South Carolina Railroads - Louisville, Cincinnati & Charleston Railroad


Year Chartered or Incorporated

Year Line Operational

Year Service Ended

Original Starting Point

Original Ending Point





Branchville, SC

Columbia, SC

* 1843 - Merged into the South Carolina Railroad.
Began in SC as the Branchville & Columbia Railroad, which was built by the LC&C Railroad Company. Retained its line name until merged into South Carolina & Georgia Railroad in 1894.
Started out as the Cincinnati & Charleston Railroad, but the state of Kentucky got involved and made enough demands that a new charter was required and the name was revised. 

On December 21, 1836, the Louisville, Cincinnati & Charleston Railroad was chartered to construct a railroad from an intersection with the Charleston & Hamburgh Railroad to some point on the Ohio River, near the city of Cincinnati. Failing to obtain a continuous charter through all states on the planned line, along with other causes, the original plan was abandoned. It was originally planned to go from Charleston to Columbia, then to the French Broad River of North Carolina and Tennessee, to Knoxville, then through Kentucky to Newport, and on to the Ohio River, opposite Cincinnati in southwestern Ohio.

The former governor of South Carolina, Robert Y. Hayne, was the first president of the Louisville, Cincinnati & Charleston Railroad. On December 28, 1837, the company 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.

In 1838, the Louisville, Cincinnati & Charleston Railroad started construction on the Branchville & Columbia Railroad, and seventeen (17) miles were opened in 1840. The line reached Columbia in 1842. The first train reached Columbia on June 20, 1842 and the first freight train arrived ten days later on July 1st. The first locomotive was named the Robert Y. Hayne after the company's first president, however, he had passed away in 1839 and never saw the line completed.

The Louisville, Cincinnati & Charleston Railroad puchased the stock, road, and corporate priveleges of the South Carolina Canal & Railroad Company for $2,400,000, and in 1843 the two charters were united by an Act of the South Carolina General Assembly under one corporation, known as the South Carolina Railroad Company.

The South Carolina General Assembly was not too happy with the demands of the state of Kentucky on the newly-created Cincinnati & Charleston Railroad, and they passed an Act on December 21, 1836 chartering the new and improved Louisville, Cincinnati & Charleston Railroad. Included in this new charter was the provision that the stockholders of the new railroad company were given the power to organize a separate corproate for banking purposes to be known as the "South Western Rail Road Bank." Linking railroads with banks became a fairly common practice in the 19th century since so much money was required to build a railroad.

Each share of stock in the bank was inseparably connected with a share in the railroad company. The railroad was to be liable for the debts of the bank, in case of its failure, but the bank was not liable for the debts of the railroad. Nevertheless, the management and the capital of the two institutions were distinct and separate. Before the bank could have a corporate existence, it had to be similarly chartered in two of the three other interested states.

The stockholders of the new Louisville, Cincinnati & Charleston Railroad convened for their first meeting in the First Presbyterian Church at Knoxville on January 9, 1837, and remained in session for six days. During this first meeting, the route through the valley of the French Broad River was definitely adopted, and the directors were authorized to appoint a chief engineer and an assistant to make surveys to determine the final location of the route in the other sections.

The election of directors resulted in the following selections:

Ohio - Edward D. Mansfield, William Green, Joseph Bonall

Kentucky - Robert Wickliffe, William Richardson, James Taylord, John W. Tibbatts, Israed Ludlow, John B. Casey

Tennessee - John Williams, J.G.M. Ramsey, Alexander E. Smith

North Carolina - James F.E. Hardy, Thomas J. Forney, Peregrine Roberts

South Carolina - Robert Y. Hayne, James Hamilton, Charles Edmonston, Mitchell King, B.T. Elsmore, Abraham Blanding, John C. Calhoun, John W. Simpson, Robert G. Mills

This board then in turn selected its first Chairman - Robert Y. Hayne.

The first order of business after organizing was to go obtain a decent arrangement with the existing railroad within the state of South Carolina - the Charleston & Hamburgh Railroad - owned by the South Carolina Canal and Rail Road Company. To make a long story short, the latter offered to sell all of its stock to the new Louisville, Cincinnati & Charleston Railroad Company, and they quickly accepted the offer. This was formally executed on December 28, 1837 - and the Louisville, Cincinnati & Charleston Railroad company now had an operational line - the Charleston & Hamburgh Railroad, which retained its line name.

Payment was made one-third in immediate cash, one-third at the end of one year, and the remaining third a the end of two years, with interest from date of transfer, secured by mortgage of the property. The new company was to assume all of the railroad-related obligations of the South Carolina Canal & Rail Road Company. It continued to operate the Santee Canal, which was included in its original charter. But for now, it was out of the railroad business.

The acquisiton of the Charleston & Hamburgh Railroad not only secured a railroad of 136 miles in length which would form a connecting link with the vast improvements then going on in Georgia and Alabama and thus would command the trade of the South and the Southwest. But, the purchase was an even greater benefit - it had enabled the new company to increase the subscription of stock to the amount necessary to secure the bank charter. Further, it had obtained for the new company the valuable rights held by the former company of building a branch road from Branchville to Columbia.

The route from Branchville to Columbia had been found to be of a very favorable character. The entire distance of sixty miles was a series of straight lines with only a few deviations, none of which necessitated curves of less than 2,800 feet. The line varied from a level to twenty-five feet to the mile, and even this small rise was found only on a few miles of the route. In addition to this favorable circumstance, a better passage of the Cumberland Mountains had been found, one in which the grade would not exceed sixty feet to the mile and which locomotives could ascend with great ease.

The bank began operations on January 1, 1839, with Abraham Blanding as president.

Things were not all rosy, however. Kentucky refused to pass favorable legislation once again in January of 1839. Stockholders began to stop making payments on their stock. And, rumors were beginning to spread that plans for building the railroad beyond Columbia had been abandoned, and while every effort was made to prove them unfounded, they had their effect in reducing support for the overall enterprise. In December of 1839, company president Robert Y. Hayne died - he was the moving spirit of the Louisville, Cincinnati & Charleston Railroad Company since inception.

By September of 1940, James Gadsden had been elected the new president of the company and he reported that the company was reducing its debt steadily, but it was still very heavy and was consuming a large portion of the company's resources. Resolutions were adopted authorizing the application to the South Carolina General Assembly for a modification of the charter of the company so as to permit the reduction of the stock by one-fifth. It was also agreed to "give back" most money received from stockholders in Tennessee and North Carolina. South Carolina was now the only state left in the company, and the number of shares held here was not more than fifty thousand.

Therefore, by unanimous consent the scheme of building a railroad across the mountains was "abandoned as inexpedient and impracticable with the means of the company." It was now definitely decided that "the purchase of the Hamburgh Road and the completion of a Branch to Columbia with some improvements in machinery and labor, are now the only objects contemplated by the company."

This action necessarily brought up the advisability of the consolidation of the two companies, the Louisville, Cincinnati & Charleston Rail Road Company and the South Carolina Canal & Rail Road Company, and a committee was appointed to inquire and report at the next meeting as to whether such a union might not add to the efficiency, unity, and economy of their administrations.

The South Carolina General Assembly granted this union by an Act approved on December 19, 1843, and the new company was to be named the South Carolina Rail Road Company. Thus ended the Louisville, Cincinnati & Charleston Rail Road Company, and the definite plan to connect South Carolina with the Northwest for the purpose primarily of making Charleston the "Commercial Emporium of the South."

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

Towns on Route:



Gadsden (1842)

Lewisville Depot (1841) > St. Matthews (1842)



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