In 1830, the Best Friend of Charleston, the first locomotive built entirely in America, began rail service from the city. At that time, the village of Summerville was no more than a few cottages near Saint Paul’s Church.
The Best Friend, a miniature platform on wheels with two pistons and an upright boiler, exploded six months later. It never made it to Summerville.
Twenty years later, the railroad between Charleston and Augusta was long completed, and Charlestonians were fleeing yellow fever.
Meanwhile, Summerville had become a welcoming bedroom community for urban refugees, and powerful successors to the Best Friend shuttled commuters daily between the city and the village.
In 1928, the Southern Railway constructed a distinctive, full-scale replica of the Best Friend of Charleston, along with some rail cars. The little train was widely exhibited and then given to the city of Charleston.
For years, the locomotive and its cars have rested in the Norfolk Southern headquarters in Atlanta as Charleston was preparing for the train a dedicated, permanent home near the downtown Visitor’s Center.
Now the Best Friend is on the move again, this time on large flat-bed trucks; a single, brief whistle stop has been arranged at Summerville.
Come join us for a few hours in the afternoon of Monday, Oct. 28, because the city has graciously given the village a time to celebrate our shared heritage with Charleston’s Best Friend.
W. Richardson Avenue