For more than 125 years, railroading was Wilmington North Carolina’s chief industry. In 1840 the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad was completed and was the longest continuous rail line in the world at 161 miles long. Near the turn of the 20th century, several railroads up and down the eastern seaboard merged to become the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad. The company headquarters was located here in Wilmington.
During it’s day the railroad contributed heavily to the area’s commercial and industrial growth and provided jobs and revenue for the local economy. In 1960 the ACL moved its headquarters from Wilmington to Jacksonville, FL. It was the largest single move of employees ever staged by a southeastern industry. The railroad moved over 1,000 employees, their families, their belongings, and the company files and office equipment more than 450 miles by rail.
Started in 1979 by three women and a table of ACL Railroad artifacts, the Wilmington Railroad Museum was dedicated to preserving the rich history of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad and the history of railroading in the southeastern United States. By 1983 the Museum found a home in the former ACL Freight Office Building at the north end of downtown Wilmington. Exhibits quickly expanded, helped by donations of a vintage locomotive, boxcar, and a caboose. For the next 25 years, the Museum added to its collections, acquiring artifacts and providing information that interpreted the growth and impact of railroads, along with the people who worked on them. In 2007, the museum moved to an authentic 1883 railroad freight warehouse, a setting that provides more space for the collections and greatly improves comfort and accessibility for visitors.
The Railroad Museum features a children’s area with train toys and play tables; a Model Railroad room with everything from Thomas the train to the realistic HO trains built as a replica of Wilmington; Museum quality displays of engineer’s clothing, artifacts, and items from train cars; and real train cars form the Atlantic Coast Railroad.
The Railroad Museum is located at 505 Nutt Street in Wilmington. Admission prices for the museum are $9.50 for adults, $8.50 for seniors and military, and $5.50 for children (ages 2 to 12). For more information about the museum please visit their website or call 910-763-2634. The days and times for the museum change seasonally, the full schedule is posted on their website.