"Travel by Railroads, Cars, and also Planes in the 1920s"

by Walter R. TurnerReprinted through permission from the Tar heel Junior Historian. Spring 2004.Tar hoe Junior historian Association, NC Museum of History

When people War I ended in 1918 and also the troops come home, folks feeling optimistic around the future and also eager to gain on v their lives. This optimism resulted in an extraordinary decade that brought major changes in the means citizens traveled by rails, top top roads, and also in the air.

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People had been traveling by train for decades. Throughout the 1920s, southerly Railway activate one hundred daily trains transparent the state. The railroad likewise operated a large maintenance and repair shop in ~ Spencer (the current site the the north Carolina transportation Museum in Rowan County). Another huge railroad, Atlantic coastline Line Railroad, located a maintain shop in Rocky Mount and the firm headquarters in Wilmington.

More than fifteen hundred towns or urban in the state had railway stations. Huge stations with interesting designs quiet exist in Salisbury, Hamlet, Rocky Mount, and also Greensboro. Train station in Wilmington and also Charlotte have actually been take it down.

In the 1920s, railroads developed new programs for vacation travelers. Comfortable Pullman cars because that spending the night and quality food in dining cars make long-distance travel a pleasure. Florida was a renowned destination. Yet railroads likewise encouraged access time to high-end resorts in Asheville and Pinehurst.

If someone took the train come Asheville, the or she would likely transfer to a streetcar because that a ride to the destined hotel or resort. At that time, more than a dozen north Carolina towns and also cities had streetcar systems, which available convenient rides because that only five cents between railroad stations, neighborhoods, and downtown areas.

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But an ext and more Tar Heels to be buying cars for the first time. They own 136,000 through 1921—and version T Fords to be the many popular, due to the fact that of your reasonable price and reliability. Motorists liked the flexibility that dare provided. However, they were frustrated at having to journey on dust roads between towns and also cities, especially during rainy or wintry weather. Dirt was a large problem.

Harriet Morehead Berry was determined to improve the condition of the state’s highways. A indigenous of Hillsborough, she was a graduate of the State Normal and also Industrial school (later Woman’s College and now UNC–Greensboro). She join the Geological and also Economic survey in Chapel Hill in 1901 together a secretary and also developed a reputation as someone who might quickly understand complex issues about highways, the environment, and employment. The inspection office helped countless organizations, including the north Carolina an excellent Roads Association.

The association had actually tried for countless years to obtain roads and also highways improved. Berry knew something had to change. Beginning in 1919, she took fee of the an excellent Roads Association, raising the organization’s membership from 2 hundred to fifty-five hundreds in just two years. One historian wrote, “Under the may be direction of Harriet Berry, the association demonstrated come citizens the every section of the state that the road device would advantage them directly and also quickly.”

By the time the 1921 legislature met, Berry and the great Roads Association were well ready to affect the legislature. By that time a progressive governor, Cameron Morrison that Charlotte, and also a talented chairman the the State Highway Commission, Frank page of Aberdeen, to be in office. Responding come public need for much better roads, the legislature happen the historical Highway Act, which consisted of a one-cent-per-gallon taxes on petrol to aid finance hard-surface, all-weather highways.

By 1929 the legislature had actually raised the gas taxes to five cents every gallon. These funds allowed the state to pave more than 3 thousand miles of hard-surface (concrete or asphalt) highways connecting the ar seats and also state attractions. This routes contained the state’s first three-lane (Greensboro to Thomasville) and four-lane (Charlotte come Gastonia) highways. Also in 1929 the State Highway Patrol to be organized, consists of ten officers and also twenty-seven troopers who rode motorcycles. Since of this achievements, north Carolina arisen a national reputation as the great Roads State.

While take trip by the state’s railroads and also highways increased, citizens across North Carolina also attended exciting barnstorming reflects at neighborhood airfields. These mirrors featured wing-walking, daredevils jumping the end of airplanes through parachutes, and the chance for airplane rides for 5 dollars a person.

In might 1927 Charles Lindbergh flew non-saw from brand-new York City come Paris in a single-engine airplane, the Spirit of St. Louis. It took him 33½ hours to take trip the 3,610 miles. “Lindy will Paris!” screamed one newspaper headline. This dramatic event made headlines in every newspaper in the country and made the young aviator a nationwide hero. To additional promote aviation, Lindbergh flew the Spirit that St. Louis come every state in the nation during 1927. Excited crowds saw and heard that speak in Greensboro and also Winston-Salem. They want to fly, too.

The publicity from Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight and national tour motivated the development of airports and also scheduled passenger flights in north Carolina. Brand-new airports were built in Winston-Salem (now blacksmith Reynolds Airport), Greensboro (Piedmont Triad worldwide Airport), and also Wilmington (Wilmington global Airport).

In many locations of the state, small aviation suppliers experimented with carrying passengers from one city to another. In 1930 east Air Transport, soon renamed eastern Airlines, began regular reserved flights from new York come Miami, through stops in Greensboro and also Charlotte. The airline included Raleigh as a stop the following year. These flights brought both passengers and mail.

But in north Carolina, the large transportation story in the 1920s to be the development of all-weather highways that brought together counties and regions and benefited farmers and those who resided in towns and cities. The variety of vehicles tripled and also led to brand-new businesses, together as auto dealerships, business stations, and bus and trucking companies. Indeed, the highways deserve the state a nationwide reputation as the great Roads State.

At the time of this article’s publication, Walter R. Turner was chronicler at the north Carolina transport Museum at Spencer. That is the author of Paving Tobacco Road: A Century of development by the phibìc Carolina room of Transportation.

Image credit:

"300 block, Wilmington Street, Raleigh, NC." c.1926. Indigenous Carolina Power and also Light (CP&L) photograph Collection (Ph.C.68), north Carolina State Archives. PhC68_1_129. Virtual at https://www.flickr.com/photos/north-carolina-state-archives/2341307464/.

Additional resources:

NC Department of Transportation files in the NC Digital collection (Government & Heritage Library and also NC State Archives)

NC LIVE resources ~ above the background of transport in phibìc Carolina.

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Resources in libraries on the background of transport in phibìc Carolina

Resources on transport in learn NC.

Transportation in north Carolina in Documenting the American south (UNC Libraries)