South Carolina Canal and Rail Road Company

South Carolina Canal and Rail Road Company

Infobox rail
railroad_name=South Carolina Canal and Rail Road Company

locale=South Carolina
start_year=1827| end_year=1843
successor_line=South Carolina Rail Road
hq_city=Charleston, SC
gauge=5 ft

Chartered in 1827, the South Carolina Canal and Rail Road Company ran scheduled steam service over its 136 mile line from Charleston, SC to Hamburg, SC beginning in 1833. At that time it was the longest railroad in the world. It was also known as the "Charleston and Hamburg Railroad" although it is unclear if that was a legal name, a subsidiary name, or just a nickname. In 1843, this line and the abortive Louisville, Cincinnati and Charleston Railroad merged to become the South Carolina Rail Road.

In 1881, it was reorganized as the South Carolina Railway Company. After entering receivership in 1889, it was reorganized once again five years later as the South Carolina and Georgia Railroad Company.

Southern Railway (now Norfolk Southern Railway) gained control of the line in 1899 and obtained a lease to the South Carolina and Georgia Railroad in 1902. The lease is still in effect.


With the advent of cotton in the early 1800s, the relatively remote South Carolina upcountry enjoyed a vast expansion in the value of its agricultural produce. Overland transport by wagon was slow and expensive, so this produce tended to go to Augusta, Georgia, then down the Savannah River to the seaport at Savannah, Georgia. The SCC&RR Company was chartered in 1827 to divert this commerce to Charleston by means of connections to Columbia, Camden, and Hamburg. Despite its novelty the project was pursued by its Charleston leaders with aggressive method, public demonstrations encouraging support for the daring concept of a steam driven railroad. Under William Aiken as the first President, six miles of line were completed at Charleston in 1830. The first run over the entire line was celebrated in October, 1833.

The line was a commercial success despite price competition against riverborne traffic and later railroad projects in Georgia. Its initial cost of about $1,000,000 was doubled by early way improvements, at that price still quite economical. This satisfying position blew up in the course of an overly ambitious overmountain expansion under the name of the Louisville, Cincinnati and Charleston Railroad. The SCC&RR successfully weathered the Panic of 1837 and overhanging debt from the busted LC&CRR, but not without a retrenchment that continued through the next decade.

Early engineering

The SCC&RR was fortunate in its chief engineer, Horatio Allen, who had already toured English railroads, and drove the Stourbridge Lion on its first and only run in America. Allen argued successfully before the SCC&RR directors for immediate adoption of steam locomotion, stating that the power of horses was known and would never increase, but the future power of locomotives was beyond imagination. The first locomotive was the Best Friend of Charleston of 1830; by 1834 the line had purchased a total of fifteen locomotives and scheduled one daily run in each direction.

The way consisted of flat strap iron fastened to continuous timber sills. Much of the way passed easily through South Carolina's monotonously flat Pine Barrens. Elsewhere, the track was elevated - frequently over long distances - on timber pilings. A drop of 180 ft over a 3800 ft run into Horse Creek Valley required an inclined plane, with a steam powered winch later replaced by a locomotive used as a counterweight. Delays at this archaic bottleneck brought about the railroad town of Aiken, SC as a stopover place.

The line was built with sixteen equally spaced turnouts each with a water pump and timber shed. A maintenance station responsible for perhaps eight miles of track was based at each turnout. The station overseer surveyed half of that track daily, and effected minor repairs such as making secure loose bars of iron, punching down protruding spikeheads, chamfering wheel flange rubs off the rails, ramming earth around the piles, and so on. The overseer was also responsible for maintaining adequate supplies of water and timber at the station, and for calling on the Superintending Engineer for nonroutine derangements.

Timber pilings had allowed the SCC&RR to build their line quickly and cheaply, especially in comparison with northern lines such as the Baltimore and Ohio that tended to overbuild. Nevertheless by 1834 the pilings began to rot at the ground line, and were supplanted by earthen embankments made by dumping dirt over the side (encasing and preserving some of the longleaf pine structures to this day). Beginning in 1836 the flat strap rails were replaced with "T" rails.

Wood rot was an early maintenance evil. By 1841 a surface treatment called Kyanizing was found to be helpful, and shortly thereafter the cheaper (and less dangerous) "Earlizing" with copper and iron sulphates was adopted.

