Traveling around Mecklenburg County today is an endeavor almost
exclusively conducted by automobile. A mass transit plan envisions returning
passenger rail service to the county. These images from 1940 give
perspective into how transportation has evolved.
Transportation Map of Downtown Charlotte
Can you find your way around using this map? Charlotte has grown
tremendously since this map was drawn - the population was 100,899 (1940
Census). The city limits had barely crept past such New South neighborhoods
Plaza-Midwood. U.S. Highway 21 is there, well before Insterstate 77
sliced the county in half. U.S. Highway 29 is there, too, serving as the
main route to points northeast and west until Interstate 85 was built.
Several choices for bus (Greyhound, Trailways, Carolina Stages) and train
service (42 passenger trains daily) were available, and Douglas Municipal
Airport offered four northbound and three southbound air connections daily.
Buses became a cheap, convenient alterative for travel in the 1930s.
Charlotte switched its public transport system from
buses in 1938. For inter-city travel, nearly 100 buses daily connected
Charlotte to the East Coast and beyond.
A main highway in 1940, this could definitely not handle traffic
loads today! The first divided highway was Wilkinson Boulevard (U.S. 29/74
"Streamliner" service was available from Suthern Railway along the main
line: New York-Washington-Atlanta-New Orleans.
Charlotte's location made it a natural site for distribution centers.
Freight was handled by Southern Railway, Seaboard Railway, Norfolk-Southern,
and Piedmont & Northern. In 1940, 45,553 carloads of freight entered
Charlotte and 16,439 carloads left.
Horton Lines Depot
Horton Lines was one of 57 companies using Charlotte's location as a
prime distribution center. Horton's trucks plied the winding two-lane
highways, delivering freight nationwide.
Southern Railway Offices
Southern Railway was a major passenger and frieght service provider to
Charlotte and the surrounding area. Southern operated a Spanish Revival
depot downtown, which was later demolished.