Tuesday, September 9, 2008


I thought I'd continue for one more week on the railroad theme. First, in response to the question of how the segment of the NCRR through Durham was actually built, I don't have that much information and it all comes from Allen Trelease's book. Once the survey of the whole line was done in May 1851, small sections of the future line from .5 miles to 2-3 miles in length were awarded to contractors for the hard manual work of grading and preparing a bed on which the track would be built. I would love to know more about this process in what's now Durham County but all I have is that Paul Cameron of plantation (and Stagville) fame and several other local elites were awarded contracts for Orange county (unclear who got what section). They then in turn had enslaved laborers (their own or those rented from others) do the work of building the trackbed (free laborers were also occasionally employed on parts of the RR but it's not clear if there were any in this area) . Much to the chagrin of UNC and Chapel Hill boosters the NCRR survey precluded going through Chapel Hill and instead the University had to settle for a station about 10 miles or so north of the town on the main line when it was finished in 1855.

1865 Army map (From UNC-CH Maps Site)

The 1865 US Army map above shows the course of the RR as well as important local roads. Note university station at Strayhorn's store above - since the NCRR bypassed Chapel Hill a depot was set up about 10 miles or so north of campus to serve the university. This commute wasn't much better than the one from Durham where there was an arguably better road. According to Trelease, when president Buchanan came to UNC's graduation in 1859 he got out of the train in Durham and took a coach the rest of the way. If you can find a copy you can read Tony Reevy's article about the eventual Iron mining/university branch line (to the left below) that was built in the early 1880s between University station and western Chapel Hill (today's Carrboro) and its fate today.

1900-06 Scarborough Atlas (from UNC-CH maps site)

The map above shows the railroad and a few other roads around 1900. This is the first map I know of which shows the mysterious "Funston" on the RR on the very western edge of Durham county. Though I originally hoped for some long lost town, it seems after further investigation that Funston is merely the more recent name of an older rail siding. Jean Anderson points to there being a "woolen siding" at this location after the short lived textile factory which used to be located nearby. Apparently NC-DOT doesn't know the origin of the name but my guess (with no evidence) is that the siding was renamed in 1900 after Frederick Funston a Spanish-American war hero.

The Funston siding still exists and was just widened by NC-DOT a few years ago. There is also a nice sign saying "Funston" along the railway which can be viewed from 751. Above is a photo of its current extent which is much longer than it was 100 years ago. If you live in the western part of American Village or in the new development near the tracks there you might want to try and introduce the name into common usage. As far as I know this was never a stop proper on the NCRR but I would love to be proved wrong on that point.

1 comment:

Jacob said...

Do you know anything about the other place names that are mentioned on that map? You say that Strayhorn's is a store. What about Trices(?)? Brassfield is the name of the storage place where Mari's and my stuff is sitting. I had thought that was Bethesda, but apparently Brassfield is also an old placename?