US Railways Were Built with Slave LaborSlaves "formed the backbone of the South's railway labor force of track repairmen, station helpers, brakemen, firemen & sometimes even enginemen," , according to historian Walter Licht. Norfolk Southern declines to confirm ownership of individual rail lines from the 19th century but says it owns "80% or more" of the 39 identified by Kornweibel. It won't comment on whether the lines were built and run with slave labor or related questions.
Train of Thought: The Coolest US Rail Trails
Hike abandoned US railways that are now gorgeous trails.
US Railways Were Built with Slave Labor North America's four major rail networks: Norfolk Southern, Norfolk, Va.; CSX of Jacksonville, Fla.; Omaha-based Union Pacific; Canadian National, iheadquartered in Montreal., all own lines that were built and operated with slave labor. Historians say nearly every rail line built east of the Mississippi River and south of the Mason-Dixon line before the Civil War was constructed or run at least partly by slaves.
US Railways Were Built with Slave Labor In a statement, Canadian National said it "takes very seriously claims that slave labor" was used to build some of its early rail lines. "We are researching the issue. We invite any party to share with CN any relevant information or documentation." Union Pacific says it owns nine of 12 railroads Kornweibel identified as UP lines that owned or leased slaves. Ownership of the lines today has "no relevance" to how they were built, UP's John Bromley says.