Before the Civil War the predecessor route to the Seaboard Air Line shipped plantation cotton and tobacco to the port of Portsmouth. After the Stock Market Crash of 1873, the Seaboard’s proprietor, John M. Robinson acquired two further inland routes from Raleigh. Robinson’s successors, the Williams family, extended the network to Alabama and Florida through a complex series of purchases, incorporating the Seaboard Air Line Railway in 1900. The newly-incorporated railroad prospered from Florida’s development as a tourist destination, and the industrial growth of Atlanta. Bankruptcy in the Depression was followed by resurgence in World War II, and the introduction of the popular Silver Meteor passenger train to Florida. However growing competition from air and road freight services would see decreasing revenues and merger with the Atlantic Coast Railroad (1967).
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