monsoon

Piedmont & Northern Railroad

96 posts in this topic

100 years ago they were building an electric passenger train line that ran from Charlotte to Gastonia called the Piedmont and Northern Railroad. It used to stop at all of the little communities between the two places. There are still some of the stations that used to exist on the line that can be seen today though of course they are being used for other purposes or have fallen into disrepair. There a website devoted to it here at Don's Rail Depot.

It apparently carried passengers until the 1950s. It's also interesting that some of the trains were built by companies here in NC. Sounds as if it ran on 1500V DC. There used to be a small museum devoted to this rail line in West Charlotte but sounds like it might have closed in 2004. There is a wikipedia article on it that shows the stations and stops from Charlotte. Looks as if the company was HQ'd in Charlotte.

A couple of photos:

2gy5cg8.jpg

358ujaq.jpg

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If I'm not mistaken the NCRR owns all the Charlotte/Gatsonia leg now except for a piece just outside Charlotte that is part of the NS now. The Meck times has had a good deal of coverage on reinstating this service. The goal is to promote economic deevelopment laong the corridor and thus it will initially only be freight based with possibly tourist/dinner tours. The hangup to full scaled passenger service is the NS leg, which the NS is not keen on allowing. Passenger svc along this route would of course be a dream and some local politicians are getting on to the idea.

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Ummmm....

Wow. I had no idea this existed. I recently took Amtrack between Harrisburg PA and Philadelphia, and I remember thinking how interesting it would be to see a railroad that connected all the small towns together the way that line did. Apparently we had it.

Odd it being electric, that's one long ass streetcar line.

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Didn't the Dukes (of Duke U., etc.) have some connection to the Piedmont & Northern? It had lines around the upstate of South Carolina, too. Those interurban lines were very common back around the turn of the last century; most all of them are now defunct, except some around Chicago and maybe elsewhere, which have been integrated into transit authority lines.

I think that freight railroads such as Norfolk Southern are concerned about having enough capacity to run all of their freight trains PLUS more passenger trains, as many rail lines are already at or above capacity, due to tons of demand, but try paying the railroad enough to make it worth its while.

Edited by mallguy

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From Mecklenburg Park & Rec....

"NCDOT Rail has released RFPs for the activation of both the rail line in Gastonia/Mt. Holly as well as the line that starts at Seversville Park and leads to Cedar Street near downtown Charlotte. Currently, our greenway trail sits on top of those rails from Seversville Park to Summit Avenue in Wesley Heights. We are working with NCDOT Rail to move our trail to the side (this $ was tied to 2008 bonds) and have a rail with trail as we did under I-77. There will be a public meeting on March 26th -- I believe at the Phillip O Berry Center off of Tuckaseegee. When time and location are confirmed by NCDOT I will alert everyone."

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The re-activation of this line is most likely in the near-term due to new leisure service. However, this alignment could also someday work well for commuter rail from the Gateway Terminal to Gaston County. That seems like a worthy trade-off to impacting a trail thoroughly enjoyed by Wesley Heights/3rd Ward residents and others.

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The re-activation of this line is most likely in the near-term due to new leisure service. However, this alignment could also someday work well for commuter rail from the Gateway Terminal to Gaston County. That seems like a worthy trade-off to impacting a trail thoroughly enjoyed by Wesley Heights/3rd Ward residents and others.

As long as the RR accommodates the trail, but it is no secret that cooperation & common sense are not a part of their lexicon...

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It occurs to me that 100 years ago, they start thinking about a railroad in 1909 and by 1912 they have an electric passenger train running from Charlotte to Gastonia. Took them 3-4 years. Today we have been talking about the North Commuter Rail line since at least 1996 and here it is 2009 with no idea if and when the thing will ever be built. How is that for progress?

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It occurs to me that 100 years ago, they start thinking about a railroad in 1909 and by 1912 they have an electric passenger train running from Charlotte to Gastonia. Took them 3-4 years. Today we have been talking about the North Commuter Rail line since at least 1996 and here it is 2009 with no idea if and when the thing will ever be built. How is that for progress?

There was no such thing as a NIMBY or the NEPA in 1909. Jane Jacobs was yet to be born. A neighborhood of single family homes was not considered to be sacrosanct, and the ultimate expression of Purity. No requirements of mitigation, no requirements of social justice. There were no zoning laws, and once the railroad controlled property, they could do whatever they want with it.

A railroad or interurban got a charter to build the line from the government (which granted the power of eminent domain). Sometimes railroads were financed privately, other times the government loaned them some money, but regardless they got to work right away. Reverse condemnation suits were practically unheard of. They just found the cheapest route, solved the engineering problems, and built it.

