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RAIL: The Railroad and Incarcerated Laborer Memorial Project

The construction of the Mountain Division of the Western North Carolina Railroad is widely considered one of the greatest human accomplishments in regards to both engineering and construction ever undertaken at the time it occurred. The project took place over a period of several years in the late 1800s. Many people are aware that the railroad provided the first dependable access to and from much of Western North Carolina for the rest of the state as well as much of the nation. Many also know the names of some of those who were instrumental in seeing through the completion of this ambitious project. Names such as Colonel Alexander Boyd Andrews, of Andrews’ Geyser fame. However, what most people are unaware of is that at least 95% of the labor which built the railroad across the Blue Ridge Escarpment was completed by inmates from the North Carolina State Penitentiary… and approximately 98% of those inmates were African American men… the majority of whom were unjustly imprisoned…

Asheville Weekly Citizen, May 9, 1878

This project was created to share in the true story behind this marvelous human endeavor and to honor their memory. Ultimately, this website seeks to uncover another frame in the hidden history of an Appalachian world rich in both heritage and diversity, and to memorialize ALL of those who lost their lives in this monumental undertaking.

The Steering Committee of RAIL would like to welcome you to learn about the work we are doing and we hope you enjoy your visit to our humble website.

Please click on the menus above to navigate through the website.

If you would like to donate via a secure PayPal transaction to the RAIL Project’s goal of a Memorial Plaque to be placed at Andrews Geyser, please click the link below:

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