The Aberdeen and Rockfish, An Independent Rail Line

A&R’s original yard in Aberdeen, circa 1900. Image from the Aberdeen and Rockfish Railroad Company.On June 22, 1892, the Aberdeen and Rockfish Railroad (A&R) Company was organized by Moore County resident and Civil War veteran John Blue

Blue sought to build the line because he needed a way to transport to market the timber and turpentine he was harvesting from his largest holdings in the Aberdeen area. Construction began almost immediately after Blue established the company and continued into the early 1900s. The line reached its original terminus in Rockfish, a small community in Hoke County, in 1902.

As the company’s logging business began to decline, the railroad began two extensions, one southwest from Raeford to Wagram, and another northeast from Rockfish to Fayetteville. The first extension was ultimately sold, but the second proved successful and remains part of the Aberdeen and Rockfish line to this day.

A&R did away with its passenger service in 1921, but continued a rail motor bus service commonly called the “jitney” to handle mail and carry passengers until 1950.

The A&R line was a vital link for carrying passengers and freight to Fort Bragg during World War II, and continued to innovate throughout the 20th century. It was among the first railroads to use diesel power for freight trains, harness radio for train operations and computerize its accounting systems.

Today, the company’s 46 miles of track are still owned and operated by Blue’s descendants despite the widespread consolidation across the industry.

Visit: The N.C. Transportation Museum in Spencer interprets the history of railroads and other methods of Tar Heel transportation.

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