North Carolina FELA Attorneys 

Railroad History and Background

North Carolina is home to the steepest mainline railroad in the country. The grade rises more than 600 feet within three miles, reaching its highest official grade at 4.7 percent, but rises to 5.1 percent between Melrose and Saluda.

In 1833, the first North Carolina Railroad was chartered to connect Wilmington and Weldon. When the line was completed in March 1840, it was the longest railroad at the time in the country, covering 161 miles. Soon after the opening of this route, North Carolina became recognized for hauling quantities of tobacco and cotton. It also was well known for textiles.

Eventually, the state was a center for four of the most respected railroads of the South:

  • The Atlantic Coast Line
  • Southern Railway
  • Seaboard Coast Line
  • Clinchfield Railroad

Southern Railway

The most well managed railroad in its time was the Southern Railway, known for its motto, “The Southern Serves the South — Look Ahead, Look South.” The well thought of line eventually became part of the Norfolk & Western Railway and became part of today’s Norfolk Southern Railway.

The Southern Railway was an especially well-run railroad by fine businessmen, including:

  • Samuel Spencer, who in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s expanded the route until it merged in 1982 with the Norfolk & Western Railroad.
  • Ernest Norris, who began using diesel powered locomotives
  • Harry deButts, an astute businessman who recognized the coming economic power of the South

The Atlantic Coast Line

The Atlantic Coast Line (ACL) came to symbolize transportation in the South. Also called the Coast Line, it ran from Richmond, Virginia, to Florida, and in the east to Birmingham, Alabama. Running directly north and south between Florida and Richmond made it a very profitable venture.

Seaboard Coast Line

The Seaboard was a quality freight train for the Southeastern U.S.

Clinchfield Railroad

Finally, the Clinchfield Railroad never ran a very long route, topping off at a bit longer than 300 miles, but was especially important for the tons of coal it hauled from mines in the mountains of Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina.

Railroad Growth Means an Increased Risk of Injury

During the era of great railroad expansion, which started in the mid-1800s and gained momentum in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, railroad building grew at an enormous pace. Along with the addition of miles of rails came an increasing number of injuries and deaths among the workers. Railroad building and working on the railroads was a dangerous profession.

Firemen, engineers, boilermakers, switchmen, blacksmiths, brakemen, yard foremen, machinists, and watchmen to name only a few did heavy labor during long hours. And those putting down the rails, pounding the spikes, laying the ties, had especially hazardous work that was taking lives and causing injuries daily.

The casualties grew to such an extent, that an outcry arose from the public and the railroad worker’ unions to establish some protection for the workers. The railroad workers were not covered by workman’s compensation laws.

FELA Passed to Protect Injured Rail Workers

Finally, in 1908, Congress passed the Federal Employer’s Liability Act, a set of laws that made the railroad companies liable for the injuries and deaths of the workers. Railroading today continues to be hazardous work involving heavy machinery and often long hours. FELA is still very important to those injured or killed doing their jobs.

If you or a loved one has been injured while working on the railroad, you might want the services of a FELA lawyer. FELA attorneys, who are knowledgeable about the intricacies of railroad law, are especially equipped to represent their railroad worker clients. Our North Carolina FELA lawyers would be please to offer you a free consultation. You can reach us by calling toll free (800) 773-6770 or by sending an email. We provide service in North Carolina and across the country.