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Home North Carolina Wake County City of Raleigh Historical Markers Experimental Railroad

Experimental Railroad

Wilmington Street, Raleigh, NC, USA

Latitude & Longitude: 35° 43' 32.3112", -78° 39' 3.0996"
  North Carolina State Historical Marker
    North Carolina State
Historical Marker
    Marker Text:
"Est. 1833. Horses hauled granite for the Capitol over a railroad from a quarry 1 1/4 miles S.E."
     The Experimental Railroad Company, chartered by the 1832-1833 North Carolina General Assembly, was created to build a railroad upon which horse drawn carriages could move granite to the site of the former State Capitol. The Capitol had been destroyed by fire on June 21, 1831. It was not commissioned for rebuilding until 1833, due to calls for its relocation to Fayetteville. Eventually, the General Assembly appropriated $50,000 for the rebuilding of the Capitol, and the cornerstone was laid on June 4, 1833.

     The Experimental Railroad was the first horse drawn train in North Carolina. The first locomotive train was not developed in North Carolina until 1840 with the Raleigh and Gaston line. The idea for the Experimental Railroad was suggested by Sarah Hawkins Polk, whose son Leonidas Polk was living in Boston at the time and had seen a similar method used for the construction of the monument for the Battle of Bunker Hill. The railroad ran from a stone quarry to the eastern end of New Bern Avenue, and then west to Capitol Square, a distance of around one and one quarter miles.

     Although the Experimental Railroad was purpose-built for the construction of the Capitol, the owners of the private railroad expanded the business to include leisure use. On Sunday afternoons, wealthy North Carolinians traveled to Raleigh to ride on the new railroad. Additionally, legislators rode the new railroad while in Raleigh on business. The growing reputation of the Experimental Railroad helped to expand interest in the railroad industry across the state.

     The Experimental Railroad, along with the newly opened rail line between Petersburg, Virginia and Weldon, North Carolina, proved the feasibility and practicality of railroad development. The success built upon the meeting in Alamance County in 1828 and Archibald D. Murphey’s campaigns on behalf of transportation. The development of the Experimental Railroad helped spur the internal improvements that occurred in North Carolina in the 1830s and 1840s.

William S Powell, ed., Encyclopedia of North Carolina (2006)
Charles Clinton Weaver, Internal Improvements in North Carolina Prior to 1860 (1903)
Hugh T. Lefler and Albert Ray Newsome, The History of a Southern State: North Carolina (1954)
Elizabeth Reid Murray, Wake: Capital County of North Carolina, Volume 1 (1983)
Moses N. Amis, Historical Raleigh with Sketches of Wake County (1913)
Hope S. Chamberlain, A History of Wake County, North Carolina (1922)
Experimental Railroad Historical Marker Location Map, Raleigh, North Carolina