As part of Indian Trail’s 105th anniversary, we’re running a series of short articles about the town’s history.
In 1848 the North Carolina legislature authorized a railroad that would connect the eastern part of the state with the piedmont. The following year the North Carolina Railroad was created. In 1855-56, the first tracks were laid through selected areas of the Piedmont by the North Carolina Railroad. The line eventually ran from Goldsboro to Raleigh and Salisbury to Charlotte. Following the Civil War, construction was resumed on the line from Wilmington to Charlotte.
Indian Trail received its first rail service in 1874 with the completion of the tracks by the Carolina Central Railroad (later the Seaboard). In early times, steam engines required water stops every 7 to 10 miles. Indian Trail was one of those stops. Later, with the introduction of tenders carrying fuel and water, trains could run 100 to150 miles without a refill. Indian Trail also had its own modest depot and passengers could easily travel to nearby towns, Charlotte and beyond.
The Indian Trail depot was located across the street from the brick building (formerly the Post Office and today Lilly’s Auction) that stands next to the tracks. The Indian Trail depot is reported to be similar to one in Matthews. There also was a spur next to the main track where boxcars lined up so goods could be loaded and unloaded. Passenger and freight trains stopping in Indian Trail meant fertilizer and other goods also became available and cotton and other crops could be shipped to market. In addition, traveling at 15 to 20 miles per hour, trains sped up passenger travel and cut the cost of transporting freight by half. Because of the train stop, farmers from all over the area came to Indian Trail to sell their cotton and buy other produce.
By 1907, Indian Trail prospered with a downtown that included a cotton gin, brickyard, sawmill, corn mill, general stores, a drug store, grocery, telephone exchange, and a jail. The railroad was the impetus leading to the formation of Indian Trail.
During the era of cotton, the train became known as the “Boll Weevil” because it traveled through so much cotton country. The construction of paved roads and the increased use of buses, automobiles and trucks led to the slow decline of the passenger service in Indian Trail and elsewhere.