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Originally chartered in 1835 as the Wilmington and Raleigh Railroad, the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad name began use in 1855. At the time of its 1840 completion, the line was the longest railroad in the world with 161.5 miles (259.9 km) of track. It was constructed in 4 ft 8 in (1,422 mm) gauge. At its terminus in Weldon, North Carolina, it connected with the Seaboard and Roanoke Railroad (to Portsmouth, Virginia) and the Petersburg Railroad (to Petersburg, Virginia).
The railroad also gave rise to the City of Goldsboro, North Carolina, the midpoint of the W&W RR and the railroad intersection with the North Carolina Railroad. The railroad played a key role in the Siege of Petersburg during the American Civil War.
Among the early employees of the W&W RR was assistant engineer William G. Lewis. The future Civil War general began his railroad career in 1858. From 1854 to 1871 S.L. Fremont was Chief Engineer and Superintendent. Fremont, North Carolina is named in his honor.
In 1872, the railroad was leased by the Wilmington, Columbia and Augusta Railroad, but this lease ended in 1878 when the WC&A went bankrupt. Eventually the W&R was merged into the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad on April 21, 1900.
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