Novel and clumsily designed locomotives were a great expense with generally half of the large fleet laid up for repairs, modification, or breaking up. These early machines suffered from slightness in the drive wheels, axles, and valve gear, and from unequal distribution of weight, a serious problem given the questionable track they ran on. Inside actions were eventually converted to outside. The early eight wheeled locomotives shared these problems along with overly weak frames, but otherwise were appreciated for greater power and less injury to the road. With limited facilities in an agricultural economy, all of these shortcoming resulted in long outages. Through 1834, locomotives had been purchased from six different suppliers.

The original line generally paralleled US Route 78 and remained in service until the 1980s. The downtowns of many railroad towns such as Warrenton, Williston and Blackville are still marked by railroad esplanades frequently with elevated causeways.

National Historic Landmark in Charleston

William Aiken House and Associated Railroad Structures is a historic district in Charleston, South Carolina, that contains structures of the South Carolina Canal and Rail Road Company and the home of the company's founder, William Aiken. These structures are considered "nationally significant" in relation to the history of the development of the railroad industry in the United States. The South Carolina Department of Archives and History states that the structures in this district "represent the best extant collection of antebellum railroad structures illustrating the development of an early railroad terminal facility."cite web|url=
title=William Aiken House and Associated Railroad Structures (456 King St., Charleston) |accessdate=2008-03-21|work=National Register Properties in South Carolina listing|publisher=South Carolina Department of Archives and History
] The railroad company with which they are associated was the first to use steam from the beginning of its operations, use an American-made locomotive, and carry U.S. mail. When it began operation in 1833 it had the greatest length of track in the world under single management.

The district was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1963.cite web|url=
title=William Aiken House and Associated Railroad Structures |accessdate=2008-02-12|work=National Historic Landmark summary listing|publisher=National Park Service
] citation|title=PDFlink| [ National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: William Aiken House and Associated Railroad Structures] |32 KB|date=May 12, 1981 |author=James Dillon and Cecil McKithan |publisher=National Park Service and PDFlink| [ "Accompanying seven photos, from 1961 and 1975"] |32 KB] Contributing structures in the district include:
* "William Aiken House", built in 1807. An octagonal wing added in 1831 but damaged in 1886 earthquake, and certain woodwork was removed in 1931. A servants wing is unchanged.
*A coach house at the back of gardens on the William Aiken House property
*"Camden Depot", a railroad depot
*"Deans Warehouse", built in 1856
*"South Carolina Railroad Warehouse"
*"Tower Passenger Depot"
*"Line Street Car and Carpenter Shops"
*"Railroad Right-of-Way"
*"Best Friend of Charleston" Replica", a replica of the first American-made steam locomotive


;ColumbiaIn accordance with the original charter, a 60 mile line from Branchville to Columbia was built by the LC&CRR, and opened in 1842.


* [ cite book | first = Ulrich B. | last = Phillips | title = A History of Transportation in the Eastern Cotton Belt to 1860 | year = 1908 | publisher = Columbia University Press and reprints pp.132-220]
* [ cite book | first = William H. | last = Brown | title = The History of the First Locomotives In America | year = 1871 | publisher = D. Appleton and Company and reprints]
*cite book | first = Samuel M. | last = Derrick | title = Centennial History of South Carolina Railroad | year = 1933 | publisher = State Publishing Company, Columbia, SC
*cite book | first = Anthony J. | last = Bianculli | title = Trains and Technology: The American Railroad in the Nineteenth Century | year = 2002 | publisher = University of Delaware Press | id = ISBN 0874137292 pp.89-94

External links

* [ The South Carolina Canal and Rail Road Company]
* [ 1833 South Carolina Transportation Map]
* [ 1880 South Carolina Railroad Map]
* [ Branchville - The First Railroad Junction]
* [ William Aiken House and Associated Railroad Structures, Charleston County (456 King St., Charleston)] , including 13 photos, at South Carolina Department of Archives and History
* [ South Carolina Railroad-Southern Railway Company, 456 King Street, Charleston, Charleston County, SC: 31 photos, 2 data pages] , and related [ Carriage House, 456 King Street: 2 photos] at Historic American Building Survey
* [ South Carolina Railroad-Southern Railway Company, Camden Depot, Anne Street, Charleston, Charleston County, SC: 4 photos] , and related [ South Carolina Railroad-Southern Railway Company, Warehouse, 42 John Street: 1 photo] at Historic American Building Survey

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