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Look Ahead, Look South

Railroads have been a presence in Columbia for more than a hundred and fifty years. All around town, you are bound to run into signs of their activity past and present, from the former Union Station (now California Dreamin’ restaurant) and Seaboard Air Line Station (now the Blue Marlin), to Norfolk Southern’s Andrews Yard near Williams Brice Stadium and CSX’s yard across the river in Cayce.

Historically the city was served by the Atlantic Coast Line, the Seaboard Air Line, and the Southern Railway (an advertising motto for which serves as the title of this post). There was also a regional line, the Columbia, Newberry & Laurens Railroad, acquired by the Atlantic Coast Line in the 1920s and featured passenger service from Union Station to Laurens. The ACL and SAL merged in the 1960s to form the Seaboard Coast Line, which in the 1980s combined with the Chessie System to become CSX, while the Southern merged with Norfolk & Western in 1982 to form Norfolk Southern. Both continue operations here. Amtrak provides passenger service with stops at its station off of Huger Street for the Silver Star route.

Check out RCPL’s collection for books on railroads of regional interest, as well as other legendary American railroads such as the Pennsylvania, Union Pacific, and many others. Look in the 385 call number area for books on railroad companies and their histories, and in 625 for books on railroad equipment (locomotives, cars, etc.)

Recommended railroad reads:

  • Logging Railroads of South Carolina
  • Norfolk Southern Railway
  • Rails Through the Wiregrass
  • The Southern Railway
  • Through the Heart of the South
  • The West Point Route

Bland Says: Interesting history of a regional line that somehow never prospered. The author is a Clemson history prof and author of many well-researched railroad histories.
Amazon Says: The Georgia & Florida Railroad began with bright promise, but like many other enterprises in the early 20th-century South, it experienced hard times. The story begins in 1906, more...
Amazon Says: The Georgia & Florida Railroad began with bright promise, but like many other enterprises in the early 20th-century South, it experienced hard times. The story begins in 1906, when—responding to a perceived need for better connections to northern markets—a group of entrepreneurs led by prominent Virginia banker John Skelton Williams began to cobble together logging short lines to create more than 350 miles of railroad connecting Augusta, Georgia, with Madison, Florida. At first the G&F triggered growth in its region as several new towns sprang up or expanded along its lines. By 1915, however, the economic dislocations caused by World War I threw the G&F into receivership, and a few years later the G&F came close to dismemberment. Fortunately, shippers and investors rallied to the railroad’s cause, and business conditions improved. In 1926 the road was reorganized and, under pressure to “expand or die,” built to Greenwood, South Carolina. The Great Depression forced the G&F into bankruptcy, and after its record-length receivership, it was acquired by the Southern Railway in 1963. When the Southern Railway dissolved the corporation and abandoned much of the former trackage, the G&F became the “Gone & Forgotten.” Yet in its 57-year lifespan the G&F did much to bring about agricultural diversification and relative prosperity in the wiregrass region of southern Georgia and northern Florida. Offering insights on social and economic conditions in the South from the late 19th century to the mid-20th century, Grant’s study of this obscure yet noteworthy railroad will appeal to those interested in transportation, business, railroad, and Southern regional history. less...
Amazon


Bland Says: Well-written history of this legendary predecessor of Norfolk Southern.
Amazon Says: Fascinating and well-written history of the Southern Railway, once known as America's "champion" railroad. The author traces the story from the original "Best Friend of Charle more...
Amazon Says: Fascinating and well-written history of the Southern Railway, once known as America's "champion" railroad. The author traces the story from the original "Best Friend of Charleston" locomotive through the development of the system and with it, the South, by a group of remarkable entrepreneurs, including the creation in 1894 of the Southern Railway network from the ruins of earlier endeavors. The lives of the Southern's early leaders -- Samuel Spenser, Fairfax Harrison, Ernest Norris, Harry Debutts, and Bill Brosnan -- are all recounted in an engaging and informative manner. The author was also able to interview the three modern Presidents -- Graham Claytor, Jr., Stanley Crane and Harold Hall -- so that the story comes to its natural conclusion with the merger into Norfolk and Western and the birth of the Norfolk Southern. The Southern was famous for its many innovations and early adaptation of cutting edge technologies, from diesels to "hot box" detectors, from mechanization of maintenance of way equipment to use of oversize box cars and hopper cars for bulk goods and this book helps to explain why its leadership was so well-managed and adaptable decade after decade. Illustrated. 309 pages with index. less...
Amazon

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