Train travel is on the rise in America. It may be because of the cost of fuel, or the hassle of airports, or just for the love of this mode of travel, but if you’re in no hurry, this is the way to go. For those around North Carolina, train travel is made simple by Amtrak’s Carolinian and/or Piedmont train, which travel between Charlotte, N.C., and New York City every day. The Carolinian leaves Charlotte at 7 a.m., and arrives at New York’s Penn Station between 8:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. with plenty of places to stop and play along the way.
Old Grain and Provisions Store across from the Salisbury, NC Train Depot. This is an excellent way to travel around North Carolina as there are 12 stations along the route where the train makes stops before it even leaves the state. Many people traveling only as far as Raleigh like to get on the Carolinian in the morning to go there, and then get on the Piedmont in the afternoon to come back. Old Grain and Provisions Store across from the Salisbury, NC Train Depot. For a complete schedule of all station stops and and departure times, click here.
Volunteer “train-hosts” ride the train every day, offering information about points of interest along the way. These volunteers are very friendly, approachable and willing to help. They all like to talk, especially about the history of the area through which the train travels, so take advantage.
The train pulls out of Charlotte going north and arrives at its first stop, Kannapolis, by 7:25 a.m. It is best to sit on the West-facing side of the train (drivers-side) to avoid the rising sun glaring in the window, but be aware that if you are traveling far outside of North Carolina, the sun will also set on that side. In North Carolina, the better scenery is on the east-facing side, but either side will offer spectacular views. Old Grain and Provisions Store across from the Salisbury, NC Train Depot. In Salisbury, face east to see the old Grain and Provision store across the tracks from the depot. It’s now a recycling center, but the building retains the look of the past; even the old Coca-Cola ad from back when an ice-cold bottle could be had for a mere nickel. Salisbury may be a good place to stop and take in the sites for a day if you’re not headed all of the way to New York. You may grab the evening train back into Charlotte (The Piedmont) at the end of the day should you choose to do this.
411 S. Salisbury Ave.
Spencer, NC 28159
The nearby town of Spencer offers train trips, seasonal excursions and displays of antique cars, a full-size replica of the Wright Flyer from Kittyhawk, and one of the largest preserved roundhouses in the United States, as well as more than 40 locomotives and rail cars on exhibit. This museum is not a stuffy, quiet place with which children will quickly become bored, it is full of fun and new discoveries.
2024 Old Mocksville Road
Salisbury, NC 28144
From Tuesday to Saturday visitors to this area should take in Ivan’s Restaurant for dinner. It is a steakhouse-type restaurant where they know how to cook choice steaks Pittsburgh style, chicken breast Jamaican jerk style and shrimp grilled Louisiana style. The owner, Joe Ivan Sims, traveled for many years for his job, and learned all the best food styles along the way, incorporating all of this into his restaurant now.
From Salisbury, the train continues to High Point, where one can deboard and take a connector train to downtown Winston-Salem. Then it will continue on to the larger city of Greensboro. Each of these stops is only a short five minutes or so, just enough to get everyone on or off the train. As the train travels between cities, the countryside emerges with beauty. Autumn is an especially good time to travel for scenery. Look for bridges and rivers, as the trees show their color best along the banks.
The train will continue its travel through more countryside, and then into the cities as it makes stops at Burlington, Cary, Durham and Raleigh. Raleigh is a bit longer of a stop; some people deboard there for a smoke break, as there is no smoking permitted on the train. There are also commonly a lot more passengers loading at Raleigh.
There are still a few more stops for the train to make in North Carolina. In Selma-Smithfield, two routes diverge. One heads to all points north, and the other south toward Savannah and Miami. Wilson is next, a small town that was founded along the railroad. The final stop in North Carolina is Rocky Mount. At the Tar River Falls is a mound of rocks, and the town is named for that. The train route travels over the Tar River, and its many rocks and boulders are visible.
Deboard in Rocky Mount for a day of fun. For instance, there is renovation going on at Main Street, and the old facades of the buildings are becoming once again as they were when built in the late 1800s. The Amtrak station itself is where to find the Chamber of Commerce for information, and just south of there is the home of the Rocky Mount Area Transport.
1550 River Drive
Rocky Mount, NC 27804
The 3.9-mile Tar River Walking/Biking Trail will take you by many of the city landmarks, including its prize, Battle Park. Battle Park contains Rocky Mount’s first post office and the mounds from which the city took its name. The trail also crosses the river with the longest wooden suspension bridge in North Carolina at 220 feet.
132 S. Church St.
Rocky Mount, NC 27804
This restaurant is well-established, offering some of the best burgers around. It opened as a diner and has retained that charming style to make eating here an enjoyable experience for everyone and the perfect road-trip pit stop for romantics who miss old-school diners.
For those still on the train, the next stop after Rocky Mount will not be until the train has crossed over into Virginia and it stops at Petersburg. The train passes to border sometime just after noon, completing its five-hour trek through North Carolina and continuing its journey to Washington, D.C., and New York City.
Passengers aboard the Carolinian may check up to three bags luggage, no more than 50 pounds each. Two carry ons are permitted per passenger. The price for a ticket depends upon how far one has traveled, and the prices may be found on the Amtrak website at www.amtrak.com/.