1907 Train Depot - Yesterday and Today

New Train Station circa 1907 - Historic North Carolina Collection, Archival Edition 1999
Click image to enlarge
In 1858 the Atlantic & North Carolina Railroad was completed from Goldsboro, through New Bern to Morehead City. Forty-seven years later plans were finally made to extend the rails to Beaufort. Until that time, visitors were transported by boat. 

In 1905 a meeting was of local citizens was held in Beaufort with Mayor William F. Dill presiding. A representative of the Atlantic and North Carolina Railroad estimated a cost of $150,000 to link Morehead and Beaufort by rail. In addition to tracks and trestles, a causeway had to be constructed over the marshland. Then, in July of 1906 the town agreed to construction of a depot at the corner of Broad and Pollock Streets at a cost of $15,000.

On November 18, 1906, the first train backed into Beaufort. This line, Beaufort and Western Railroad (1905-1906), was acquired by Norfolk and Southern Railway in 1906.
On June 8, 1907, Beaufort launched "Gala Week." Banners and bunting were draped while residents and guests dressed in Sunday best attended a grand parade and speeches that launched the festivities, all celebrating Beaufort's new depot and the first train—coming into town engine first.

The Spanish Colonial Revival six-bay long and two-bay wide train station was built of frame construction with a steep hipped roof; eaves flared outward to create an overhang of about ten feet on all sides. It was covered with red tile shingles and supported by massive sawn brackets. Walls were built with a weatherboard wainscot with rough-textured stucco above. The building had Craftsman-style paired sash windows and a bay window on the Broad Street side, flanked by two entrances. The interior contained two separate waiting rooms. 

Neal Willis, born in 1917, wrote in Beaufort by the Sea, Memories of a Lifetime, "It was quite an event when the trains came in each day. We would go down to Railroad Street (Broad Street) and count the cars and wave at the passengers. The Depot had white and colored sections. In between was the ticket office. On the west side was the freight room. Mr. Seth Gibbs was the stationmaster. Mr. Webb was the ticket agent and telegrapher.” The depot was full of activity for thirty years; the train not only provided easier transportation to and from Beaufort, it also brought a new economy, enabling local citizens to more easily ship seafood and other goods.

By 1938, passenger service ceased when the line between Morehead City and Beaufort was acquired by the Beaufort and Morehead Railroad. Owners of the depot were persuaded to sell the vacant train depot to the Town of Beaufort to use as its library. The 2,570 square foot building required considerable refurbishing. The Beaufort Woman’s Club, under the leadership of Mrs. W. L. Woodard, came to the rescue raising funds for the work. In December 1940 the library moved into the depot and was located there into the 1960s when the leaking roof, termites and the old pot-belly stove provided an inadequate location for a proper library.

Though there was no passenger depot, the railroad line continued to operate as “The Route of the Jets” between Beaufort and Morehead City into the 1980s. The railroad drawbridge over the Beaufort Channel at the foot of Broad Street was demolished in the mid-1990s; the removal of the tracks down the middle of Broad Street began in 1994.

In 1996 the Beaufort Woman’s Club joined with the Town of Beaufort to thoroughly and beautifully restore the 1907 Train Depot. With much help from John and Ginny Costlow, its period displays of early-20th century railroad memorabilia and old photographs, help the depot remain a symbol and a reminder of the train bringing the outside world to Beaufort. 

The historic building currently functions as an annex to the Beaufort Town Hall. 
It is used for town and community meetings, as well as special events.

Sources for this article:
Ruth Little – Beaufort National Register Historic District Survey, Nov. 1997
Jack Dudley - Beaufort An Album of Memories
Susan W. Simpson – Carteret County Public Library, Beaufort - A Brief History
Neal Willis – Beaufort By the Sea, Memories of a Lifetime