Growing up obsessed with trains both of my grandfathers embraced my obsession and encouraged it effectively. Both took me on many, many train rides. As fate would have it, my Dad’s father lived in Hillsborough, NC. Located right off I-85 at the Hillsborough exit, the Daniel Boone Railroad used to exist within a giant park, not too different than Tweetsie in it’s heyday. Shops, restaurants, rides and from what I can remember, an amazing train ride that ran back into the woods and looped around back to the front of the park. Like Tweetsie, the ride included cowboys and indians jumping on to act out a train robbery and gun fight. My memories are blurry and how I wish I had more photographs to document the train and its surroundings and ride. For some reason the train was sold, the park was sold and turned into a trailer park. Today, there are some shops and outlets and when I come through the area I always explore what I can of the area. I’ve found what’s left of the ride and some ramshackled tracks. All I have to remember it by is a picture of me in front of it when I was 4 or 5 years old and it’s existence in my mind is almost mystical now that I’ve come full circle in life and have a son who is obsessed with trains. Below is all the information I could possible find on what happened to this incredible train and railroad. Included is that picture of me, what’s left of the tracks and a photo of the train from when it was sold to Carowind’s, a theme park located south of Charlotte, NC.
Not sure how old I was here….maybe 4 or 5 years old.
All that’s left of the Daniel Boone Railroad.
Carowinds #1 “Melodia” (Now Paramount’s Carowinds in Charlotte, NC) [actualy south of Charlotte in Ft. Mill, SC –ed.] was the only 36″ gage Crown built on an historical chassis and the only one which was not a 4-4-0. It started life as an 1897 Porter 0-6-2T (c/n 1790) with 9″x14″ cylinders at the Barker and Lepine Plantation in Lafource Crossing, Louisiana, then moved to the Laurel Valley Plantation in Tribodaux, LA at an unknown date where it was named Melodia. At another unknown date, it became a part of the Arthur LaSalle collection. In 1960, it was sold to Hubert Mitchell Industries and was stored in Hartselle, Alabama. It was then sold to James Freeland who owned Daniel Boone Village near Hillsborough, NC where it was run at the owner’s whim. Freeland subsequently advertised the engine in Hemmings Motor News and sold it directly to Carowinds. Sometime between Hartselle and Carowinds, it was rebuilt by Crown into an oil burning 2-6-2 with tender. In the process, it received a Crown boiler (Dave Barnhardt tells me that he thinks the boiler was already on the floor at Crown before the project was initiated so maybe it was pushed ahead of another project), Crown tender, arched roof cab, cowcatcher, headlight, steam dome, and a tall, skinny diamond stack. It retained the hemispherical Porter sand dome, the inclined Porter cylinders (with the Porter name cast into the steamchest), the Porter (Route 66 shaped) builder’s plate, and the Porter smokebox door, also with the Porter name cast in. This rebuild supposedly happened in 1963, but the boiler appears to be more the size of the post-1970 Crowns. At Carowinds, #1 carried the name “Melodia” on the left side of the cab and the letters EPH on the right side of the cab for E. Pat Hunt, the developer who built the park. Melodia is reported to have run at Carowinds on June 13, 1972 for a publicity day, even though the park did not open to the public until March 1973. The ride circled the park which was divided in two by the North Carolina / South Carolina border (I wonder which state inspected the trains?). The station was at the front of the park, but unlike Disney where the station is over the main street, at Carowinds it was a depressed platform under the park entrance. The railroad was partially dismantled after the 1977 or 1978 season (one account says 1975) to make room for a new theme area (I’m told they didn’t want grade crossings), so the equipment stayed at Carowinds for a few years unused. Melodia was sold in June 1980 to the George Roose collection in Cleveland, Ohio (George was part owner of Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, OH and he built the 36″ gage Cedar Point and Lake Erie RR in 1963 out of his pocket when the park’s Board of Directors wouldn’t build it !!). One account had it going to western New York, possibly to a park near Springsville, but I have no evidence of it being used or of a park existing there. There was also a rumor that it went to Rome, NY, but that has been proven false. In 1982, it did arrive (and possibly run) at Wild World (now Six Flags America) in Largo, Maryland but returned to Sandusky, Ohio by 1984 where it stayed until at least October 1985 (there is no evidence that it was ever on Cedar Point property, so it must have been stored at Roose’s home). George Roose died in 1992 or 1993. One individual told me that after a couple of years it then passed through Shop Services in Iowa on its way to a developer in California. That’s where the trail stops. Does anyone know anything more about this lost locomotive? Carowinds is said to have built four of Melodia’s coaches themselves from D&RGW steel chassis (which have more of a “trolley car” roof than the Crown coaches), and one is now at the LaPorte County Steam Historical Society railroad in Hesston, Indiana. John Harbeck tells me that several were available in the Roose collection at the time. I do not know the whereabouts of the others today.
