Piedmont and Northern Locomotive 2000, 1966.
Alco C 420 locomotive built in 1965. P&N owned two of these locomotives.

(Lane Genealogy, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/, https://www.flickr.com/photos/ssave/6947148147/in/photostream/)


PN herald.


The Piedmont & Northern Railway (reporting mark PN) was a heavy electric interurban company operating over two disconnected divisions in North and South Carolina. Tracks spanned 128 miles (206 km) total between the two segments, with the northern division running 24 miles (39 km) from Charlotte, to Gastonia, North Carolina, including a three-mile (5 km) spur to Belmont. The southern division main line ran 89 miles (143 km) from Greenwood to Spartanburg, South Carolina, with a 12 mi (19 km) spur to Anderson. Initially the railroad was electrified at 1500 volts DC, however, much of the electrification was abandoned when dieselization was completed in 1954.

Unlike similar interurban systems the Piedmont & Northern survived the Great Depression and was later absorbed into the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad in 1969. Although part of the railroad was abandoned between Greenwood and Honea Path and Belton to Anderson, much of the original system exists today as short lines.


Postcard of Charlotte Interurban Depot.

(Charlotte, N.C.: J. Murrey Atkins Library University of North Carolina at Charlotte, CC BY 3.0 US <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us/deed.en>, via Wikimedia Commons)



Although interurban railroads were not nearly as common in the sparsely populated and largely agrarian Deep South, there were a number of small electric networks constructed in the region throughout the early 20th century. Among them was the Anderson Traction Company, created on June 22, 1904, to build and operate within the city of Anderson. Eventually the railroad expanded to complete construction of an extension to Belton by 1910. The railroad was acquired by James B. Duke of Duke Power around the same time.

On March 20, 1909, the Greenville, Spartanburg and Anderson Railway was chartered and presided over by Duke. The company used the Anderson Traction Company rails terminating at Belton as a starting point for northward construction to Greenville and construction toward Greenwood to the south, with both cities connected in November 1912. An extension from Greenville to Spartanburg was completed in April 1914. The North Carolina division started with the Piedmont Traction Company, also owned by Duke, and completed its route between Charlotte and Gastonia, North Carolina on July 3, 1912.

Both sections were electrified to 1,500 volts DC with power supplied from mainly hydroelectric sources. Additionally both segments were built to steam road standards with minimal street running.


Piedmont and Northern 351 at Greenville, SC.

Piedmont and Northern 351 at Greenville, SC.

(South Carolina Railroad Photograph Collection at the University of South Carolina. South Caroliniana Library., https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/)



The Piedmont & Northern was created in 1914 to consolidate both the Greenville, Spartanburg & Anderson in South Carolina and the Piedmont Traction Company in North Carolina. In 1916 the railroad completed a 3-mile (4.8 km) spur to Belmont, North Carolina. On numerous occasions the company sought to link the two disconnected segments and expand to Durham, North Carolina, however, the plans never materialized due to stiff resistance from the Southern Railway, which the P&N paralleled in both states.

Although many railroads were hostile to the Piedmont & Northern, a friend was found with the Seaboard Air Line, which connected with the P&N at Charlotte and Greenwood. Throughout its existence the P&N stressed interchange traffic over its efficient electric lines, and with good reason: the railroad shared numerous interchanges with several major railroads.



The P&N's network in 1964 was connected to the Clinchfield Railroad (CRR), Carolina and Northwestern Railway (Ca&NW), Georgia and Florida Railroad (G&F), Norfolk Southern (NS), Seaboard Air Line Railroad (SAL), Southern Railway (SOU), Atlantic Coast Line Railroad (ACL), Greenville and Northern Railroad (G&N), Charleston and Western Carolina (C&WC) and Ware Shoals Railroad.

Though owned by Duke Power, the P&N operated coal trains over a branch from Mount Holly, NC, to Terrell, NC, supplying Duke Power's Lake Norman powerplants.


North Carolina Division

Mile Station Interchange Notes
0.0 Charlotte Southern, NS Piggyback ramps
3.8 Chemway
4.1 Pinoca SAL Shops (still in use by CSX)
5.4 Toddville
6.9 Thrift
10.6 Sodyeco
11.1 Mount Holly
-- -- -- --
0.0 Mount Holly
Cowans Ford
-- -- -- --
13.5 North Belmont
-- -- -- --
0.0 North Belmont
3.1 Belmont Southern
-- -- -- --
16.5 McAdenville Junction
17.6 McAdenville
17.9 Lowell
19.7 Ranlo
21.7 Groves
23.4 Gastonia Southern, C&NW Piggyback ramp

