Updated: April 2019
A Beautifully Restored Depot
Situated in a beautifully restored train station, the Railroad Depot and Museum in Morganton showcases a concise collection of railroad memorabilia of an era, when passenger trains brought an increasing number of tourists into the Blue Ridge Mountains and to the villages along the railroad lines.
Visitors of the Railroad Depot and Museum can see old railroad equipment, a telegraph, a ticket counter, a “splittin’ stove” and many vintage photographs. The exhibition also includes a 100-piece collection of dining car tableware, a brass bell and a headlamp from a steam locomotive.
The History Museum of Burke County operates the Railroad Depot and Museum.
A Lovely Piece of History
In 1860, preparations were made to lay track for the Western North Carolina Railroad from Salisbury to Morganton. The line reached Morganton only after the American Civil War (1861-1865) in 1868. Initially, rail service ended in Old Fort NC as the Blue Ridge escarpment created an insurmountable barrier. After monumental engineering and construction efforts to build multiple switchbacks and tunnels, the line finally reached Asheville in 1880.
The Railroad Depot was probably built in the 1860s. It was remodeled in 1910 and then later again in 1952. The work in 1952 removed much of the depot’s turn-of-the-century charm by changing the original roof overhangs, altering window and door locations, adding a concrete floor under the building, removing the flying chimneys and enclosing the original east porch. The beaded board sidings inside were covered with sheetrock and inexpensive paneling.
In 2004, Raleigh-based architectural firm HagerSmith Design completely restored the Railroad Depot to its original exterior appearance of 1910. Inside, they covered the concrete floor with maple wood and preserved the original beaded board sidings, letting the Railroad Depot’s nostalgic charm shine once again.
Did You Know?
Regular passenger rail service to Western North Carolina ended in August 1975, and many of the railroad depots and stations stood empty, the windows covered by boards, and left to the incursions of the weather.
In 2001, the Railroad Division of the Department of Transportation in North Carolina adopted a multi-step plan to bring passenger rail service back to Western North Carolina.
The passenger rail line is supposed to run between Salisbury and Asheville, with stops in Statesville, Hickory, Valdese, Morganton, Marion, Old Fort, and Black Mountain.
As an initial step of this significant initiative, six railroad depots have been brought back to their historic beauty including the Railroad Depot in Morganton NC.
Sat.: 1pm to 3pm.
The Railroad Depot and Museum is accessible by wheelchair.