Sometimes history plays tricks on us. Something that seems so long ago, actually happened in our lifetime. Or sometimes stories just seem too unreal to believe. Social media memes bring some of these odd connections to light. For instance, did you know that Nintendo was founded in 1889? The same time Jack the Ripper was on the loose.
At Belmont Trolley, we are looking to our past as we plan for our future, and we have found no shortage of our own quirky historical connections.
Duke’s right-hand man, Lee
Our trolleys will run on tracks that begin along Glenway Street, run through downtown Belmont to Main Street and extend across Wilkinson, I-85 and beyond. These tracks are part of the Piedmont and Northern Railway (P&N).
The P&N was originally built as a freight and trolley service line in 1911 by James Buchanan Duke (yes, that Duke!). It was an electrically-powered, interurban rail system linking major cities across the Piedmont of the Carolinas, which created unprecedented growth in North Carolina’s textile industry.
Duke’s company, at that time, was called Southern Public Utilities, which is the name you will find on the side of two of our trolley cars. Also employed at Southern Public Utilities was a man named William States Lee. Lee was Duke’s right-hand man, and the brainchild behind the development of the P&N.
UNC Charlotte‘s college of engineering is named for William States Lee, and also happens to be our partner in developing the battery system that will power our fleet of trolleys.
The Belmont Spur
The tracks located in downtown Belmont are a spur off of the original P&N line, and were built at the request of the Chronicle Mill.
In present day, the Chronicle Mill has been redeveloped as a mixed use residential and retail space, preserving the history of the building while transforming it into something beautiful and functional.
How neat to see the mill renovation happening simultaneous to the reestablishment of trolley service on the line when the “Belmont Spur” was put in place to serve the mill in 1916.
Car 85 was built in High Point, North Carolina at Perley A. Thomas Car Works. High Point is known as the “furniture capital of the world,” which seems to be reflected in the beautiful woodwork that appears throughout the trolley car. Perley Thomas also built the famous New Orleans streetcars, and eventually became Thomas Built Buses (which made the school bus you probably rode as a child!).
During his career, Thomas also refurbished streetcars that were used in Charlotte, and today Thomas Built Buses is supporting the College of Engineering at UNC Charlotte through the Senior Design Projects alongside Belmont Trolley.
Do you know any quirky history from our area? We would love to hear about it.
As we continue to look back at the rich history of our region, we are excited to be a part of preserving it. We look forward to being a part of that story when the Belmont Trolley cars traverse the P&N line once again.