SUMMERVILLE — The horn didn’t blow. The rails didn’t quiver. The classic old train made its final stop on the bed of a truck.
But it might as well have been a period-piece depot arrival.
The Best Friend pulled up by the tracks in Summerville on Monday, to the carnival atmosphere of a big crowd, a steel band and vendors selling popcorn and peanuts. People oohed and cheered, their phones snapping photos and shooting videos.
This was a hello of a goodbye.
The Best Friend is a scale replica of the 1830s locomotive that opened regularly scheduled commercial passenger service in Charleston and the country. And Summerville was the first depot town for South Carolina Canal and Rail Road Company trains travelling from Charleston to Aiken in the 1800s. Chris Ohm of the Summerville Dorchester Museum arranged for the last arrival and departure.
The replica, built in the 1920s, is owned by the city of Charleston. It’s being returned to the city after six years on loan to Norfolk Southern headquarters in Atlanta. It will be housed in a new, glass-enclosed display museum near Ann and John streets downtown, in an area known as the East Shed.
On Monday, kids stared at the artifact while adults looked on maybe a little wistfully. The town depot is long gone; today’s trains boom past. But there’s still nostalgia in the blast of their horns trailing away.
Don Greger, of Moncks Corner, was out there Monday; the 75-year-old scale model railroad enthusiast wasn’t going to miss this. He rode the Best Friend replica when he was younger.
“It was beautiful to ride something that perfect, and a very, very old locomotive,” he said.
Harry Kluttz, 87, of Charleston, wasn’t able to make it. But he’ll stop in at the museum after the Best Friend arrives. His dad helped build the train.
Edward Kluttz was a master of engine carpenters, evidently skilled at making the wooden forms needed to manufacture the parts. Kluttz worked at the Southern Railway’s Spencer Shops in North Carolina.
When Harry Kluttz was growing up, his father kept in the house a photo of himself standing by the train.
“My father was very quiet, really. But I asked him (about it) one time, I said, ‘Daddy, that locomotive is really nice.’ And he said, ‘Well, you know, it was one of the first ever built.’”
Kluttz keeps his dad’s tool chest in his house to this day.
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