The Cape Fear Railways, not CSX, operates the post railway system at Fort Bragg under contract with the Army. The CFR links to CSX at Fort Junction near Route 210. A long, unused track runs through Fayetteville to a junction with the Aberdeen & Rockfish RR at Skibo, but it has been out of service for decades. According to CFR employees, it remains in place only due to an Army requirement to have to rail links to the outside world. In many places, however, rail is missing, pulled up, paved over, etc., and no one has any intention of ever operating over it again.
The CFR mainly carries aviation fuel for nearby Pope AFB's aircraft, as well as military equipment, ammunition, and plywood, and it provides deployment support. Operating hours, at last report, were from Monday through Friday, 0730 to 1600, and 0700 to 1530 during the summer months. Rail is 115 pounds, and the enginehouse is located in Building 5-5210 in the Honeycutt Yard.
Below is a history of the line provided by a CFR employee.
The History of the Cape Fear Railways
by Nick Darnell
Camp Bragg was originally established in 1918 as a field artillery training center. It was renamed Fort Bragg on September 30, 1932.
The first railroad to serve the installation was the Camp Bragg Railway, which existed for only seven months during the post's construction. The line purchased a three-ton Plymouth numbered CN 504 on September 25, 1918, later selling it on April 19, 1919. The end of operations is uncertain, but it's assumed the line was dismantled that same year. Its location can only be guessed, although it's believed to have run from the Atlantic Coast Line's main line between Fayetteville and Sanford on the post's east side.
The Cape Fear Railways was officially chartered on October 1, 1921 by the North State Power Company (NSPC), John R. Tolar, Jr., A. B. McMillian, and Frank H. Stedman. The NSPC was listed as owning one half and the three gentlemen owned the other half. The men, all from Fayetteville, were listed on the charter. The Cape Fear was the descendant of the Fayetteville Street Railway & Power Company (FSRY&P), chartered on August 20, 1906 and authorized to build a trolley system for the city of Fayetteville, with options to extend in a 50 mile radius from the city. The FSRY&P was required to consult with the Fayetteville Board of Aldermen when doing business with the city.
Actual work on the Fayetteville trolley system started in 1908. The materials for the line, purchased for $7,300 from Joseph E. Bowen, a Norfolk, Virginia dealer, included 120 tons of 56- and 40-pound rail and one 1898 Baldwin locomotive numbered CN 16027. The company lettered it Fayetteville Street Railway & Power Co. and numbered it 421. The FSRY&P operated until January 15, 1909, when it was sold for $75,000 to the Consolidated Railway & Power Company.
The CRY&P had been chartered on September 6, 1908 for the purpose of buying the FSRY&P. The CRY&P operated the line from January 15, 1909 to September 6, 1910 when the Fayetteville Traction & Power Company was chartered and took over the line. The FT&P, in its statement to the North Carolina Corporate Commission in 1911, reported operating a two-mile line with an electric street car.
The CRY&P operated the line until about 1913, then was reportedly dormant until 1918, when Herbert L. Jones of the Cumberland Railway & Power Company restarted it on November 11, 1918. The company defaulted on a loan in May 1921 and was sold by order of the Superior Court of Harnett County on July 2, 1921. Acting for twelve bondholders of the NSPC purchasing the company for $75,000, the company was bought by Herbert L. Jones, the same man who had been ordered to sell the company originally. The purchase caused the NSPC to be chartered for the purchase of the trolley system and then transferred the property to the Cape Fear Railways (chartered October 1, 1921) on December 7, 1921.
The Cape Fear received the trolley system of Fayetteville when the transfer of property took place. It received a bond issue on February 1, 1922 and the line was listed as running on Gillispie Street south of Blount's Creek Bridge near the old fairground to the Market Square. The line circled the square and went west on Hay Street, continuing along Fort Bragg Road to Doctor J. H. Judd's home and the Confederate Women's Home. There was a spur at the intersection of Hay and Robeson streets that ran down south Robeson to Bass Street, where it ended at the car barn at the end of the street. It's uncertain whether the line connected with the ACL main line, which was only a short distance away.
The Cape Fear bought three cars for $6,000 from the J. G. Brill Company in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on August 1, 1922. The powered cars were numbered 18 and 19, while a third, an unpowered trailer, was numbered 20. About that time the company bonds were transferred to the Page Trust Company in Aberdeen, with the Page family becoming the bond owners.
Henry A. Page, Jr. was the principal and J. R. Page was the president. The Cape Fear's properties were still owned by the NSPC and they leased a baggage trailer car to the Cape Fear for the Aberdeen & Rockfish on January 1, 1924. The car was built in Fayetteville and sold to the NSPC. The lease was for the above mentioned car, three cars built in 1923, and a locomotive. The cars were two motor cars numbered 500 and 502, with a third car being numbered 501, a non powered passenger car. The locomotive was a Type 2, Model DL (7-ton) gear driven gasoline type. The number was CN 1513 and it was built by the Fate Root Heath Company on August 14, 1923. The three cars were built by Edwards Railway Motor Car Company (500 on December 19; 501 on May 26, and 502 on November 23). The amount of the lease was $17,333.20, which was financed.
The Cape Fear defaulted on the payments for the purchased and leased equipment and was sold at a public auction on October 27, 1924. The sale did not include the track because it was owned by the NSPC. Henry A. Page, Jr. was the high bidder at the first sale with a big of $42,500, but it was contested by Harry P. Edwards of Edwards Railway Motor Company. The second sale was held and Henry A. Page, Jr., was again the high bidder with a bid of $44,630 and thus became the new owner with its line from Fayetteville up Fort Bragg Road. The end of the line and right of way were at Cain's Station, north of the Bragg Boulevard U.S. Route 401 Bypass. The deed Henry Page received also included a turntable at Robeson Street and the Skibo Extention (both personally built by Page) from the A&R main line to the Cain's Station switch.