South Carolina Division

Mile Station Interchange Notes
0.0 Spartanburg ACL, Southern, Clinchfield, C&WC Piggyback ramp
3.9 Saxon (Camp Wadsworth?)
6.6 Clevedale
10.2 Startex Southern
12.0 Lyman Southern
13.4 Duncan
18.3 Greer Southern
Chick Springs
23.1 Taylors Southern
27.1 Paris (Hampton Heights?)
33.5 Greenville (River Junction) ACL, G&N, Southern, C&WC Piggyback ramp
36.5 White Horse
Golden Grove
43.7 Piedmont Southern
48.4 Pelzer Southern
50.5 Williamston Southern
58.0 Belton Southern, C&NW
-- -- -- --
0.0 Belton Southern, C&NW
11.6 Anderson C&NW, ACL, C&WC
-- -- -- --
65.8 Honea Path Southern
71.4 Donalds
74.3 Shoals Junction Southern, Ware Shoals RR
80.2 Hodges
83.9 Downs Southern
88.9 Greenwood ACL, G&F, SAL, Southern, C&WC Piggyback ramp


Plans to connect the North and South Carolina divisions between Spartanburg, SC and Gastonia, NC, and to expand northwards towards Winston-Salem, NC, were successfully blocked by appeals by the Southern Railway and other entities in court cases in the 1930s, specifically PIEDMONT & N. RY. CO. v. UNITED STATES, 280 U.S. 469 (1930) and PIEDMONT & N R. CO. v. INTERSTATE COMMERCE COMMISSION, 286 U.S. 299 (1932).



The P&N, though involved in extensive passenger operations, was primarily a heavy freight carrier. The most important commodity transported was coal and coke, but also of significance were cotton (including cotton waste) and paper.


Statement of Car Loads of Freight Handled (in Carloads)

- Years 1955 and 1954

Commodity Carloads, 1954 Carloads, 1955 Change
Grain and Grain Products 3221 3258 +37
Packing House Products 2200 2381 +181
Fruits and Vegetables 1874 1838 -36
Coal and Coke 30203 37995 +7792
Building Materials 4465 4966 +501
Cotton and Wastes 8093 8907 +814
Textile Products 2746 2842 +96
Sand and Stone 2196 2521 +325
Automobiles 1889 2061 +172
Oil and Gasoline 2920 2738 -182
Fertilizer and Fertilizer Products 4056 3176 -880
Machinery 613 732 +119
Paper and Paper Products 6480 6786 +306
Clay and Fullers Earth 1897 1805 -92
Iron and Steel Articles 2746 3297 +37
Forest Products 2257 2054 -203
Merchandise 4767 4350 -417
Miscellaneous 17128 17986 +858

(Data from P&N 1955 Annual Report)

Former P&N depot, Piedmont, SC.

(2Q at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0 <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/>, via Wikimedia Commons)



Remaining structures

Only four of the stations built for the P&N, designed by Charles Christian Hook are still in existence today in North Carolina.

The Thrift depot in the Paw Creek community in Charlotte, NC is the only remaining P&N station in Mecklenburg County, NC; it is presently for sale."

In Gaston County, several structures are still standing. The depot in Mount Holly, North Carolina is still standing and is used as a hair salon. The former P&N depot in Belmont, NC has been restored and was a P&N museum until 2004, when the lease ran out and was not given extension by the owner. The former P&N station in Gastonia, NC, burned down in 1995. Lastly, the small depot of McAdenville, NC is still standing, though it has been relocated from its previous location.

In South Carolina, at least four stations are still standing: Donalds, Hodges, Greer, and Anderson. The abandoned depot at Pelzer burned on the night on January 26, 2011, and shortly afterward it and the nearby Piedmont station were demolished by the CSX which had refused to support a local effort to save the Pelzer station.

Nothing remains of the P&N in Honea Path, SC, apart from power poles still standing, delineating the former right-of-way.

The station at Taylors, SC was still standing in 1987. Though it is now gone, a former substation - including some overhead poles of the P&N line - can still be found near the CSX's Enoree River viaduct.

The former P&N RR Charlotte terminal freight depot was in the Mint/Graham/Second(MLK)St /Third St block, while the Charlotte terminal passenger depot was in the Mint/Graham/Third St/Fourth St block in Charlotte. BB&T Ballpark now sits on the former depot site.


Existing lines, current operations

Some of the P&N's former lines are still in existence, with limited amounts still in operation. The track from Pelzer, SC to Spartanburg, SC is the CSX's Belton Subdivision. The segment from Pelzer to Belton was taken over by the Greenville and Western Railway in 2006. In Gaston County, the track from Mt. Holly, NC to Gastonia, NC and from Mount Holly to Belmont, NC is still in place. Initially the track belonged to CSX; it is now owned by the North Carolina Department of Transportation, which awarded a contract in May 2010 to Patriot Rail Corporation to restore the track and operate trains along the 12 miles (19 km) line. Since May 2022, this segment is operated by Charlotte Western Railroad.


Piedmont and Northern Railway Overview

Headquarters: Charlotte, North Carolina
Reporting mark: PN
Locale: Upstate South Carolina, Western North Carolina
Dates of operation: 1911–1969
Predecessor: Piedmont Traction Company, Greenville, Spartanburg and Anderson Railway
Successor: Seaboard Coast Line
Track gauge: 4 ft 8+1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Electrification: 1500 volts DC (until 1954)
Length: 128 miles (206 km)


See Also:

Railroads A-Z