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.