The Cape Fear property was listed in a loan on September 21, 1925 through the Page Trust Company of Aberdeen as Skibo to Fort Bragg by Cain's Station and the trolley system that ran south of Blount's Creek Bridge to Fort Bragg Road. The question remains as to whether the trolley reached Fort Bragg Road (Cain's Station), which some believe did and others believe didn't. The loan was repaid in a year.
There was another loan through the Page Trust Company on June 1, 1930, in which the system was listed as a five-mile line from Skibo and Cain's Station to Fort Bragg. The trolley system had been buried and dismantled between 1925 and 1930 and was not listed. The buried portion along Hay Street was uncovered and taken up in the winter of 1984 for downtown renovations by the city of Fayetteville. From 1930 to 1936 the North Carolina Corporation Commission reported the Cape Fear listed the owned five-mile line from Skibo to Fort Bragg and 15 miles of non owned track believed to have been built on Fort Bragg from the Cape Gear Terminus. This point was located on Reilly Street north of the present day Youth Center. When Cape Fear started service to Fort Bragg in 1923, it transported soldiers from the ACL station to the post on the trolley line called the Fort Bragg Limited, offering a ten-cent trip for soldiers. The Cape Fear later discontinued the service, reportedly due to the Depression. The troops were then brought in by buses of the Fort Bragg Coach Company.
The Fort Bragg Railroad received its charter on October 6, 1925 with the charter members being Henry A. Page, Jr., William F. Page, Grady Burney, John G. Nichols, C. F. Harris, and C. H. Bass. The intention of the Fort Bragg was to organize the purchase of the Cape Fear and the five-mile line from Skibo to Fort Bragg; the line from Fayetteville to Fort Bragg was not discussed. The Cape Fear's track ended just inside the southern boundary of the post on Knox Street and connected with the post track at this point. The sale of the Cape Fear to the Fort Bragg Railroad was never completed for unexplained reasons, but it's believed that due to problems caused by Henry Page holding positions both as a lien holder and president of the Cape Fear, the purchase couldn't be completed. Henry Page had 95% stock in the Fort Bragg Railroad, which had offices on Hay Street in Fayetteville, but little else is known about the company's history.
The Cape Fear borrowed money from R. C. Zimmerman to repay Henry Page on March 1, 1938. The line was listed as only operating from Skibo to Cain's Station and Fort Bragg with a distance of five miles. R. C. Zimmerman renounced his trusteeship on April 6, 1938 and it was passed to H. D. Bateman on April 25, 1938. The reports of the 1930s to the North Carolina Commission did mention a line extending to Fort Junction, located on what was the ACL main line from Fayetteville to Sanford. The extra 15 miles included a line extending from Fort Junction to Pope AFB, a spur to the 82nd Airborne Division area, and a second spur to the Cape Fear's Honeycutt Yard. The Cape Fear also leased four miles of 85-pound rail between Skibo and Fort Bragg. The non-owned spur track to the 82nd Airborne area was taken up in 1988 in conjunction with post and track upgrades. Today the Cape Fear operates eight miles of main line, three miles of spur track, and four miles of yard track. The Skibo route has been out of service since 1984, due to the high insurance rates and commercial expansion along the route. Track was significantly upgraded in 1992 and rebuilt GP10 locomotives replaced the old 1953 Alco MRS1 locomotives numbered B-2087 and B-2088.
Both track and locomotives, a pair of GP10s, are now leased from the U. S. government.
The Cape Fear is currently under the ownership of the Seaboard Corporation of Shawnee Mission, Kansas. Seaboard bought the Cape Fear from the Page Family in 1979. The road is limited to serving Fort Bragg and Pope AFB due to restrictions on industry near the post.
There is a great deal of confusion between the Cape Fear Railways on Fort Bragg and the Cape Fear Car Service of Fayetteville. The only connection the two companies have is that the CFCS was formed by former officers of the Cape Fear on May 31, 1964. The companies are not related in what they do. The Cape Fear Railways is a shortline railroad operating a repair facility for the government's fleet of DODX cars operated by the Military Traffic Management Command. The CFCS is a repair facility, repairing only commercial cars, and does not repair those from the government fleet. The CFCS is served by CSX because they are not a railroad and have only a trackmobile to move cars around in its repair tracks and shop.
Today's Cape Fear is a Class III railroad, operating with an average of nine employees (two office and seven train crew and shop personnel). Due to increased tonnage on the line, the track on post has been taken up where it is not in use and upgraded along the main line, important spurs, and the yard. The equipment of the modern Army is getting heavier, and the remaining 10,000 gallon tank cars remaining in use are being replaced with 20,000 gallon cars.
The Cape Fear bought three cabooses (one former C&O and two former Seaboard System) from CSX in 1988, sandblasting and repainting them blue gray with white trim and black lettering, in addition to totally refinishing the interiors of all three. Used as guard cars by the 82nd Airborne and the National Guard, they've gone to training exercises at the National Training Center in California, Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, artillery training sites, and Fort Bliss and Fort Hood, Texas. They've also been used in trains going to the ports of Wilmington, North Carolina; Charleston, South Carolina; Jacksonville, Florida; and Savannah, Georgia. The cabooses are no longer in use, however, due to the refusal by CSX to accept the guard cars on their line.
(The history of the Cape Fear Railways written in March 1991 by Nick Darnell, using information from Railroading in the Carolina Sandhills: Volume 2, 20th Century, 1900 1985, written by David S. Carriker, and information known by employees.)