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Atlantic & Yadkin Railway

History &


A Brief History

The Atlantic & Yadkin Railway is no more.  Once it ran from Mount Airy, North Carolina southeast to Sanford, North Carolina.  This short line's short lifespan covered 1900 to 1950, but some of its rails were laid down in the nineteenth century as part of the Cape Fear & Yadkin Valley Railway. Some of those tracks are still in use today as parts of the Yadkin Valley Railroad.  

The A&Y came into being when representatives of the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad (soon to be reformed as the Atlantic Coast Line) "outbid" the Southern Railway for the debt-ridden CF&YV in an 1899 auction. The North Carolina legislature had passed a law stating that the CF&YV had to be sold as one package to ensure that service across the state was maintained and the port of Wilmington was protected in the face of the economic reality that most freight was moving north and south to better ports like New York, Baltimore, Charleston and Savannah. Further, the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad had a clause in its mortgage that required any railroad purchased by the W&W to be placed under the same corporate name. But the owners of the W&W did not want the whole of the CF&YV.  

These sentiments, laws, and clauses did not stop the "rail barons" from getting what they wanted. After three rounds of bids, the CF&YV was sold to the Southern Railway, where it was reorganized as a new company under the name Atlantic & Yadkin Railway.  The newly created A&Y then sold back the southern half of its lines from Sanford to Wilmington to the W&W, neatly circumventing the W&W's clause and the will of the people in North Carolina.  The northern half remained a subsidiary of the Southern Railway. The questionable legality of the transaction regarding the split of the CF&YV meant years of legal wrangling by angry investors and interested state citizens who saw the only "trunk" line from the western mountains to a North Carolina port split between two competitors. Finally, the U.S. Supreme Court eventually decided the matter ruling that the railroads' crafty bidding, sale, and reorganization was legal. The Southern wholly owned the A&Y, but due to the legal uncertainties and political sensitivities never fully absorbed it until 1950. Before the 1924 Supreme Court decision, the Southern initially ran the lines as part of its operations. Beginning in 1917 the Southern Railway under the USRA, set up the A&Y to run independently. Before the decision, however, the line was bankrupt and was being operated under a receiver, so the Southern did not reabsorb the A&Y after it won the legal battle. It was well after the Great Depression before the A&Y emerged out of receivership, but for reasons I have not identified yet, the A&Y was left to operate independently. Perhaps the worries of people in Greensboro that the Southern would have less competition kept them separate. Finally though, when the bonds for purchasing the A&Y came due the Southern management, already trying to simplify the tangled corporate and financial structures resulting from its own origin and aggressive growth, decided it was now appropriate to merge the A&Y into the Winston-Salem division. This was accomplished  in short order and relatively smoothly--only with some trepidation and complaints from Greensboro shippers at hearings held by the ICC. On January 1, 1950, the A&Y ended its existence and the properties, equipment and employees became part of the Southern Railway's Winston-Salem division.

Here is a map of the Atlantic & Yadkin Railway dated 1900:

Map of the Atlantic & Yadkin Railway

The A&Y did not own revenue cars, and its locomotives were primarily leased from the Southern.  Much of the line from Rural Hall to Greensboro became redundant after it was absorbed and those tracks were abandoned. The line from Mount Airy to Rural Hall remains intact and is now part of the Yadkin Valley Railroad, which also operates parts of the former Southern Railway K line to North Wilkesboro. The line from Gulf to Sanford was eventually sold to the Atlantic & Western Railway.


This website is copyrighted by David M. Bott.  Images appearing on this website may be protected by U.S. Copyright Law, donor restrictions, and other rights or policies. The Railroad Roman font used in the title was bought from Ben Coifman. Persons who contemplate copying and using font or images should obtain all necessary permissions pertaining to use. Authorization to use images credited to the North Carolina Collection, University of N.C. Library at Chapel Hill should be sought from the Collection at CB#3934, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27514-8890. Telephone 919-962-7992. Images credited to the North Carolina State Library Photo Archives are considered in the public domain.  Images credited to others or unknown are subject to copyright restrictions and permission for use should be obtained.