South Carolina Railroads - Charleston & Hamburgh Railroad


Year Chartered or Incorporated

Year Line Operational

Year Service Ended

Original Starting Point

Original Ending Point







Best Friend of Charleston - 1831
* 1899 - Merged into the Southern Railway. Retained line name until this merger.
* 1844 - Merged into the South Carolina Railroad. Retained line name.
* 1837 - Acquired by the Louisville, Cincinnati & Charleston Railroad. Retained line name.

The "South Carolina" 1831 - First 8-Wheeled Locomotive

The South Carolina Canal & Rail Road Company was a holding company that controlled both the Santee Canal and the Charleston & Hamburgh Railroad, which it built.

In the fall term of 1827, Alexander Black, a member of the SC House of Representatives, at the suggestion of a friend, obtained the charter of the South Carolina Canal & Rail Road Company, and in doing so was permitted to address the SC Senate to get the bill through that body, there being no one in the Senate sufficiently acquainted with the subject of railroads at that early date.

This charter was significantly altered and amended at an extra session of the General Assembly in January of 1828, making the capital $700,000 and securing this charter 3,500 shares of $100 each. On March 21st, the entire amount was made up and $10 per share was paid, all in Charleston, not a share taken in Hamburgh, Columbia, or Camden, where books were also opened. (continues below)

The "E.L. Miller" - 1834 

The "Sumter," "Marion," and "Ohio" - 1835

"Cincinnati," Allen," and "Kentucky" - 1835

Barrel Car - Passenger & Freight - 1841

The amended charter required that the railroad should be commenced within two years and be completed for transportation within six years. 1,000 tons of iron were imported immediately. Dr. Howard, U.S. Engineer, and Horatio Allen, Civil Engineer made examinations of the planned route and their findings resulted in the final route chosen.

On January 9, 1830 construction began at Line Street (outskirts of Charleston) by driving piles of light wood, 8" x 8" square, 6'-6" apart along the line, and 6'-0" apart laterally, caps of ties morticed on the piles 6" x 9" by 9'-0" long, and rails the same size, notched on to the ties and wedged on the inner side. This construction continued through nearly the entire line. When the work was over fifteen feet high, three piles abreast were driven and a sill placed on them near the ground, which supported a framed work (an inverted W) on which the ties and rails were secured as before described.

This work cost roughly $2,000 per mile including all materials except for the iron on level ground, and between $2,500 and $4,000 per mile over swamps ten (10) to twenty (20) feet high. The excavation was done at six (6) to ten (10) cents per yard, on average.

In 1830, only six (6) miles were finished; in 1831, nearly the entire road was put under contract; and, in October of 1833, the road was connected from Charleston to Hamburgh, a total of 136 miles. When opened for business, the Charleston & Hamburgh Railroad cost a total of $951,148.39.

In 1836, the tracks were in such need of repair that the line was almost entirely rebuilt, and this rebuilding included heavy flanged iron (40 tons per mile) laid directly on the road (previously, it was all on stilts) with an embankment added to support the piles and rails. These improvements were completed in 1839 at an additional cost of roughly $1.6 million, with over $400,000 being paid out of track income rather than an increase in capital.

The grades on the original line were fairly easy, not exceeding thirty (30) feet in a mile, on the 120 miles west of Charleston. At that point (in present-day Aiken County), the company had chosen to construct an inclined plane that descended about 180 feet in half a mile, and beyond the inclined plane the road again leveled out to approximately thirty-five (35) feet of fall per mile.

This inclined plane has been regarded as a great mistake in the location of the railroad, as it might have been avoided by increasing the length of the road about six miles. However, this would have made a continuous grade of thirty feet in a mile, where the trains would have been much retarded by frost, or when slightly wet, which is nearly as bad as frost. And, the cost of maintaining an additional six miles of track on side hills with many additional curves would have been more than the average costs of the rest of the road.

On March 1, 1830, the management of the South Carolina Canal & Rail Road Company reported that they had accepted an offer by E. L. Miller to construct a locomotive engine in New York at the West Point Foundry. Mr. Miller asserted that this new engine (the first one to be built in America) should perform at the rate of ten miles an hour, instead of eight as first proposed, and carry three times its weight, which was required the year before on the Liverpool & Manchester Railroad in England, which Mr. Miller went out to witness the year before.

Mr. Miller's engine was brought to Charleston by himself in the fall of 1830, and on December 14th and 15th had its first trial. Its power and efficiency was proven to be double what was contracted for - running at the rate of 16-21 miles per hour with 40-50 passengers in some four or five cars, and without any cars it ran between 30 and 35 miles per hour.

