Pumphouse workers pose
while waiting to unload coal delivered by train.
The New Holland,
Higginsport, and Mt. Vernon Railroad
There were no paved roads into Hyde County until 1927. The county received an average of 60 inches of rainfall each
year, so it was not unusual for the dirt roads to be impassable. The contractors and developers transported equipment and supplies for the pumping plant and community up Outfall Canal by barge. Coal for the pumping plant
was brought by barge from the train terminal in Belhaven. New Holland Farms
planned a railroad from the pumping plant to connect with the Norfolk-Southern
Railroad. They sold the lake before installing the railroad.
Between 1919 and 1921, North Carolina Farms
Company built and equipped a 35-mile private railroad from New Holland
to Wenona in Washington County at a cost of $977,353. While operated by
North Carolina Farms Company, the train made one scheduled round trip each
day. Leaving New Holland, it stopped at Benhampton, Harrison, Higginsport,
Wilbanks, Patberry, and Kirwin, before reaching its final stop at Wenona.
The train hauled coal, freight, produce, and people. New Holland Corporation
canceled the authority to operate as a public railroad, and used the train
strictly for hauling freight and farm products for his commercial farming
operation. When New Holland Corporation shut down its operation in the
fall of 1932, it also ended railroad service into Hyde County. The railroad
included nine miles laid directly in the lakebed. When the lake refilled,
those nine miles were under water. A salvage contractor took up the tracks
in 1936. All that remains is an occasional cross tie in the lakebed or
the remains of a trestle crossing a canal.
During the drainage years, Hyde residents
had driven across the drained lakebed to get to distant points in the county.
In the 1940s, the State of North Carolina built a causeway across the lake
from south to north to provide direct access from one side of the county
to the other. It was no longer necessary to drive around the huge lake.
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