Monday, June 19, 2017

Ocracoke Railway

Several times Cousin Blanche mentioned to me that she had heard there was a railway on Ocracoke many years ago. According to her the railway proceeded from the old Ponder (sometimes called Ponzer) Hotel (1885-1900), followed what today is called Howard Street (it was the main thoroughfare in the 1800s), and terminated at the beach.

The Ponder Hotel

After questioning Blanche I discovered this was designed for a horse drawn wagon (she called it a tram) that took hotel guests to the beach. Since I could find no evidence (physical or historical) of a railway ever being on Howard Street, and an old definition of "tram" is "a low four-wheeled cart," I decided there must not have been a railway...just a wagon path...down Howard Street. 

Then, lo and behold, not long ago my neighbor Al Scarborough brought me a transcript of an 1890 advertisement for the Ponder Hotel. It includes this short paragraph: "The surf is only a short walk from the hotel, and this can be reached by a tram railway at any and all times, if the walk seems tiresome. In fact no wish of a guest will be denied to insure ease and comfort."

I should have known not to question Blanche! She is a treasure trove of island history. Even today when I visit her in the assisted living facility in Nags Head we chat about the Ocracoke she remembers and the Ocracoke she heard about from the old timers.

You can read more about the Hotel Ponder and steamship traffic to Ocracoke in our August, 2014, Ocracoke Newsletter:

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Aleta, Ocracoke's mailboat from 1944-1952, compliments of the Core Sound Museum. Click on the following link for photos, text, and audio recordings about this iconic vessel:


  1. Anonymous9:09 AM

    The huge hotel was built in 1885 and lasted till 1900. That's only 15 years! That huge hotel was in existence for only 15 years? Now what became of the hotel? Will the older post shed light? thanks.

  2. Anonymous9:14 AM

    Anon. 9:09 the older post sure did. I explained what cooked their goose.DD

  3. Anonymous9:16 AM

    It It explained, the older post answered many questions. darn sticky keboard kes.