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Local History



Getting Around in 1940


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 of Dilworth, Elizabeth, and 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.



Bus Travel

Buses became a cheap, convenient alterative for travel in the 1930s. Charlotte switched its public transport system from streetcars to 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 to Gastonia).



Streamliner Service

"Streamliner" service was available from Suthern Railway along the main line: New York-Washington-Atlanta-New Orleans.



Freight Terminal

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.