South Carolina Railroads - Carolina & Northwestern Railway


Year Chartered or Incorporated

Year Line Operational

Year Service Ended

Original Starting Point

Original Ending Point





Chester, SC

Lenoir, NC
* 1938 - Bankrupt. ~1940 acquired by Southern Railway.
+ 1910 - Acquired the Caldwell & Northern Railway in North Carolina. 
Was the Chester & Lenoir Narrow Gauge Railroad

1895, chartered in North Carolina.

After several years of operating, the Chester & Lenoir Narrow Gauge Railroad 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 (aka Carolina & Northwestern Railway). This reorganization seemed to have the approval of Southern Railway, who had merged with the Richmond & Danville Railroad in 1894.

In 1902, the line was converted to standard gauge track. After acquiring the Caldwell & Northern Railroad in 1910, the Carolina & Northwestern Railway extended this line further into Caldwell County, NC, mostly to accommodate new logging companies in the surrounding area. The line proceeded around the base of Chestnut Knot and then to Upper Creek, nearly reaching the headwaters of that creek. There, the line then went toward the Linville Gorge area and stopped due to the extreme terrain.

A major flood in this area in 1916 ruined a lot of track and almost wiped out the town of Mortimer. Many logging companies chose to abandon the area since they had already acquired most of the timber they wanted anyway. Now, the Carolina & Northwestern Railway was without many major shippers, but it managed to struggle along. By 1925, logging stopped completely in the area.

At the same time, Mr. Ford's Model T were getting more and more popular, and the Carolina & North-Western Railway's passenger business began to plummet. By 1935, train service was done on an "as needed" basis. In February of 1937, the company petitioned the Interstate Commerce Commission to abandon passenger service between Lenoir and Edgemont. Freight service continued for almost a year, and it too was abandoned in 1938.

The line continues to operate between Lenoir and Hickory, thanks to the acquisition around 1940 by Southern Railway.

During the 1920s and 1930s, the line earned the nickname of "Can't & Never Will" because of all the many proposals for expansion that never took place.

Towns on Route (in SC):

NC/SC State Line

Bowling Green



Yorkville > York (1915)








The 22nd Annual Report of the South Carolina Railroad Commissioners of 1900 provided the following list of stations with mileage for the Carolina & Northwestern Railway:

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