north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program



Marker Text:

     Progressive leaders of North Carolina led by former Governor John Motley Morehead organized the North Carolina Railroad in July 1850. The first rails were laid in Greensboro in 1851 and by 1856 the railway was open for traffic between Goldsboro and Charlotte, passing through many of the state’s prominent piedmont towns along its 223 miles of track. The new railway opened a new era of transportation in the state and created new markets for goods and products throughout the region. The railway served as the backbone of future railroad growth and led to the expansion of towns along its corridor.

     One town that grew out of the railroad boom was Company Shops, now Burlington. Soon after construction was complete on the new railway and trains began their east-west travels, officials realized that centralized repair and maintenance operations were needed. After some deliberation, they decided that the offices and shops should be placed along the railroad corridor in an area roughly at the center of the laid track, in Alamance, a rural county. The North Carolina Railroad Company contracted with local families to purchase almost 632 acres of land for repair shops, offices and railroad employee homes. The company intended to control the growth of their new town, called Company Shops, by owning all land associated with the track repair shops. Brick buildings were constructed to house repair operations including two repair shops, a carpentry shop and a blacksmith shop. Company Shops grew into a bustling town until the start of the Civil War and, during the war, the town was a hub of activity as North Carolina’s railroads were vital to the Confederate war effort. At the end of the war the shops were targets of both retreating Confederates and advancing Union forces.

     The railroad industry struggled through Reconstruction and slowly rebuilt its network to meet the growing needs of the state. Despite post-war financial troubles, the shops and the town that grew up around them and Company Shops flourished until the 1880’s. In 1886, after changes in the management of the railroad industry, officials moved the maintenance and repair operations to Manchester, Virginia, effectively cutting off the town’s major source of employment and local business (NOTE: the marker incorrectly indicates the year of the closure as 1866). Following the devastation of losing the shops to Virginia, the townspeople changed the name of the town to Burlington in 1887.

Allen Trelease, The North Carolina Railroad, 1849-1871(1991)
Durward T. Stokes, Company Shops: The Town Built by a Railroad (1981)
North Carolina Railroad, Company Shops Station:

Location: County:

Original Date Cast:




north carolina highway historical marker program

© 2008 North Carolina Office of Archives & History — Department of Cultural Resources