42 thoughts on “The Daniel Boone Railroad – The Lost Train of Hillsborough, NC”
The “Melodia” is now at the Pacific Coast Railroad in Santa Margarita, CA, and we’ve been running it for about the past five years. For more information to fill in the gaps, browse our site and blog at http://pcrailroad.wordpress.com
Hey PCRailroad. This is incredible news. I’ve been searching for information on that locomotive for years.
where are those dead tracks i see in the photographs, which looks just like lost rails. the picture is captioned all that is left of the daniel boone railroad
If anyone can give me a location. Is it in the Daniel Boone Villiage up the hill where the trailer park use to be?
Daniel Boone village in Hillsborough has recently been purchased by a development company and a large home community is being built on the site, covering over the site and memories. During the 70’s my father owned.. The body shop by Carl Merritt, that borders the old park..that building is called Boone square, it house’s several businesses. I played among the park and later the ruins, wanting a souvenir as a child I pulled several railroad Spikes from the deteriorating rails. I keep them as some of my fondest memories. Side note there was also a bobsled track, ampitheater, and ice skating rink with arcade games..what a wonderful place it was. -Carlton Troy Merritt.
Hi Carlton, if you have any photos at all, would love to see them and post them here. Email address is email@example.com. Thanks for the comment! and update
The Daniel Boone RR continuted to somewhat operate after this engine was sold to carowinds. I do know they had a sale in 1984 and a steam locomotives were for sale . They sold a bunch of RR stuff.I did not go to the sale .We went a bunch of times to ride the train but got to ride only once.What is ironic both carowinds #1 and #2 were in the shop in Mt pleasant being rebuilt,No 2 went to Neverland Ranch.
Hey Alan – I hardly ever speak to anyone else who rode Dan Boone RR. I just think its sad that the engine I used to ride is now rotting down in Florida.
Iam sorry which engine are you refering to in Florida.
I found the blog on the other engine that is in florida this is the one I rode. I also remember seeing a larger Tank engine without a tender parked behind a building.I remember the listing of the sell also had two locomotives for sale.They even cut a recourd about the Daniel Boone RR it was a 45, I have been tryin to see if I still have it but doubt it has survived all the moves since the 70’s.Keep us informed if you find out more.Mr Freelands children still operate the red barn on the property they may have some old photos or info on the stuff that was sold. I had planed a couple of years ago to go and talk with them but it has never worked out.Well that is all for now. Keep up the good work.
Thanks, Alan. I have tried to call the Freeland’s a couple of times and even emailed them this blog post, but haven’t gotten any response. I may try them again. I would love to find more pictures of the red loco: http://www.theshopsatdanielboone.com/index.html
I am from Hillsborough.
Mr. Freeland pasted on several years ago and the family is about disbanded to put it pleasantly. I don’t even think that the Daniel Boone property is still owned by the family anymore. Call the Town of Hillsoborough visitor’s center and they can most likely tell you who owns the property and who you need to contact.
They own the property they have just let it run down. They have sold most of the land according to the workers there
Call Daniel Boone ltd. in hillsborough
The antique stores are still there though falling apart. I rent a building there that has highly toxic mold from Daniel Boone not maintains the bldg.
I would love to go visit the lost tracks if I could get a location on where it is. Could do some great photography out there
Hey Rebecca – I took those photos about 5 or 6 years ago. That was all I could find of the tracks where the Daniel Boone RR used to run. They are towards the back right of the trailer park up on the hill. Don’t know if they are still there, but if you venture back into the woods you may find more.
i used to live in that campground in the early 80’s and I was walking around it today!
Hi Rob, I’d love to know what you were able to see or find in the campground. Please feel free to email me at TarheelTrains@gmail.com. Thanks! Scott
Hey I went back today and had better luck. I don’t know if it was the same section you posted but it was gravel and the train track wood but strangely I never found the steel rails. I wonder if someone ripped them up for scrap! i’ll probably go back again on Friday. Im always rushed cause I go on my break at work.
hey, Scott, when you get a chance, I did a youtube video on what I found. Go to Rob’s Haunted History Channel on youtube and you can see if it’s the same section you found, and subscribe if you will, cause im always finding interesting abandoned places to upload on my show!
Hey Rob, the video is awesome! I’m going to do a follow-up post and include it soon. I’m going to plan to go to there and explore for myself, but thinking about waiting until fall or winter when the vegetation is gone. Email me at scottd67 at gmail .com. I’d love to correspond directly with you and maybe we can organize a group to go explore there. Thanks!
So, if I understand correctly, there is just about 100 feet of track left at the Daniel Boone Railroad? Nothing else, no piles of bent rail etc?
There are three Carowind cars built with D&RGW flatcars located at the East Broad Top railroad in Orbisonia PA. One was started to be built into a wooden passenger car but the others remain relatively intact.
There’s virtually nothing left in Hillsborough. A few remnants of track and if you really look, some boards and stuff. I haven’t been back in several years, but I’d love to go do a full swipe of the property before the snakes come back out. – Scott
Such good memories!
