May 12, 2020
Iconic Boylan Avenue Bridge Has Rich Railroad History
Raleigh, Boylan Avenue Bridge, 2020

Raleigh’s Boylan Avenue Bridge, which extends over the North Carolina Railroad, is often a destination for locals and visitors who want to capture an image of the city’s skyline. But, did you know that the Boylan Avenue Bridge has an interesting history beyond providing a vista for the ever-growing capital city?

This Birdseye View illustration, circa 1872, is a great way to see the Boylan Wye, where the North Carolina Railroad, and what is now the CSX Railroad, intersect.

Raleigh Birdseye View, 1872
Bird’s eye view of the city of Raleigh, North Carolina, 1872. Courtesy of Library of Congress Geography and Map Division Washington, D.C.

The Boylan Avenue Bridge was one of the first bridges built to extend over the North Carolina Railroad. The original bridge structure was primarily wooden.

Wooden Boylan Avenue Bridge, 1912
Boylan Avenue bridge in 1912. Copy from Raleigh, Our Capitol City in Days of Long Ago, published 1969. From the General Negative Collection. Courtesy of the State Archives of North Carolina, Raleigh, NC.

The Seaboard Airline Railroad (SAL), now CSX (pictured on the left), runs parallel with the North Carolina Railroad, diverging after running under the Boylan Avenue Bridge. At the time this photo was taken, trains often carried both passengers and freight. In 1913, the wooden bridge was demolished, and a steel truss bridge was built in its place.

Trains, Boylan Avenue Bridge, 1912
Two trains underneath Boylan Avenue bridge in Raleigh, 1912. From the General Negative Collection. Courtesy of the State Archives of North Carolina, Raleigh, NC.

Like the Boylan Avenue Bridge, the Boylan Tower was an iconic structure in its own right. The tower, a two-story wooden structure, housed the mechanics that controlled the track interlocking.

Boylan Avenue Bridge, Boylan Avenue Tower
Boylan Avenue Bridge, Boylan Avenue between West Martin & West Hargett Streets, Raleigh. From the Historic American Buildings Survey. Courtesy of Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

An employee would receive orders from trains and manually push or pull the Armstrong levers that would move switches on the tracks, enabling trains to shift to another track.

Inside Raleigh Tower, 1960’s. From William Allen Collection. Courtesy of the State Archives of North Carolina, Raleigh, NC.

Around 1978, the steel truss road bridge closed to vehicle traffic, and was eventually demolished, with the current bridge being constructed in 1982.

Raleigh, Boylan Avenue Bridge Demolition, 1982
Boylan Bridge during demolition, March 1982. From the N&O Collection. Courtesy of the State Archives of North Carolina, Raleigh, NC. Copyrighted by the Raleigh News and Observer.

The current bridge is a steel girder and concrete deck highway bridge with multiple piers located within the NCRR corridor. More recently, crash walls were added as a result of the reconfiguration of the NCRR and CSX tracks under the bridge, in order to allow for railroad access to the new Raleigh Union Station.

Boylan Avenue Bridge Construction, 1982
Boylan Bridge construction, 1982. From the N&O Collection. Courtesy of the State Archives of North Carolina, Raleigh, NC. Copyrighted by the Raleigh News and Observer.

The Boylan Avenue Bridge continues to be an iconic destination in the city as well as an important link between downtown Raleigh and the Boylan Heights neighborhood.

Raleigh, Boylan Avenue Bridge, 2020
Boylan Bridge, 2020, NCRR.

Approximately 20-30 freight trains pass under the Boylan Bridge each week, providing service to business and industry located in North Carolina, as well as the rest of the country.  Ten Amtrak trains also run under the bridge each day, offering regular passenger service between Raleigh and Charlotte, and connections to multiple routes between Miami, Savannah, New Orleans and New York.

The North Carolina Railroad: Collaborating with Communities and Spurring Economic Growth

NCRR’s role in NC’s future

Raleigh’s Boylan Ave. Bridge extends over NCRR and is often a destination if you want to capture an image of the city’s skyline. But, did you know that the bridge has an interesting history beyond providing a vista for the ever-growing capital city? https://www.ncrr.com/iconic-boylan-avenue-bridge-has-rich-railroad-history/

Many thanks to our essential workforce, including railroad workers. Freight trains remain in service. Remember to always expect a train. #SeeTracksThinkTrain @OL_NC @OLINational https://bit.ly/2YD4aDN

Since 1849, NCRR has worked every day to spur economic growth in NC. We're not stopping now. See how NCRR expands opportunities in our state. https://youtu.be/CXSlk3xNQbs

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