This is the story of the Piedmont & Northern, a disjointed electric railway with divisions in North & South Carolina.
The Piedmont & Northern Railway was a heavy electric interurban company operating over two disconnected divisions in North Carolina and South Carolina. Tracks spanned 128 miles total between the two segments, with the northern division running 24 miles from Charlotte to Gastonia in North Carolina, including a three-mile spur to Belmont. The southern division main line ran 89 miles from Greenwood to Spartanburg, South Carolina with a 12-mile spur to Anderson. Both sections were electrified to 1,500 volts DC with power supplied from mostly hydroelectric sources. Additionally, both segments were built to steam road standards with minimal street running.
Plans to connect the North and South Carolina divisions between Spartanburg, South Carolina and Gastonia, North Carolina, and to expand northwards towards Winston-Salem, North Carolina were successfully blocked by the Southern Railway and other entities in court cases in the 1930s.
The Piedmont & Northern Railway, though involved heavily in passenger operations, was primarily a heavy freight carrier. The most important commodities transported were coal and coke, cotton, cotton waste and paper.
The Piedmont & Northern survived the Great Depression and was later absorbed into the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad in 1969. Although part of the railroad was abandoned in South Carolina between Greenwood and Honea Path, and Belton to Anderson, much of the original system exists today as short lines.
According to an agreement with the North Carolina Department of Transportation in 2010, Patriot Rail will restore and operate the Piedmont & Northern rail corridor in Gaston County, North Carolina. The Boca-Raton, Florida based Patriot Rail will restore freight service on four miles of track upgraded in late 2009 between Gastonia and Ranlo. Another nine miles of the state-owned Piedmont & Northern corridor from Ranlo to Mount Holly should be upgraded by spring 2011.