Carrboro residents are accustomed to the train that rolls through the town’s downtown every morning, stopping traffic and ringing its bell. However, not many know that Carrboro’s history with the railroad dates back to before the town even existed.
In 1882, Carrboro was founded around a train depot. Carrboro was referred to then as the “West End” of Chapel Hill. When the rail line was built, there was no intention of forming a town separate from Chapel Hill.
“The train was actually running in Carrboro long before it was the town of Carrboro,” author and lifelong Carrboro resident Richard Ellington said.
In the years that followed, the train was used primarily to haul materials and products to and from an iron mine in Chapel Hill.
In the 1930s, the train had several passenger cars added so that it could be used for travel as well as freight purposes. By then, the railroad stretched all the way onto UNC’s campus. It had stops directly in front of Wilson Library and the space now occupied by Davis Library, Ellington said.