06/09/2018 @ 7:30 am

The Train Ride

56-mile one-way bike ride from Cary to Burlington with optional train ride return

Cary, NC
Presenting Sponsor

Burlington Train Station

Information source: http://www.greatamericanstations.com/stations/burlington-nc-bnc/

The Amtrak station in Burlington, opened in July 2003, is sited in the former engine house of the North Carolina Railroad (NCRR), the only remnant of a railroad maintenance facility built in the 1850s. The renovated building, which also houses the NCRR Whistlestop Museum in its lobby, as well as city offices, is called the Company Shops Station.

Moser, Mayer, and Phoenix, Architects, created a design to incorporate many of the architectural features of the former engine house and yet make it fit for modern tenants. The barrel roof was removed to recreate the silhouette from the 1800s. A baking soda solution was applied to the soft brick of the building to remove the white paint and revealed detail not previously visible. Overall, this adaptive reuse of the historic property has had a positive impact on the look of the downtown section, according to its residents. It also won an award for excellence from the Main Street, North Carolina division of the state Department of Commerce.

The engine house reconstruction project cost approximately $3 million. The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) Rail Division leases the 40-passenger waiting room and platform areas from NCRR. NCDOT’s upgrade of the passenger waiting room cost $20,000.

Burlington, in the wooded piedmont of North Carolina, began as the Company Shops. It was founded because the NCRR needed a centrally-located facility on its Goldsboro-Charlotte line, which opened in 1856. The 631-acre site held the principal repair shops for cars and locomotives, homes for workers and officials, company headquarters, a church and a school. The first railroad shops opened in 1857.

In 1871 the Richmond and Danville Railroad (R&D) leased the NCRR for a period of 30 years. The R&D had its own shops in Manchester, Va., and thus the NCRR facilities subsequently lost some of their importance and operated with a reduced workforce.

Due to the changed circumstances, the citizens of the former Company Shops voted to change the town’s name to Burlington in 1887. The R&D was later subsumed into what became Southern Railway, which in 1895 decided to revitalize the maintenance and repair shops while also establishing a new facility in Spencer, N.C. The revival proved short lived, and the Burlington shops were largely empty as the 20th century dawned. Following various non-railroad industrial uses, a fire destroyed much of the complex in June 1918; only the engine house remained relatively unscathed.

Burlington incorporated as a city in 1893 and reinvented itself after the withdrawal of the railroad shops, seeking industry that would make use of the rail connections: textile manufacturing. By the turn of the century, Burlington styled itself the “Hosiery Center of the South.” In the 1920s, the textile business slowed, and to breathe new life into it there, the local Chamber of Commerce supported the organization of Burlington Mills, which would eventually become Burlington Industries, the largest textile manufacturer in the world. When the market for cotton goods fell into depression, the mills switched to rayon and became an industrial giant with that fiber.

Textiles remained prominent in the city even through the depression and with its accompanying labor unrest, and with the building of an aircraft factory in Burlington. However, the severe recession of the 1970s encouraged economic diversification, and a medical diagnostics company is now the largest employer.

The state-owned Piedmont and the state-subsidized Carolinian are primarily financed through funds from the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

Amtrak does not provide ticketing and baggage services at this station, which is served by six daily trains.

Cary Train Station

Information source: 

The current Amtrak station in Cary was built in 1996. It contains a waiting area for Amtrak passengers and local and regional bus patrons, as well as a Department of Motor Vehicles driver’s license office.


Cary’s historic station had been torn down in the 1970s. When rail passenger service resumed in Cary in 1995, it was on a 200-foot platform beside the North Carolina Railroad (NCRR) tracks until the current station opened the following year. The station was made possible by $636,999 from the town and $100,000 from the Triangle Transit Authority. The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) Rail Division paid $100,000 to construct the platform and shelter on the “H” Line (North Carolina Railroad Company) prior to the opening of the depot building.


In 2006, a platform was constructed on the CSX “S” Line and the Silver Starbegan daily service to Cary. This platform was paid for NCDOT (90 percent of the costs) and the town ($30,000). Five years later, the depot was expanded with NCDOT and Federal Railroad Administration funds totaling approximately $2 million; the building reopened on September 1, 2011.


The town of Cary began in 1750 as a settlement called Bradford’s Ordinary. About 100 years later, the construction of the NCRR between New Bern and Hillsborough placed Bradford’s Ordinary on a major transportation route. Allison Francis Page, a Wake County farmer and lumberman, is credited with founding the town, and was its first developer, mayor, postmaster, and railroad agent. Page and his wife Catherine “Kate” Raboteau Page bought 300 acres there in 1854. Page named the development after Samuel Fenton Cary, a prohibition leader from Ohio whom he admired. The town was incorporated in 1871; eight years later, the Seaboard Air Line and NCRR railroads formed Fetner Junction just north of downtown.


When the Research Triangle Park was opened nearby in 1959, Cary began to experience significant growth and it became a favored spot to settle. The town’s continuing reputation as a community for transplants from outside the south has led to its name being said, jokingly, to be an acronym for “Containment Area for Relocated Yankees.” It is certainly one of the fastest growing municipalities in the region, and has won national awards for both its bicycle-friendliness and public safety in recent years. The town government has also been careful in requiring control of local growth by developers through Planned Unit Development zoning since 1971, a first in the state.

Cary High School, which was incorporated in 1896, was the first high school established in the state of North Carolina. Its immediate predecessor, Cary Academy, was founded in 1879. Cary High has had several buildings over the years; its current structure was built in 1938. In North Carolina, it is said that Cary is associated with its innovative and successful high school as much as neighboring Durham is associated with tobacco.


The state-owned Piedmont and the state-subsidized Carolinian are primarily financed through funds from the North Carolina Department of Transportation.


Amtrak provides ticketing and baggage services at this station, which is served by eight daily trains.