South Carolina Canal & Rail Road Company

The Best Friend of Charleston

The South Carolina Canal & Rail Road Company was chartered in South Carolina in 1827 for the purpose of expanding trade between Charleston and the west. Its pioneering steam locomotive, the Best Friend of Charleston (above), pulled the company's first trains along a six-mile route leading out of that city. Hauling four or five cars with 40 or more passengers, it could run at 16 to 21 miles per hour.

In 1833, the railroad opened to Hamburg, directly across the Savannah River from Augusta. At the time, the 136-mile line was the longest in the world. In 1843 the South Carolina Canal & Rail Road Company merged with the Louisville, Cincinnati, & Charleston Railroad Company to become the South Carolina Railroad Company.

South Carolina Railroad train pulled by the engine West Point

The railroad's second locomotive, the West Point.

Although intended to connect Charleston and Memphis, the railroad progressed no farther west than Hamburg. The Memphis connection was eventually made, however, by the construction of the Georgia Railroad from Augusta to Atlanta, the Western & Atlantic from Atlanta to Chattanooga, the Nashville & Chattanooga from Chattanooga to Stevenson, AL,* and the Memphis & Charleston from Stevenson to Memphis. The lines were joined in 1858.

* From Stevenson, the Nashville & Chattanooga continued north to Nashville. On the 38 miles between Stevenson and Chattanooga, the Memphis & Charleston operated under a joint use lease agreement with the N&C.

The Best Friend.


1833 map at Library of Congress

Historical Map Archive at University of Alabama Map Library

Suggested Reading:

Thomas Fetters. The Charleston & Hamburg; A South Carolina Railroad and an American Legacy. Charleston, SC: The History Press, 1988.

Angus Sinclair. Growth of the Locomotive. Railway and Locomotive Engineering. April 1903, pages 161-64. Online at Internet Archive here. Georgia's Railroad History & Heritage. © Steve Storey

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