Just visited Daneil Boone in Hillsboro (Oct.2010). The Antigue mall is still using two well kept cabooses as rental space for shops. In a cordoned off gravel lot beside the Antique Mall, one can see rusting hulks of ancient kidde rides, wagon wheels and other rustic western type items. There is a one train car, under a shelter, that is being displayed beside of the blacksmith shop. The blacksmith shop is still open, but it has been turned into a junk shop. I did not look for any tracks, but one can still see reminders of those bygone days if you really look for them. The plaster Indian is gone from atop the steakhouse. Fortunately, Daniel is still standing tall, hopefully for many years to come.
I have lived in hillsborough all my life (1970 to present) and remember riding the train. Years after the park closed you could still walk under the railroad trussel as you headed up the hill to the ice rink. When the ice rink closed in the early 80’s they tore down the trussell and filled it in with dirt for a parking lot. The spot where food lion sits was an area of the park where they had carnival type rides. If you look to the left of food lion you can still see remnants of the amphitheatre. Joan Jett put on a concert there once. Also behind the amphitheatre is a steep hill that used to be a giant slide that you went down on a burlap type cloth, also part of the park. I don’t have any photos from those days but would love to see some more or any other old photos of downtown. For example: Minnis Grocery,James pharmacy,Mack’s,Papa Joe’s (1st place I played pac-man),the dime store etc.
Did that ice rink close in the early 1980’s and then later reopen? I remember our children skating there off and on at that rink (1992 and later) but then at some point it closed.
The ice rink is different from the location of the old roller skating rink that is being addressed here. When the ice rink closed in the 90’s a new facility opened called the Sportplex that house an ice rink.
can anyone tell me what the names of the railroads were? i’m doing a project in my history class and no one seems to be able to find the names of the four railroads.
I remember my mom, dad, and I taking my 3 year old son to Daniel Boone Railroad to ride the train. I recently found a couple of photos of the small buffalo herd that was kept in an enclosure near the tracks. Those photos brought back some fond memories of my son’s childhood and the things we did together.
Just got some recent pictures of the 0-4-0 locomotive. Will post those ASAP. Thanks, everyone. Still searching for old pictures of the train and park. – Scott
HI, MY NAME IS JOE VEASEY OF DURHAM N.C. I WAS THE FIREMAN AND ASSISTANT ENGINEER TO WARREN HALL DURING THE RUNNING OF THE DANIEL BOONE R.R. i DON’T HAVE ANY PICTURES BUT I HAVE A LOT OF MEMORIES AND STORIES TO SHARE! THANKS, JOE
Wow interesting. Most of the buildings at Daniel Boone need to be condemned. My building I rent from them is contaminated with highly toxic mold because they have not maintained the buildings. They do not care about their tenants they just want the rent
Daniel boone back in the day was nice. Today it’s just a crumbled mess
Went to Daniel Boone Inn every weekend because my dad was Black Bart! Tonight was my daddy’s memorial service and we have a video of the Cowboy show they did. A lot of footage of the train. They didn’t take care of the park even while it was open so after a few years they shut the RR down. I remember the train jumping the tracks all the time. We would have to walk back to the depot/ride area. As kids we would hang out in the woods while they were performing their hold up of the train. Lol Lots of great memories!
HI, my name is Denise Guthrie Boswell and I went to Daniel Boone Inn every weekend for a while because my daddy and his best friend were the men who came up with the cowboy show that the train would stop so the passengers could see the shoot out between the sheriffs and bandits. They had a box of gold that the sheriff and deputies were protecting in transport. We had the best time as children at Daniel Boone, riding the rides, going to the wax museum, sitting at the amphitheater and sitting in the woods eating lunch with my daddy and the other outlaws. We even have a movie that was shot of them all during a shootout at the depot and at the clearing in the woods along the RR track. My daddy passed away this past Dec. We showed the movie at his memorial service.
Denise, thank you so much for this! I share some of the same memories and may have even seen you there, haha! Is that movie still available? Would LOVE to see any photos or videos you may have. I will give full credit for them. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hi, we have old movies on super 8 from when we were there. I believe they are mostly bits and pieces. We really need to get that stuff transferred onto DVD. Don’t know how but as far as pics my daddy was into making movies. There is a DVD of the shootout made by a professional that we do have. I will see if I can upload it. My daddy was Black Bart! 🙂 I will let you know as soon as I can get it uploaded. I really miss those days and the great fun we had as a family every weekend. I remember pushing baby sister in her stroller around the park. It is six of us kids and we did everything together. I will let you know as soon as I can get it uploaded.
Denise, please email email@example.com if you are ever able to get the movies or photos onto DVD or online. I’d love to see them and post them and credit you as the source. Thank you!
I grew up in Hillsborough and remember when the Daniel Boone complex was a hotbed of activity. Now that new development will make it a distant memory, I have been reminiscing and have really enjoyed reading the comments on this site. The other day I was visiting my father in law. He also is a lifelong resident of Hillsborough and also did subcontract work for James Freeland for many years in the early 1970’s. While discussing the train, he told me that James Freeland donated the old depot to a local church in the Joppa Oaks community, south of town. He knows this because he lived right across the street and was there when it was moved to the new location. Does anyone have any confirmation of this?