South Carolina Railroads - Chester & Lenoir Narrow Gauge Railroad


Year Chartered or Incorporated

Year Line Operational

Year Service Ended

Original Starting Point

Original Ending Point





Chester, SC

Lenoir, NC
* 1897 - Reorganized as the Carolina & North-Western Railway.
+ 1874 - While in construction, merged with a North Carolina company - the Carolina Railroad.

In the 1850s, the Kings Mountain Railroad was created, with 5'-0" broad gauge track. Completely destroyed by the Union Army during the U.S. Civil War, it was never rebuilt and lay abandoned for almost eight years until the creation of the Chester & Lenoir Narrow Gauge Railroad in 1873.

At the same time in North Carolina, the Carolina Railroad (aka Carolina Narrow Gauge Railroad) was chartered with a similar objective, so the two new companies "danced" for a year until they hammered out a decent merger, completed on April 3, 1874.

Both companies had started surveys and roadbed grading, and by the time the merger was inked both were commencing road construction. Convict labor brought the line to Yorkville, SC in March of 1875, and by June of 1876 the line had reached Gastonia, NC - all under the name of Chester & Lenoir Narrow Gauge Railroad.

Construction then slowed down, and the line did not reach Lincolnton until July of 1881. Funds were then exhausted, so the owners appealed for help from the Charlotte, Columbia & Augusta Railroad. An agreement was reached to lease the railroad to the Charlotte, Columbia & Augusta Railroad in exchange for completion of the railroad into Lenoir, NC, a distance of nearly thirty-seven (37) miles.

Before the lease could take effect, on September 22, 1882, the Charlotte, Columbia & Augusta Railroad was merged into the Richmond & Danville Railroad. Their owners decided to honor the previous commitment and construction to Lenoir began soon thereafter.

On June 2, 1884, Lenoir was open for business. The finished railroad included 110 miles of track, with six miles of dual-gauge track between Hickory and Newton, NC. The Chester & Lenoir Narrow Gauge Railroad had seven (7) locomotives, twelve (12) passenger cars, two (2) business cars, and 111 freight cars.

After several years, the line fell into receivership and was officially reorganized as the Lenoir & Chester Railroad; however, few knew this and few cared. This reorganization did not help much, and to make matters worse, the Richmond & Danville Railroad also entered bankruptcy in 1893. Later in 1893, the Richmond & Danville Railroad was reorganized to include the Chester & Lenoir Narrow Gauge Railroad.

Since the Chester & Lenoir Narrow Gauge Railroad was having problems covering expenses, the line was turned back over to a new receiver, who was appointed as administrator to handle lawsuits and unpaid debts. The receiver managed the line until 1897, when it was reorganized as the Carolina & North-Western Railway. This reorganization seemed to have the approval of Southern Railway, which had merged with the Richmond & Danville Railroad in 1894.

Towns on Route (in SC):

NC/SC State Line

Bowling Green (1877)

Clover (1874)

Filbert (1890)

Yorkville > York (1915)

Delphos (1896)





District Line



Chester C.H. > Chester (1886)

© 2007 - J.D. Lewis - PO Box 1188 - Little River, SC 29566 - All Rights Reserved