That's basically how things are in China to this day, and this is part of why they can afford to build subway lines and new rail lines out the wazoo.

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That's basically how things are in China to this day, and this is part of why they can afford to build subway lines and new rail lines out the wazoo.

Agreed and those interurbans didn't last that long- their peak was around the turn of the last century. They were cheaply built and thus were slow, and traffic didn't hold up. Built quickly and died quickly.

So there is some value in the fact that CATS has to meet all sorts of criteria to show that sufficient traffic will justify the demand, and that track and cars have to meet minimum safety, etc. criteria- despite the slow construction and development speed, fingers crossed that we're getting well-built rail lines that will maintain their traffic for many years.

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Agreed and those interurbans didn't last that long- their peak was around the turn of the last century. They were cheaply built and thus were slow, and traffic didn't hold up. Built quickly and died quickly....
What? That train carried passengers for 40 years and continued to carry freight for another 18 years beyond that. It was a long run for that rail line. Many of these lines ran for decades and some more than 1/2 century.

Many of the interurbans ran with technology that is rare even today in the USA. For example this electroliner would run at 80 mph and could technically run at 100 mph. Compare that to the speeds the NC RR has today with the Charlotte to Raleigh service.

ElectrolinerCNSRRVSEng.jpg

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A railroad or interurban got a charter to build the line from the government (which granted the power of eminent domain). Sometimes railroads were financed privately, other times the government loaned them some money, but regardless they got to work right away. Reverse condemnation suits were practically unheard of. They just found the cheapest route, solved the engineering problems, and built it.

As a side note it was these "charters" and the subsequent land grants by gvmt to the interurbans, elevateds, and railroads in general in the mid/late 1800s and early 1900s that resulted in maybe the greatest pilferage of federal money and assets of all time. As equal to or greater than today's banking mess. It wasn't really intil the 1970's with the final breakup of the PennCentral that this mess was largely sorted out.

Kinda Erie (i mean eerie lol).

Edited by palmetto75

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Didn't the Dukes (of Duke U., etc.) have some connection to the Piedmont & Northern?

Yup, Duke took a large portion of his American Tobacco fortune and invested in what became Duke power. In an effort to encourage sales of this new, high-tech, commodity (electricity) Duke aggressively promoted industrialization in the Piedmont. His investment in the Piedmont and Northern was seen as a means of opening up undeveloped locations and also to serve as a showpiece of what electricity can do.

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I read somewhere that P&N at some point hoped to connect its line in Upstate SC with its line in Charlotte, and perhaps even expand further to compete with to the Southern in the Atlanta-Washington (or at least Atlanta-Richmond) corridor. That would have been quite interesting.

There was another thread about the P&N a while ago...

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Wikipedia is not a definitive source and that isn't new news for this site. I just gave you two examples, including the one right here in Charlotte that lasted much longer than that. Maybe you can find the person who posted that in Wikipedia and find out how they drew this conclusion. In any case, even that article does not support what you originally said about these trains.

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OK, Monsoon, as always, you're right and anything that anyone else ever says is completely false. Trains magazine, Passenger Train Journal and other hard copy sources are also completely wrong. Thank you.

Edited by mallguy

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The proposed reactivation of the old P&N line is what I expected this thread to be about, so thanks for the history lesson too.

The NCDOT Public Meeting about this project is on March 26th at 7pm at the Phillip O Berry Center on Tuckaseegee Rd.

Not much is known, but generally speaking some rich guy with some trains wants to run passenger rail between Mt Holly and Charlotte for special events. The Cedar Yards would also be reactivated for storage. Apparently they were used for rail car storage up until just a few years ago.

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Reading around, it seems the plan is to reactivate the line between Mt Holly and Gastonia and the Belmont spur for freight, to serve industries on the line. Haven't heard about these special event trains - are you sure? I'd be interested to find out more.

Unfortunately, through service from Gastonia to Charlotte or even Mt Holly to Charlotte would not be possible. There's a big chunk of the line that CSX never abandoned and still uses to this day. From about Hovis Road west to downtown Mt Holly, the P&N runs parallel to the old Seaboard line. I think CSX uses the two parallel single track railroads as if they are one double track railroad, so that segment probably sees heavy use. And from Hovis to State Street, CSX held on to the line to access the industrial area there.

