Durham Belt Line History


Brodie L. Duke, eldest son of Washington Duke, built the line in 1892 to connect the Duke cigarette factory with the Lynchburg & Durham Railroad. His goal was to provide direct access from the L&D, (in which the Dukes were major investors) to the Dukes tobacco buildings in downtown Durham, to bypass the NC Railroad line and avoid scheduling problems and fees.


The first train runs on the Durham Belt Line.  


Duke sells the Beltline to Norfolk and Western Railroad, precursors of today’s Norfolk Southern Railway. The line continues to supply coal to heat homes and businesses and freight trains running cotton, textiles, tobacco, and packaging products. Passenger service with 23 stops on the line between Lynchburg and Durham continues until 1958. Norfolk and Western Railroad  teams up to become Norfolk and Southern and eventually transforms into today’s Norfolk Southern Railway. 


Norfolk Southern ceases use of the line.


Preserving the Corridor &
Property Acquisition


Durham Belt Line Trail identified in Durham Trails and Greenways Master Plan which was adopted by County Board of Commissioners and City Council.


Discussions regarding sale of Norfolk Southern property begin which include the City of Durham and State of NC.


City of Durham does property appraisal and attempted acquisition negotiations with Norfolk Southern.


Durham Belt Line Trail recognized as a crucial link on the North-South Trail in update to Trails and Greenways Master Plan.


The Conservation Fund, under its NC Urban Program, begins contract negotiations with the Railroad. The Fund commits financial resources, in-house legal support, and real estate staff to acquire the property on behalf of the City of Durham (Article).

Durham applies for & receives TIGER Grant for Master Plan.


Conservation Fund purchases the corridor on behalf of the City of Durham.


trail Planning and Design


The Durham city council votes to approve the Durham Belt Line Master Plan on August 6, 2018. Council also directed staff to plan for additional engagement to inform an equity plan.