North 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.
+ 1882 - Leased to the Charlotte, Columbia & Augusta Railroad for 99 years. Lease subsequently assigned to the Richmond & Danville Railroad.
+ 1873 - Merged with the Carolina Railroad - aka Carolina Narrow Gauge Railroad. Charter ratified by the North Carolina Legislature on January 22, 1873.

In the 1850s, the Kings Mountain Railroad was created, with 5' broad gauge track. Completely destroyed by the Union Army during the 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, South Carolina in March of 1875, and by June of 1876 the line had reached Gastonia, North Carolina - 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, North Carolina, 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, North Carolina. 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 re-organization seemed to have the approval of Southern Railway, who had evolved from the Richmond & Danville Railroad in 1894.

From the 1st Annual Report of the North Carolina Railroad Commission, dated December 31, 1891:

Consolidation April 3, 1874, of the Kings Mountain Railroad Company, chartered December 19, 1849, and completed September 7, 1852, and the Chester & Lenoir Railroad Company, chartered February 26, 1873, and opened to Lincolnton, North Carolina — sixty-three miles—in 1880. On September 22, 1882, the road was leased for ninety-nine years to the Charlotte, Columbia and Augusta Railroad Company. This lease assigned to the Richmond and Danville Railroad Company.

The road was opened to Lenoir June 2, 1884.

By these Acts of consolidation, communication by rail was established between Lenoir, in Caldwell County, via Hickory and Newton on the Western Railroad, to Lincolnton. A third rail is laid between Newton and Hickory, over the Western North Carolina Railroad, for the accommodation of narrow-gauge equipment.

President ----------------------------- W. Holmes Harden ------------------- Chester, SC.
Secretary------------------------------ Jno. J. McLure----------------------- Chester, SC.
Treasurer ----------------------------- Jno. J. McLure----------------------- Chester, SC.

Property Operated:

1. Chester and Lenoir, from Chester, SC to Newton, NC, and from Hickory to Lenoir, NC.
- Miles of line for each road named----............ 99.22
- Miles of line for each class of roads named ---99.22
2. Western North Carolina, from Newton, NC, to Hickory, NC.
- Miles of line for each road named...................10.08
- Miles of line for each class of roads named--- 10.08

Towns on Route (in NC):

NC/SC State Line

Crowders Creek

Pleasant Ridge

Gastonia (1873)


Lufty (1891-1902)

Harden (1881)

High Shoals


Maiden (1879)


Conover (1873)

Hickory Tavern > Hickory (1873)

Lovelady > Granite (1887) > Granite Falls (1888)

Saw Mill (1893) > Sawmill (1894) > Pearland (1921)

Hudsonville (1878) > Hudson (1886)


© 2018 - J.D. Lewis - PO Box 1188 - Little River, SC 29566 - All Rights Reserved