Chester to Bowling Green

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Looking south in McConnells, the former C&NW ROW can be seen along US 321. This section between Chester and York was abandoned around 1970, and is hard to make out in some areas.

The broad gauge Kings Mountain Railroad was built between Chester and Yorkville in the 1850s. This line was destroyed during the Civil War and was abandoned after the war. In 1873, the Chester and Lenoir Narrow Gauge Railroad was chartered to build from Chester to Lenoir, NC, using the former Kings Mountain right-of-way between Chester and York. The new line started out from Chester and reached York in 1875. The line was extended north to Gastonia, NC by 1876, and reached Lenoir with the help of the Richmond and Danville in 1884.

The line was reorganized in 1897 as the Carolina and North-Western Railway, and the line was converted to standard gauge in 1902. At the time, it was hoped that a line could be built from Lenoir to Boone and then to a connection with the "Virginia Creeper", thus allowing coal from the Appalachian coal fields to move south over the line. The expansion never was completed, and the Clinchfield Railroad ended up making the desired penetration of the Blue Ridge to tap into the coal traffic. By way of a lease and affiliation with the Richmond and Danville, the Southern Railway had a controlling interest in the Carolina & North-Western, which affectionately became known as the "Can't & Never Will". The C&N-W was run as a separate operating unit of the Southern.

The section of the line between Chester and York was abandoned around 1970. The section from York to Clover was abandoned in the early 1980s. By the late 1980s, the line had been abandoned all the way to just north of the NC state line, near Bowling Green.

Towns on the line from Chester are Airlee, Dinber, Lowrys, McConnells, Guthries, Delphina, York, Filbert, Clover and to Bowling Green at the NC state line. The ROW generally follows US 321, and can be made out in many places. The Southern depot in York still exists along with a flag signal.

After many years of traveling the 321 corridor down to Winnsboro, South Carolina, and always wondering about the abandonded tracks along the east side of the highway, it is nice to finally know the history of the railroad bed.

I have pondered for years about the name and time periods of its existence. I had heard somewhere that this rail line ran between Chester and Lincolnton, but was not really sure of that until now. I have also heard that one of the Locomotive engines at the popular tourist attraction "Tweetsie Railroad" in Blowing Rock, North Carolina has one of the original engines from this line. Thanks to your website, I will no longer have to curiously wonder about the old railroad bed as I travel south towards Columbia.

Keith Bumgarner
Lincolnton, NC
9/22/2010

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After more research today, I discovered that the engine that runs at Tweetsie Railroad is not from the C&NW rail line. The engine that I thought ran on the line actually ran in eastern Tennesee and western North Carolina

Keith Bumgarner
Lincolnton, NC
9/22/2010

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Some additional info about the old CN&W, the segment from Bowling Green north to Gastonia is still active and used by NS to service local industry. The segment from Gastonia to just north of Dallas was abandoned and pulled in the Mid to late 90s. The Segment from just north of Dallas through Hardin, High Shoals, Lincolnton up to Maiden was abandoned and pulled around 1980. The segment from Maiden to just south of Newton has been out of service since around 1990. The NCDOT owns the ROW and the tracks remain. There have been discussions about reativating the tracks to Maiden in order to service the Lincoln Industrial park, but nothing official. There is a 3 mile segment from the Junction of the NS Asheville Div south through Newton that is still used by NS to service local industry. I'm not sure about the Status of the line between Hickory and Lenoir. The tracks remain but I do not know whether it is still in service.

Tony Foxx
Lincolnton, NC
10/8/2013

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