South Carolina Railfan's Handbook

South Carolina Railfan's Handbook


The Palmetto State has a number of attractions for railroad enthusiasts, most notably the South Carolina Railroad Museum, just south of Winnsboro. Old railroad equipment is also on display in numerous other locations around the state.

Another place to experience South Carolina's rich railroad history is along the numerous rail-trails. In these locations, abandoned railroad tracks have been converted to hiking and bicycling paths. Several pieces of the Palmetto Trail have been built on old railroad and tram lines also. For more information about these rail-trails, visit the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's web site at http://www.railtrails.org/.

South Carolina has several “firsts” in railroad history. In 1831, the the first regularly-scheduled steam train, pulled by a locomotive known as the “Best Friend”, began operating in Charleston. This line was later extended to Hamburg, SC, which is now part of North Augusta. The portion of this line between Charleston and Branchville is still in operation today, while most of the line from Branchville to North Augusta has been abandoned. In 1939, a piece of this line became America's first rail-trail opened to public use, the “Cathedral Aisle Trail”. You can still hike this trail today, located in the Hitchcock Woods.

For more information about the Best Friend, be sure to visit the web site of Charleston Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society, located at http://www.bestfriendofcharleston.org/.

South Carolina Railroad Museum

Located in Winnsboro (Rockton), Fairfield County, SC

The Official Railroad Museum of South Carolina offers excursion train rides over the restored portion of its 11-mile railroad. The train ride lasts approximately one hour.

Consult http://www.scrm.org/ for train departure times and other details.

Branchville Railroad Museum and Shrine

Located in Branchville, Orangeburg County, SC

Branchville, South Carolina, is home to the world's oldest railroad junction, and was on the route of the country's first scheduled passenger train. The Branchville Railroad Shrine and Museum now serves as a reminder of the years when the railroad industry was a dominant force in the United States. Outside, a caboose, a semaphore signal, and several baggage carts are on display. Inside, you can see numerous artifacts, including a model of the "Best Friend" steam locomotive.

Click here for more information about the museum.

Aiken Train Museum

Located in Aiken, Aiken County, SC

Come here to relax and learn all about the Charleston and Hamburg Railroad. Several old passenger cars and a caboose are undergoing restoration. A replica of the Aiken Depot has now opened, containing dioramas which depict what was once the longest railroad in the world. You will also find a playground and picnic tables here.

Chester County Transportation Museum

Located in Chester, Chester County, SC

The old Seaboard Railroad freight depot in Chester has now been restored as a transportation museum, open every day except Mondays. Outside the building you will see some old highway mile markers, plus the railroad track which is still in use. On the inside, you can find a collection of old automobiles, a horse-drawn buggy, old bicycles, several model railroads, and hundreds of smaller transportation artifacts from a variety of eras. The building itself has been wonderfully restored by groups of volunteers. This is a great place for railfans and antique car buffs to visit.

Hub City Railroad Museum

Located in Spartanburg, Spartanburg County, SC

The former Southern Railways Depot is home to the Hub City Railroad Museum which is open on Wednesday and Saturday. During your visit, learn about Spartanburg's rail history and how it was an important part of Spartanburg's development.

Timrod Park and Florence Museum

Located in Florence, Florence County, SC

An old steam locomotive built in 1917 by Vulcan Iron Works sits outside the museum.

Richburg Park

Located in Richburg, Chester County, SC

A saddle-tank steam locomotive sits here in the town of Richburg for visitors to view.

T. B. Carroll, Jr. Memorial Park

Located in Hardeeville, Jasper County, SC

Right in the center of the town of Hardeeville, SC, just off I-95, sits a 100-year-old wood-fired narrow-gauge steam locomotive! You can actually climb into the cab here and imagine what it was like to work on one of the logging railroads that were so important to the area's history. A picnic table and a fountain make this a nice place to relax as well.

Region 3 Discovery Center

Located in Greenwood, Barnwell County, SC

The H. Flowe Trexler Region 3 Discovery Center has a number of interesting things for the tourist passing thru the area, including a visitors′ center with a gift shop and a coffee shop. This building also features a railroad-oriented museum with historical data and artifacts from Aiken, Bamberg, Barnwell, and Orangeburg Counties. Next door is the Agricultural Heritage Museum, which tells the story of farm life in this rural community throughout the centuries.

Cayce Historical Museum

Located in Cayce, Lexington County, SC

An old bay-window caboose sits on the property of this museum in Cayce, SC.

Swamp Rabbit Trail

Located in Greenville, Greenville County, SC.

The city of Greenville has a wonderful paved trail running thru the downtown, much of which was built along a railroad corridor. Along the way, the Swamp Rabbit Trail passes thru Cleveland Park, Falls Park, and Linky Stone Park. The rail-trail portion consists of 8 feet of asphalt and 5 feet of specially designed rubberized running trail surface.

West Ashley Greenway

Located in Charleston, Charleston County, SC

This ten-mile long rail-trail is part of the East Coast Greenway. The scenery varies from suburban to rural along the way. The eastern end runs through commercial and residential sections of the West Ashley neighborhood. There are a number of street crossings, but none of them carry much traffic, with the exception of Folly Road. As you get farther west, you will see some creeks, ponds, and wetlands, plus an agricultural experiment station.

