This letter is in reply to the Nov. 10 article titled “On a new track.” To convert the present mile and a half of out-of-service track to a greenway would require Norfolk Southern Railway to abandon the line. I do not think that is the best thing to do.
Commuter rail should definitely be considered to help with the traffic situation. This rail line runs between Summerville and Charleston, where it presently ends at Woolfe Street.
If commuter rail is to be considered, then the city or similar entity should buy the right of way and some land beside the track at Woolfe Street for a loading platform and/or a “run around” siding.
The right of way could be placed in the Rail Bank under the Rails To Trails program. This will allow it to be used for railroad use in the future.
This section of track is one of the oldest sections of track in the country, and very historic.
In 1828 the South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company (SCCR) was formed to provide a transportation route from Charleston to Hamburg, S.C. At that time, there were a couple of experimental railroads being built in the United States, but nothing really operational.
The chief engineer of SCCR, Horatio Allen, designed and had built the first U.S. built steam locomotive, dubbed the Best Friend of Charleston.
The original 1830 track and right-of-way into Charleston was this section of track in question. By late 1830, they had six miles of track laid to where the Norfolk Southern Railway tracks cross Dorchester Road.
At that time, Line Street was the northern city limits, and the city fathers would not allow steam locomotives in the city.
When the Best Friend came to Charleston, it had to be tested north of Line Street. It made its maiden run with 141 passengers on Christmas Day 1830, and was the first scheduled passenger train in the United States.
Not only was the Best Friend the first scheduled passenger train, but it had another dubious first: It was the first locomotive in the country to blow up, killing the fireman.
By 1833, there were 133 miles of track from Charleston to Hamburg — the longest railroad in the United States. It was the track over which the submarine Hunley was brought into Charleston via rail from Mobile, Ala., in 1863.
This is where history was made and we certainly do not want to lose the origination point. I think a historical marker should be placed at Line Street and the track.
Also tie that marker in with the replica of the Best Friend of Charleston in its new museum on John Street.
Historian, Charleston Chapter
National Railway Historical Society