P&N Railroad, the abbreviation for the Piedmont & Northern Railroad, is one among the few remaining pieces of “The Great Electric System of the South," commonly known as "The Electric."
Construction of the P&N began in Greenwood, South Carolina, in 1911 by Duke Power Company, to promote industrial growth in the upstate area.
The line followed present-day U.S. Highways 25 and 178 to Belton, where it connected with an existing electric trolley line to Anderson. It then followed along S.C. 20 to Greenville and U.S. 29 to Spartanburg.
In 1914, the South Carolina portion of the P&N was completed up to Spartanburg. The line from Charlotte to Gastonia in North Carolina also was added. Construction from Spartanburg to Gastonia was stopped during World War I, only to be abandoned forever.
Freight was always the main source of revenue for the line. By the mid-1930s, the P&N had become increasingly a freight-oriented railroad, although passenger service continued until 1951. Meanwhile, the freight service was “dieselized" in 1954 and became part of the Seaboard Coast Line in 1970.
From the Highway 178 overpass at Hodges, one can get a view of the P&N station beside the now-abandoned rail bed. The station at Donalds is now used for storage by Log Cabin Antiques.
Although the separate passenger and freight stations are gone, the two-story brick P&N power station still stands beside the Duke Power substation near S.C. 20.
Presently, the only remaining clue of the P&N passenger station in Greenville is the railway’s emblem. It has three streaks of lightning, which now are incorporated into the brick wall in front of Duke Power’s nearby office building.
The old downtown station has been preserved in fine condition and houses small businesses. Besides the abandoned P&N depots, the remnants of electric power lines still can be seen.
One of the two electric engines, which were used in those times, can be seen at the North Carolina Museum of Transportation in Salisbury. It was built by General Electric in 1912.