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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

Norfolk Southern Railway by Richard C. Borkowski
Bland Says: Great photography, most of which is by the author, an NS employee. The text includes a brief history of the railroad and comprehensive coverage of current operations.
Amazon Says: With a quarter of a century behind it, Norfolk Southern is one of the oldest Class 1 railroads operating in North America. This illustrated history tells how Norfolk Southern more...
Amazon Says: With a quarter of a century behind it, Norfolk Southern is one of the oldest Class 1 railroads operating in North America. This illustrated history tells how Norfolk Southern came to be what it is today, from the merger of two of American railroadings most legendary roads-- Southern Railway and Norfolk and Western--through its rise to the heights of the worlds leading transportation companies. After a concise history of the roads that became Norfolk Southern, author Richard Borkowski explores the railroads corporate history and operating structure and details the specific operations that go into the lines customer-oriented approach, including its vast intermodal network. Along with each of Norfolk Southerns 11 operating divisions, this book offers a close look at NS motive power, a wealth of color photographs, and a specially commissioned system map. less...
Amazon

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: Davis traces railroad development in the South by a cast of remarkable entrepreneurs and the subsequent creation of the Southern Railway's network from the ruins of those earl more...
Amazon Says: Davis traces railroad development in the South by a cast of remarkable entrepreneurs and the subsequent creation of the Southern Railway's network from the ruins of those early enterprises. This is also a full account of the many innovations wrought by the Southern's leaders: the first major railroad to convert to diesel power; a pioneer in mechanized maintenance of right-of-way; the use of gigantic box cars to carry bulky cargo; and the operation of coal trains in continuous shuttle. Originally published in 1985. A UNC Press Enduring Edition -- UNC Press Enduring Editions use the latest in digital technology to make available again books from our distinguished backlist that were previously out of print. These editions are published unaltered from the original, and are presented in affordable paperback formats, bringing readers both historical and cultural value. less...
Amazon
Bland Says: Actually refers to two distinct operations, the Atlanta and West Point Rail Road and the Western Railway of Alabama.
Amazon Says: "The Seaboard Air Line didn't own any airplanes. It was not an airline. It was a railroad -- and a pretty darn good one at that." Seaboard pioneered the use of articulated ste more...
Amazon Says: "The Seaboard Air Line didn't own any airplanes. It was not an airline. It was a railroad -- and a pretty darn good one at that." Seaboard pioneered the use of articulated steam locomotives, introduced the first streamlined passenger train in the U.S. Southeast, and initiated important technological changes in the rail industry. less...
Amazon
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