Reg. Cedar Yard, NCDOT only owns the track as far west as State Street. They want to use it as a layover yard for passenger trains n the future. Not sure if this would be for the O-line / north corridor, or Amtrak, or SEHSR, or whatever, but they would eventually build a connection from the NS line near Gateway Station to the P&N line to access the yard.

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Yeah, the areas around Hovis Rd. have a lot industrial sites though it would be interesting to know what industry might require such a high level of train service. I also ran across the same information there was an effort to revive some sort of passenger service on this line. I don't see where there would be any need for regular service unless this thing was operated as part of a larger commuter rail service to Gaston county, but the special events train might make sense. Is there a bridge across the Catawba river?

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Is there a bridge across the Catawba river?

The bridge across the Catawba river is the tricky part.

At Mount Holly, there are two separate, single-track bridges over the river. One was built by the Seaboard Coast Line, the other was built by the P&N. Both are now owned by CSX, and operated as if they were a single, double-track bridge. This railroad sees fairly heavy freight traffic and probably wouldn't readily accommodate passenger trains without a bunch of upgrades.

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Reading around, it seems the plan is to reactivate the line between Mt Holly and Gastonia and the Belmont spur for freight, to serve industries on the line. Haven't heard about these special event trains - are you sure? I'd be interested to find out more.

Unfortunately, through service from Gastonia to Charlotte or even Mt Holly to Charlotte would not be possible. There's a big chunk of the line that CSX never abandoned and still uses to this day. From about Hovis Road west to downtown Mt Holly, the P&N runs parallel to the old Seaboard line. I think CSX uses the two parallel single track railroads as if they are one double track railroad, so that segment probably sees heavy use. And from Hovis to State Street, CSX held on to the line to access the industrial area there.

Reg. Cedar Yard, NCDOT only owns the track as far west as State Street. They want to use it as a layover yard for passenger trains n the future. Not sure if this would be for the O-line / north corridor, or Amtrak, or SEHSR, or whatever, but they would eventually build a connection from the NS line near Gateway Station to the P&N line to access the yard.

Well thats just the rumor I heard. I have reliable sources, but I don't know for sure. I won't know what exactly it is that they're planning until the meeting.

I do know that the plans are for more than 'just' the train service. The state has appropriated at least $5 million (remember that there is a much larger portion in Gaston County that they are going to build too). There quite a few track repairs/replacements and other enhancements (like crossing gates). Also a realignment, double tracking of some portion of the main line, a bridge deck of the South Fork, and restoring Cedar Yards for "passenger car storage" will be involved. However, If NCDOT is going to spend that kind of money, I expect this line will get used. A lot.

I'd also like to know where they're coming up with money for such an unnecessary and expensive project, given the budget cuts they're supposed to be going through.

According to POLARIS, the City owns Cedar Yards.

--------------------

[edit] According to this article in the Gaston Gazette:

  • There has been discussion of a dinner train for tourists or a trolley between Belmont Abbey College and downtown Belmont on the Belmont.
  • There is also a 90 percent chance that the P&N Railroad would be ready for freight service by the end of this year.
  • Restoration of the Belmont Spur is not part of a first phase of improvements.

Sounds like the Charlotte section might happen first.

Fun quote:

"The word we got from the Legislature is that it's very important that this happens," [an NCDOT representative] said. "We're working hard to ensure that this is under way by the end of the year."

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......

I'd also like to know where they're coming up with money for such an unnecessary and expensive project, given the budget cuts they're supposed to be going through........

----------> "The word we got from the Legislature is that it's very important that this happens," ....

Well, there you are. They will find the money if the necessary political support exists. This fact is all too often lost on Charlotte whose Mayor has chosen to deride and fight with the Legislature over the years instead of making the political alliances that cause these things to happen. In a state where power is concentrated as it is with the Legislature it would behoove the area to make a few friends up there. It appears they have done this in Gaston county if there is state money forthcoming for this dinner train.

I do think a dinner train is a nice idea only from the perspective that it will expose more people in the area to train travel where I am guess that most have never seen or been on a passenger train.

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The Charlotte section and Cedar Yards are actually in the "third phase" that would be done once plans are in place for passenger service.

The Gastonia-Mt. Holly branch is the first phase. The purpose of this is for freight service. Perhaps the main goal here is to protect the asset; there are some significant portions of this ROW that have eroded away (people were using it as an ATV trail) so maybe DOT needs to fix it up before it gets any worse and repairs will cost even more. They're looking for somebody to operate this as a short line RR but they don't seem to have found anybody yet.

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Ahh is this the same line that was in the local news recently where people are complaining about its revival? Apparently there are some housing developments that butt up the abandoned line and they don't want the noise from a train.

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