Most of the trail is unpaved, hard-packed dirt, and there are virtually no hills. Although it runs parallel to US #17, it is far enough away that you cannot see the highway or hear the traffic noise.

Note: The West Ashley Greenway is not the same as the West Ashley Bikeway. The two trails are nearby, but they do not connect.

North Augusta Greeneway

Located in North Augusta, Aiken County, SC

The city of North Augusta, SC is fortunate to have an outstanding paved trail for walking, hiking, bicycling, and roller-skating. Built along an abandoned railroad track, the North Augusta Greenway offers a wonderful “green tunnel” experience. This rail-trail passes through the Riverview Park, which is a convenient access point. The main trail is about seven miles long, with several more miles of trails branching off of it.

Florence Rail Trail and connections

Located in Florence, Florence County, SC

This is a popular place for walkers and runners in a residential neighborhood of Florence, South Carolina. Across the street from Ebenezer Park is the trail's main parking area. From there, a paved rail-trail runs east for about a mile and a half. Past the end of the rail-trail is a series of unpaved trails that rin through the woods.

Hitchcock Woods

Located in Aiken, Aiken County, SC

Just outside of downtown Aiken, South Carolina lies one of the largest urban forests in the United States, a 2100-acre tract of land maintained by the Hitchcock Foundation for public use. The many hiking and horseback trails can provide for hours of fun exploring the interesting terrain. The Cathedral Aisle Trail, originally part of the South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company, became America's first rail-trail in 1939.

New River Trail

Located in Bluffton, Beaufort County, SC

According to this trail's brochure, “It takes work to get there, but it's well worth it.” This little-known piece of the East Coast Greenway passes through some wonderful scenic and historic areas. The south end of this unpaved rail-trail terminates at the New River.

Peak-to-Prosperity Rail-Trail

Located in Newberry and Fairfield counties, SC

This section of the Palmetto Trail is on an abandoned railroad right-of-way through the towns of Peak and Pomaria. Parking is available in downtown Pomaria, and in the Alston community of Fairfield County.

Railroad and Mill Village Heritage Trail

Located in Greenwood, Greenwood County, SC

In the town of Greenwood, South Carolina, you will find a paved bicycle trail built along an abandoned railroad right-of-way. It begins on Main Street and runs about 21/2 miles out through residential areas to an old mill village. For much of the trip, you are surrounded by greenery on both sides, and it hardly seems that you are so close to downtown. Although this trail is located in the foothills region, it is very flat.

Tuxbury Horse Trail

Located in Wando, Berkeley County, SC

This 14-mile trail along old logging railroads and trams in the Francis Marion National Forest traverses a wide array of habitat types. It is open for hiking, off-road bicycling, and horseback riding.

West Ashley Bikeway

Located in Charleston, Charleston County, SC

Running through neighborhoods of the West Ashley area is a 4-kilometer long paved bicycle trail known as the West Ashley Bikeway. While some of the older parts of the bikeway are in poor condition, the portion that is to the east of Saint Andrews Blvd. is very nice. After leaving the residential area, the trail runs as straight as an arrow through the woods. Heading eastward, you can begin to see glimpses of marshland and the river through the trees along the sides of the trail, until at last you emerge at a spot with a spectacular view of the Ashley.

Note: The West Ashley Bikeway is not the same as the West Ashley Greenway. The two trails are nearby, but they do not connect.

West Cambridge Trail

Located in Greenwood, Greenwood County, SC

In one of Greenwood's historic neighborhoods, an old railroad switching yard has been transformed into a great place to relax and enjoy the outdoors. In addition, an unpaved trail runs from here to the shopping district along the SC #72 Bypass.

Ninety Six Town Trail

Located in Ninety Six, Greenwood County, SC

The town of Ninety Six once had a railroad running through it. Today, the roadbed has now been converted into a trail for walking and bicycling. It is also known as the “Town of Ninety Six Trail” or the “Ninety Six Town Park Trail”. Alongside it is the old depot building. Part of the trail is paved with concrete, while the rest of it is unpaved.

Williston Rail-Trail

Located in Williston, Barnwell County, SC

The town of Williston has a paved trail running through the business district, where the railroad tracks once lay. Walking and bicycling are permitted, but skateboarding and roller-skating are not.

Pelion Rail-Trail

Located in Pelion, Lexington County, SC

The town of Pelion has a short paved walking trail built along the old railroad line. Along the way, you will find a playground and several picnic shelters.

Grove Plantation

Located in Ravenel, Charleston County, SC

This location in the ACE Basin has a rail-trail known as Seaboard Coast Line Road.

Town of Ravenel Depot and Playground

Located in Ravenel, Charleston County, SC

 

The historic railroad depot in Ravenel was built around 1900, and has now been restored to its fresh and impressive look. Next to this building you will find a great railroad-oriented playground with a variety of equipment and some benches.

Timmonsville Rail-Trail

Located in Timmonsville, Florence County, SC

The town of Timmonsville now has a bike path running down along Main Street where the railroad once ran. It is very attractive, even if it only runs for a few blocks.


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