North Carolina Railroads - Spartanburg & Asheville Railroad


Year Chartered or Incorporated

Year Line Operational

Year Service Ended

Original Starting Point

Original Ending Point





Spartanburg, SC

Asheville, NC
* 1881 - Reorganized as the Asheville & Spartanburg Railroad.
By 1878 complete from Spartanburg north to the SC/NC State Line.
Originally envisioned in 1855 as the Greenville & French Broad Railroad, it never got off the drawing board. 

Heavily promoted by NC Governor Zebulon B. Vance, a native of Western North Carolina, and his SC counterpart, Governor Wade Hampton, III, the new Spartanburg & Asheville Railroad quickly encountered financial problems and was placed into receivership in 1881.

Construction started in 1876 and the going out of Spartanburg to the NC/SC State Line was fairly uneventful. In early 1878, the line reached Tryon, NC. But, the Piedmont quickly ran out and the the North Carolina mountains loomed in the path. The builders faced an almost sheer wall of rock in the form of Saluda Mountain, with no alternative route anywhere close. The two choices at the time were to go over the mountain or to bore multiple tunnels through it, and with finances becoming more and more tight, the builders chose to go over it to save money.

One year later, the line finally reached Hendersonville - a distance of twenty-one (21) miles, and the money ran out. A bill was introduced to the NC State Legislature to forfeit the charter if construction did not speed up. This spurred new and increased support for the railroad on both ends, and resulted in the reorganization of the company into the Asheville & Spartanburg Railroad in 1881, managed by the Richmond & Danville Railroad, which completed the line in 1886.

The Saluda Mountain section of this line was well known to railroaders everywhere for its dangerous and often deadly grade - 4.7%, when the acceptable limit was agreed to be only around 2%. The constructors and the owners agreed that this would tax crews to their absolute limit, but they proceeded. Soon after the line reached the town of Saluda in 1878 the first fatalities occurred. In 1880, fourteen men died. In 1886, nine men died. In 1890, three men died. In 1893, another three men died.

It was not until three successive wrecks happened rather quickly, and twenty-seven men lost their lives in 1903, that Southern Railway (the subsequent owner) was prompted to consider abandoning this section or developing new operating procedures. The result was the origination of the concept of "safety tracks," whereby runaway trains could be switched to go uphill to stop their forward momentum.

Towns on Route (in NC):


Flat Rock

Green River > Coleman (1879) > Green River #2 (1882) > Zirconia (1890)

Saluda (1878)

Pacolet Falls (1879-1880)

Tryon City (1878) > Tryon (1891)

NC/SC State Line

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