New museum features Best Friend of Charleston

The space was full Friday for the grand opening of the Best Friend Museum. It's now home to The Best Friend of Charleston, a full-sized replica of the 1830 train. The train was the first in the United States to provide passenger service.

The Best Friend of Charleston has a new home.

Mayor Joe Riley and Norfolk Southern on Friday dedicated a new museum to house the scale replica of the first steam locomotive that opened regularly scheduled commercial passenger service in the country.

The original train made its first trip in 1830. Six months later, the Best Friend's boiler exploded, destroying the engine. The replica was built in 1928, from the original blueprints, to recognize the S.C. Canal and Rail Road Co.'s 100th anniversary. The company was chartered by the Legislature to explore connecting Charleston with inland markets via rail.

The replica is owned by the city of Charleston. It was returned to the city after six years on loan to Norfolk Southern headquarters in Atlanta.

According to the museum's literature, the Best Friend was the first engine built entirely in the United States - at West Point Foundry in New York - and was the first to carry the U.S. mail.

The museum is located behind the Visitor Center, near Ann and John streets downtown, in an area known as the East Shed.