This engine carried passengers up and down the line until the complete road was finished, at one time going 72 miles out and back in the same day, and carrying at one time 100 passengers. After the road was completed, this engine conveyed passengers between Aiken and Hamburgh for years, and probably ran as many miles as any engine ever built. It performed equal to any of her size - about four tons in total weight.

This was the first steam locomotive engine built in the United States to run on a railroad. It was first named the Best Friend, but her boiler burst in June of 1831 and it was completely rebuilt in Charleston, afterwards being renamed to the Phoenix

In 1837, two new engines were ordered; in 1839 another two engines were ordered; all four from Philadelphia. Seven new engines were received in 1837 and 1838. Between 1839 and 1843, the company built four engines in their own workshop and rebuilt several others.

The other interesting facet of this new railroad in America is the fact that its early passenger cars were built as "barrels" instead of as squared-off cars. First of all, they cost about one-half as much to make, and secondly they were much stronger and required less repairs. However, the interiors looked quite awkward and they were frequently condemned by strangers at first sight, with many resolved never to be reconciled to them.

The Charleston & Hamburgh Railroad commenced at Charleston, pursued a northwest course, and crossed the headwaters of the Ashley River about twenty-eight (28) miles out of Charleston. Seven (7) miles farther, it crossed the Four Holes Swamp. At a distance of sixty-five (65) miles from Charleston, it passed the Edisto River, then by a direct course after another fifty-eight (58) miles it entered the valley of Big Horse Creek. From there, it ran a few miles then turned westward and terminated at the fairly new town of Hamburgh, just across the Savannah River from Augusta, GA.

Several other new town and villages were created along the new line - among them were Beesville, Summerville, Branchville, Midway, Blackville, and Aiken.

The profile was gently undulating, frequently almost level, and the maximum ascent never exceeds thirty (30) feet per mile. The summit of the dividing ridge, between the Savannah and Edisto rivers, is elevated 513 feet above sea level, and one inclined plan provided with a stationary steam-engine was used at this location, which is 114 miles from Charleston.

The superstructure is composed of flat iron bars, attached to wooden string pieces 6" x 10", supported generally on piles, the latter supported by ties. They have been driven to considerable depth in some of the marshes, and in other parts they substitute for embankments, which have not been used except in limited situations. The railway resembled a continuous and prolonged bridge. The exposed parts of the woodwork were protected by a coating of heated tar and oil.

On December 28, 1837, the Louisville, Cincinnati & Charleston Railroad purchased the Charleston & Hamburgh Railroad, and it reduced the line's running time from twelve hours to ten hours, as well as eliminating stationary steam engines at all inclined planes by going to a counterbalanced steam locomotive system.

The Louisville, Cincinnati & Charleston Railroad also puchased the stock, road, and railroad priveleges of the South Carolina Canal & Railroad Company, and in 1844 the two charters were united by an act of the South Carolina General Assembly under one corporation, known as the South Carolina Railroad Company.

Excerpted with edits from "Centennial History of South Carolina Railroad" by Samuel Melanchthon Derrick, 1930.

Towns on Route:


North Augusta (1900)

Clearwater (1901)

Bath (1852)

Marshes (1850s)

Langley (1871)

Warrenville (1898)

Graniteville (1848)

Aiken (1834)

Roseland (1890)

Woodward (1853) > Johnson (1860) > Mont Morenci

Oakwood (1893)

110 Mile Turnout (1850s)

Windsor (1856)

White Pond (1880)

Williston (1830)

96 Mile Turnout (1850s)

Mims (1857) > Elko (1871)

Clinton (1833) > Blackville (1834)

Lees Station (1873) > Lees Turnout > Lees

Grahams Turnout (1838) > Grahams

Denmark (1892)

Lowery (1850) > Bamberg (1854)

Midway (1833)

Edisto Turnout (1893) > Edisto

Embree (1913)

Branchville (1835)

58 Mile Turnout (1850s)

Badham (1901)

Reevesville (1854)

St. George

Byrds (1888)

41 Mile Turnout (1850s)

Rumph's Bridge (1856) > Rumphtown > Pregnalls

Ross Station (1850s) > Dorchester (1903)

Latimer (1850s)

Timothy Creek (1843) > Ridgeville (1844)

26 Mile Turnout (1850s)

Jedburgh (1852)

Summerville (1835)

Lincolnville (1883)

Ladsons (1850s) > Anneville > Ladsons

Ashley Phosphate (1889) > Midland Park (1909)

Sineaths (1850s)

Ten Mille Hill (1879) > Tenmile > The Farms (1913)

7 Mile Pump (1850s)

Horse Pond (1916)

Myers (1894)


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