As we’ve noted before, Sanford began its life, and achieved its early notoriety as a railroad town. In the early 1870s a new railroad from Raleigh to Columbia, SC intersected with a small regional line, basically where downtown Sanford resides today. Our first picture is an early look at the Sanford Union Passenger Depot, complete with lines for the 2 railroads appearing on either side of the building.
Sanford’s big population boom coincided closely with the railroads’ greatest era of popularity. In the time from the 1920s through the 1940s, 4 different railroad companies made regular stops in Sanford. They included The Seaboard, Southern, Atlantic Coast Line and Atlantic & Western. In this picture from the 1930s we see one of these countless number of trains making its stop in downtown Sanford.
It shouldn’t be surprising that this high volume of train activity would lead to business opportunities in the region. The Edwards Company was founded in 1917 by Harry Edwards, the general manager of the Atlantic & Western, for the specific purpose of constructing passenger rail cars. The company’s long-standing plant was constructed in 1922, just off of Rose Street. Here we see the plant and a picture of 22 workers standing in front of one of their finished products.
The first 75 years of Sanford’s history were especially notable for its large number of factories and manufacturers — especially for a community of its siZe. Easy railway access was a major reason why. This building, in close proximity to railroad tracks, was the home for many years of the Fitts-Crabtree factory, before becoming the Sanford Furniture Company.
Lots of trains means lots of repairs and maintenance. So we’ll conclude this railway tour of the region with a tip of our engineer’s cap to one of the many crews of rail workers that stayed awfully busy during those times. This crew is at work sometime prior to June 14, 1954, because the water tower in the distance was removed from this location on that day.
Editorial content, pictures and research background , compliments of Jimmy Haire and Images of America: Sanford and Lee County, by Jimmy Haire & W.W. Seymour, Jr, available here for purchase. All book proceeds go to Sanford’s Railroad House Historical Association, Inc.