North Carolina Railroads - Warrenton Railroad


Year Chartered or Incorporated

Year Line Operational

Year Service Ended

Original Starting Point

Original Ending Point





Warrenton, NC

Warren Plains, NC

Warrenton Number 4
+ 1876 - Company organized on April 21, 1876 under the laws of North Carolina.
The original charter for the Warrenton Rail Road was issued by the NC State Legislature on January 28, 1871. Several sources incorrectly asserted that the charter was issued in 1877, but these are incorrect. On February 10, 1877, the Legislature issued an Act authorizing the town of Warrenton to subscribe to stock in said railroad, among other minor amendments to the original charter. Since little had been accomplished between 1871 and 1877, many historians assert that the railroad did not get launched until 1877 - mostly correct. It still took eight more years until the short line was operational.
The Warrenton Railroad was a 3.5-mile connector line from Warren Plains to Warrenton. It operated from 1884 until 1985 when the line was closed down.

From the 1st Annual Report of the North Carolina Railroad Commission, dated December 31, 1891:

The Warrenton Railroad Company was organized April 21st, 1876, under the laws of the State of North Carolina, Act of General Assembly, February 10th, 1877.

The Warrenton Railroad runs from Warrenton, NC, to Warren Plains, a station on the Raleigh & Gaston Railroad; distance, including side track, is 3-1/2 miles. Cost of road, equipment and permanent improvements, $16,770.

President ----------------------------- W. J. White-------------------------- Warrenton, NC.
Secretary-Treasurer ------------------ J. M. Gardner------------------------ Warrenton, NC.
General Manager--------------------- C. P. Shell---------------------------- Warrenton, NC.

When the Raleigh & Gaston Railroad was being constructed, surveyors got to Warrenton County in 1838 and planned to take the railroad through the county seat of Warrenton. However, the local leaders did not like the idea at all and called a town meeting to determine what action to take. It was decided to send armed men out and drive the railroad surveyors off. To accommodate the locals, the R&G engineers changed their plans and re-routed the railroad through the nearby Warren Plains.

Many years later, a new generation of leaders in Warrenton realized their fore-fathers' folly, and in 1876 they organized the Warrenton Railroad, which was a 2.9 mile connector from the county seat to link up with the Raleigh & Gaston Railroad, which was now merged into the Seaboard & Raleigh Railroad, and by 1900 was known as the Seaboard Airline Railway. This short connector was completed and operational by 1884. 

In 1876, state Senator John W. Cunningham of Person County, who had married Martha Helen Somerville of Warren County, introduced legislation for a special election in Warren County to decide whether the town of Warrenton would subscribe $3,000 towards a new connector line from Warrenton to Warren Plains. Nat Jones, who was the Sheriff of Warren County, was named President of the Warrenton Railroad Company, and soon thereafter things began to happen.

The roadbed was vigorously graded, then energy and money ran out for the time being. Railroad ties were sold for firewood. The county's treasury was exhausted, and public funds were badly needed to repair the run-down county roads and bridges, a much higher priority to the citizens.

In 1881, interest returned with envy - neighboring Granville County had just completed a twelve-mile track to the county seat of Oxford with the Oxford & Henderson Railroad. Oliver P. Shell, who operated the hack to Warren Plains, volunteered to build a railroad depot at Warrenton and to purchase an engine to run on the track, whenever it might be laid. It would take another three years.

In 1884, the ties for the Warrenton Railroad were laid, and the rails were spiked down. Living up to his earlier promise, Oliver P. Shell built a station in the county seat of Warrenton. On November 8th, the line was complete from Warren Plains to the town limits of Warrenton, much to the thanks of William J. White, a most energetic community booster and local U.S. Civil War hero who pushed for the railroad's completion.

In chugged the locomotive with two passenger cars in tow. Mr. Shell was on the rear platform acting as conductor. The new railroad began to pay dividends almost immediately, and by 1887, service had improved that gave the county commissioners confidence to raise $1,800 to pay off some old debts. Most of the railroad's stock was owned by the town of Warrenton.

In 1916, the Warrenton Railroad was valued at $18,000. The town of Warrenton had a population of 1,500. 

In 1985, the Warrenton Railroad closed its offices and ceased all operations.

Towns on Route:


Warren Plains

The Thirteenth Annual Report of the North Carolina Commission for the Year Ending December 31, 1911, with Compilations from Railroad Returns for the Year Ending June 30, 1911, includes the route of the Warrenton Railroad:

Towns on the Line (3 miles):
Warren Plains

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