The Coming of the Railroad

The Coming of The Railroad

Image of the Little Salisbury railroad engineIn October of 1880, after forty years of technical difficulties and political bickering, the Western North Carolina Railroad arrived in Asheville. Soon after, other railroad lines came from north and south. The railroad brought massive changes to the life and economy of the region. Commerce boomed as new goods came in and farm products found new markets. Farmers also provided food to the many new hotels and boarding houses that were springing up to meet a flood of newcomers to the area, both new settlers and tourists. Local mountaineers found jobs as waiters, busboys, and drivers. Within ten years Asheville’s population quadrupled to over 10,000.

The railroad also opened up the vast hardwood forests to timber companies who clear-cut the mountainsides and often left little but erosion in their wake. Finally, the railroad made new fence laws necessary to keep farm animals off the tracks. This brought an end to the common practice by mountain farmers of letting their livestock graze freely. The new laws put even greater pressure on the vast majority of farmers, who had only small land holdings. After centuries of an agrarian economy, trade and tourism were destined to become the driving forces in the evolution of the use of the land.