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Atlantic & Yadkin Railway

History &


Sanford (Milepost CF 130.1)


The City of Sanford is the Lee County Seat. It was laid out in 1872 and has an altitude of 375 feet above sea level. The city was incorporated in 1872 and is said to be named for Colonel C.O. Sanford, the locating engineer for the Chatham Railroad.   Jonesboro merged with Sanford in 1947. It's chief products include bricks, pottery, lumber, electrical parts, primary metals, sheet metal working, apparel, industrial machinery, furniture, insecticides and cosmetics according to the North Carolina Gazetteer.

Although the middle of the Cape Fear & Yadkin Valley Railway was Sanford, the A&Y ended there.  In fact, Garreth McDonald told me that a fellow historian has proven through court records and deeds that the A&Y did not quite make it to the Sanford station, but was ended about 100-200 yards north of the station.   If I understand correctly, this arrangement allowed the Atlantic Coast Line passenger trains to pull up past the station for the passengers.  It also allowed the ACL to switch the station without running on the A&Y.  The A&Y not only interchanged with the ACL in Sanford, but the Seaboard Airline and the Atlantic & Western Railway too. The SAL and the ACL - A&Y combined line had a crossing at grade.  The A&Y trains could take on water and coal or could terminate in the yard located in Sanford. I took the contemporary "odds and ends"  photos while visiting with Mr. McDonald.

Recently, I came across and obtained a copy of "City of Sanford: The first 100 Years, 1874-1974" which includes some historic photographs, a map and references to prominent townspeople.  This is a second edition and the photo reproductions are pretty poor, but I am not sure those in the first edition would be high quality as many appear to be reproduced on a photocopier (high tech for 1974!).  I am going to attempt to contact members of the Railroad House Historical Association who compiled and printed the first edition in the hopes of obtaining copy prints of some of the photographs.

The Sanford union passenger station. A real pretty structure. To the east of the A&Y tracks was the passenger station jointly owned 50/50 by it's parent company, the Southern Railway, and the Seaboard Air Line, whose tracks passed east of the station. The station was also used by the Atlantic Coast Line. The photos of this station taken by the ICC surveyors are apparently in the SAL records, as I only found a brief description in the A&Y books. The lintels for the doors and windows and the steps were made of brownstone (likely from the local quarry).  Steps leading up to the station from the platform were of concrete, but the platform itself was made of chert (a hard dark flint-like stone gravel) with gravel fill.  The ICC building record field notes indicate that the agent in 1916 claimed the station was built around 1909-1910.
Sanford aerial view circa 1925

click on thumbnails for larger image

Here is an aerial view of Sanford circa 1925.  The A&Y tracks cross the photo from the upper left towards the bottom right, crossing the Seaboard Airline at grade just south of the union station (in the whitish area in the right center of the photo.  This area is the downtown business district and was considered the most valuable property the A&Y owned in this region by the ICC valuation team.



Track Diagram

ICC V27-33 map of Sanford



A Southern Railway Shippers Guide from 1916 indicates the following industries were located in Ramseur and using the A&Y for delivering products by rail (although this does not cover industries receiving goods or others that may have used the station or team track rather than having a dedicated siding):


Goods Shipped/Rec'd

Company Name

cotton gin


Lee County Cotton Oil Co.

cotton gin


Sanford Cotton Mills

cotton mill

4 yard sheeting, 36"

Sanford Cotton Mills

flour and grist mill

flour, feed and meal

Seaboard Milling Co.

furniture factory

tables, safes, etc.

Fitts-Crabtree Mfg. Co.

grain and hay dealer


Sanford Grocery Co.

grain and hay dealer


Wilkin Rich Co.

planing mill


Sanford Sash & Blind Co.

spoke and handle factory

hubs spokes and handles

A. W. Vickory Co.

steel and iron works, foundries, machine shops

iron work

Moffitt Iron Works


Odds and Ends

Here are some photographs I took while visiting in September of 1999: 

sanford_old_freight_house At the south end of the yard from the station was this building which appears to be the old freight house.

The Sanford Business College and other buildings in the brick capital of North Carolina  located near the tracks.


sanford_brick_bldg To the east of the yard, I saw this interesting old brick structure.   I'm not sure what it is/was used for though. But it certainly would be recognizable by someone from Sanford if you added a model of it to a layout!
sanford_concrete_plant This concrete plant is being served by the current railroad.  You can just see the elevated siding that comes off the yard to the left on top of that retaining wall. 
sanford_concrete_plant A better shot of the siding with the covered hopper waiting to be loaded.
sanford_concrete_plant The brick office building as I panned around to take three shots of the company site.
sanford_ATW_12 I couldn't find an old A&Y locomotive wandering the tracks, but I did find this former neighbor and interchange partner sitting on display near the station.

Clearly, the people of Sanford are aware and proud of their railroad history.


This website is copyrighted 1998-2016 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.

This page  last edited Tuesday, October 11, 2016