North Carolina Railroads - Piedmont & Northern Railway


Year Chartered or Incorporated

Year Line Operational

Year Service Ended

Original Starting Point

Original Ending Point





Charlotte, NC Charlotte, NC

Gastonia, NC Mt. Holly, NC
* 1969 acquired by Seaboard Coast Line Railroad.

In 1910, the Piedmont Traction Company was formed as a street railway to operate in and around Gastonia, NC. In the same year, the Greenville, Spartanburg & Anderson Railway Company was formed in South Carolina as a street railway authorized to run between fixed termini. The two companies then formed a syndicate, with the PTC acquiring the Charlotte, NC street railway, whilst the GS&A bought the Belton, SC - Anderson, SC line, besides both companies building new lines and securing trackage rights over the lines of various street railways. The network as it finally stood was finished in April of 1914. Later in 1914, the PTC and the GS&A amalgamated into the Piedmont & Northern Railway Company.

The Charlotte - Mount Holly passenger service started on April 3, 1912, running combination baggage/coach motor cars (series 2000-2022) that had been delivered in 1911 by Jewett Car Co.

The Piedmont and Northern Railway was first proposed in 1909 by William States Lee, vice-president of Southern Power & Utilities Co. (later to become Duke Power), as an "electrically powered inter-urban railway system linking the major cities of the Piedmont Carolinas." Southern's president, James B. Duke, ultimately accepted the proposal, and, two years later, in 1911, the first issue of P&N stock quietly sold out, and grading for the line began in Charlotte in April of that year.

Since Southern Power & Utilities Co. already had the power monopoly and owned the Charlotte Electric Railway (which ran the city's streetcar system) as well as the streetcar lines in other cities to be served, the P&N was seen as a natural outgrowth of their existing business. It would also serve to promote growth in the Piedmont, which was a major goal of James B. Duke.

The plan called for two lines in the initial stage: a twenty-one-mile route linking Charlotte and Gastonia, and one in South Carolina connecting Greenwood to Spartanburg, a distance of ninety-eight miles. The final link (which was never completed because of a successful challenge brought before the ICC by the Southern Railway) was to join Gastonia and Spartanburg, thus completing the network.

The system was to be anchored in Charlotte by a freight depot on the west side of Mint Street between 2nd and 3rd, and a passenger station on the same street between 3rd and 4th. The freight depot was completed by February of 1912, at a cost of about $30,000. It measured 60' x 240', with two stories and a basement at one end, which housed the department heads, dispatcher, and other operating personnel.

In April of 1911, construction began on the first leg of the northern section of the system, stretching from Charlotte to Mt. Holly. About that same time, the contract for the architectural designs for the stations was given to the firm of Hook and Rogers In an interview for the Charlotte Observer's "Interurban Section" of July 25, 1911, the principal architect, C C. Hook, observed that construction in Charlotte was booming to the extent that few contractors had requested his plans to use for bidding, a sure sign of prosperity, since so many of them were busy with other jobs.

There were seven stations along the eleven-mile run from Charlotte to Mt. Holly, which were styled "embryo metropolises of the later part of this century, if you please," by the enthusiastic Charlotte Observer in 1912. They were located in order from Charlotte to Mt. Holly, as follows: Lakewood, Hoskins (near the amusement park), Pinoca (a corrupted acronym for Piedmont & Northern Co. - primarily a rail yard and connecting point with the Seaboard Air Line Railway), Toddville, Paw Creek (later Thrift), Rhyne, Beattie, and Mt. Holly. All were designed by Hook and Rogers to be similar in style, with the only variation being the size according to the importance or the stop. They had a base of red brick, upon which were the yellow brick walls topped by roofs of red tile. The smaller depots, including the one at Thrift, combined the freight and passenger stations under one roof.

In September of 1911, the contract for the first stations to be built was awarded to J. A. Jones, whose bid was the best of several submitted. On April 3rd of the following year, the P&N began service on the Charlotte - Mt. Holly run with eight trains each way daily, which took about 35 minutes one way. Tickets were available from Blake's Drug Store on the Square or the Mint Street depot for 20 cents one-way. On the first trip from Charlotte to Mt. Holly on the single standard inter-urban electric train car were fifty some dignitaries and invited guests, which included William S. Lee, the father of the road and later president of the P&N; Zebulon V. Taylor, president of the Charlotte Electric Railway; and representatives of the Charlotte newspapers.

The railroad prospered because the inter-urban was designed to interchange freight cars with steam railroads; area industrial investors in the company shipped on the line as often as possible; and the industrial development program established by Duke in the sales department added to the profitable freight business. Through World War I, the Twenties, the Great Depression, and World War II, the Piedmont and Northern remained profitable, primarily due to the carrying of freight. With the widespread ownership of automobiles, starting in the 1920s, passenger business began to fall; this was a decline which continued (except during the Depression when fares were drastically reduced to encourage ridership) until it ceased altogether in 1951. A year earlier, along with dropping the passenger service, the P&N board also decided to convert to diesel locomotion, since it was no longer economically feasable to keep up or replace the electric lines. The conversion was completed over the next several years. In 1969, the P&N merged with the Seaboard Coast Line, and thus the company formally ended business on July 1, sixty years after its conception.

The station at Thrift, which is still basically intact, helped serve the nearby Thrift, later Kendall Textile Mill, and the Paw Creek community. After passenger service was discontinued in 1951, part of the station and property to the east of it were leased to the Emulsified Asphalt Refining Co., who used the depot as a storage and shipping facility. A few years later, the Koppers Company took over Emulsified, which in turn relinquished the facility to Koch Asphalt Co. about 1976; the latter firm presently operates at the location under a long-term lease from Seaboard Coast Lines. In December of 1969, about six months after merging with the P&N; Seaboard discontinued use of the Thrift depot as a railroad station, no doubt in part due to the prior closing of the Kendall Mill nearby.

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

Towns on Route:

Line #1 - Charlotte to Gastonia:



North Belmont


McAdenville Junction



Withers (1913-1916)




Line #2 - Charlotte to Mount Holly:


Chadwick Station (1910s)



Paw Creek




Mount Holly

River Bend

Cowans Ford




North Belmont

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