Moving North Carolina
This blog offers a fresh perspective on North Carolina history, telling the panoramic story of our state as a tale of evolving transportation and increasing mobility. The blog is a companion to the public television documentary of the same name.
North Carolina transportation history – from ancient footpaths to superhighways – is a saga of vehicles and vessels; of animals and engines; of rivers, canals, rails and roads. But far deeper than that, it is a very human story. It is the story of the people who used those modes of transportation to arrive here, to populate the countryside, to prosper, and to coalesce into one special state. Moving North Carolina is the story of how we got here, why we live where we do, and what has been important to us. It is the story of who we are.
Moving North Carolina is a window through which you can view North Carolina history as you never have before.
Here's what you can do on this blog:
Click below on one of the most recent posts to read the full version of that story. (If you are new to the blog, you can start with the first blog to get an introduction.)
- Browse or search the entire collection on the Searchable Archive page.
- Peek behind the curtain on how the blog originated on the About The Blog page.
- Watch a preview of the Public Television documentary version of Moving North Carolina and purchase a DVD or Blu-ray disc on The Documentary page.
- Comment on any post (at the bottom of the post) or leave general feedback on the Comment page.
In 1950, Lee Petty showed up at a stock car event with his race car painted bright blue. The color would become known as “Petty Blue” and would become a signature look for generations of racing Pettys, including Richard and Kyle. In today’s world of intense branding, you would expect such a color to have been carefully designed and maybe even tested in focus groups before appearing in public. In truth, Petty Blue resulted from a random mix of paint remnants by a man who was just trying to help neighbor Lee Petty by making his Plymouth look better for an upcoming Saturday race.
Regulatory speed limits on public roads are not a modern phenomenon, much less a by-product of the automobile. Horses sped, too. But the early-1900s proliferation of autos on our roads – and the terror those noisy, lurching machines inflicted on the animals that had dominated the roads for 300 years – certainly brought a new sense of urgency to requiring people to refrain from “driving furiously.”
The earliest American railroads tended to be drab, but in the mid-1800s, colorful locomotives became all the rage. The North Carolina Railroad was on board with the trend, painting its rolling stock in bright colors and bestowing memorable names taken from mythology, North Carolina geography, or prominent citizens. That colorful tradition lives on today.
Among the litany of hazards that made riding on early American railroads a moment-to-moment adventure was the not-farfetched possibility of a collision with an animal. Impact with a dog, hog, or even a sheep that had wandered onto the tracks might not even be noticed by passengers and crew. But as one engineer put it, “Them there cows are the devil to pay.” The all-American solution to a very American problem was a “cowcatcher” mounted to the front of the engine.
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