need to exchange freight and passengers. The decision was then made to build a joint-effort Union Station. Seaboard Air Line constructed the lower main terminal building while the Atlantic Coast Line built the elevated platforms and waiting rooms overhead. The two levels were connected by a set of stairs and an elevator for easy transfer of goods and people. The facilities were used for sixty years until Weldon's passenger service ceased in 1971. Shortly thereafter, the upper platforms, stairs, waiting rooms and elevator were removed and the lower Union Station was converted into the town library. The overhead viaduct is still used today as part of the main north-south of CSX Transportation.
Location. 36° 25.707′ N, 77° 35.786′ W. Marker is in Weldon, North Carolina, in Halifax County. Marker is on West 1st Street, on the right when traveling east. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Weldon NC 27890, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. Wilmington and Weldon Railroad (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Roanoke Canal (about 500 feet away); Rockfish Capital of the World (about 700 feet away); Wilmington & Weldon RR Trestle (approx. ¼ mile away); First Railroad (approx. half a mile away); Benjamin S. Turner (approx. 1.6 miles away); a different marker also named Roanoke Canal (approx. 4.2 miles away); a different marker also named Roanoke Canal (approx. 4.3 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Weldon.
Categories. • Railroads & Streetcars •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on April 27, 2013, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page has been viewed 335 times since then and 8 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. submitted on April 27, 2013, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.