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Monday, October 28, 2013

Best Friend Of Charleston

Today as an exciting day for Summerville! The only stop on the Atlanta to Charleston return of the locomotive, Best Friend of Charleston. It had been on loan to a museum in Atlanta and was coming back to Charleston!

Here is some history of this Train!
In the 1820's, the bustling seaport of Charleston experienced an alarming economic recession as settlements expanded inland and westward. With the decrease in commerce, Charleston merchants began aggressively investigating avenues to revitalize the floundering economy. At this time, Europeans were just beginning to experiment with the concept of a "Rail Road;" a new means of transportation that employed a "locomotive" propelled along rails by steam power.
In 1827 Charleston merchants persuaded the state legislature to charter the "South Carolina Canal and Rail Road Company" to investigate the feasibility of a rail road system connecting Charleston with inland markets and a canal between the Ashley and Savannah Rivers to divert from the Savannah River to Charleston.
In 1830 the engine arrived by packet ship from the West Point Foundry in New York. It was assembled and tested. Dubbed "Best Friend of Charleston" by eager merchants, the train made its premier trip on Christmas Day 1830, becoming the first steam locomotive in the US to establish regularly scheduled passenger service. It ran along six miles of wood and metal rails terminating near the junction of State and Dorchester Roads. This first trip was described by the "Charleston Courier" on December 29:
"The one hundred and forty-one persons flew on the wings of wind at the speed of fifteen to twenty-five miles per hour, annihilating time and space...leaving all the world behind. On the return we reached Sans-Souci in quick and double quick time, stopped to take up a recruiting party-darted forth like a live rocket, scattering sparks and flames on either side-passed over three salt creeks hop, step and jump, and landed us all safe at the Lines before any of us had time to determine whether or not it was prudent to be scared."
Until this time, travel had been limited to road conditions and river navigability. More times than not, roads were dry and dusty or wet and soggy, undependable whether being traveled by coach, horseback, or foot. Waterway navigation was severely limited to the course, water flow, depth and tides of the river systems. Both means of transportation were totally dependent upon weather and temperature conditions.
The railroad transcended these obstacles and brought economic prosperity back to Charleston. Within five months of the "Best Friend's" debut, a second locomotive, the "West Point," arrived in Charleston. One month later, the rail line reached Woodstock, a point between Charleston and Summerville. Then, tragedy struck. A careless fireman unwittingly caused an explosion. It killed him, scalded the engineer and destroyed the "Best Friend." The accident proved only a minor set back to the railway transportation system. Within three years, the rail road boasted of six locomotives, including the "Phoenix," an engine constructed from the "Best Friend's" remains.
The "Best Friend'' did much in its short life. It returned economic prosperity to Charleston and it instituted regularly scheduled steam passenger service. In doing so, it completely revolutionized America's transportation. The "Best Friend of Charleston" was indeed, ''The little engine that did!"

So now you know about it !
The train was due to arrive at noon, sadly Lon would still be in school, but I promised he could come after school.
Waiting on a Friend.  People were lined up, there were food booths, and information booths, and music too!

Here she comes! It was brought in by flat bed truck.
Isn't she pretty? This is the replica made in 1928. The original blew up.
From the other side.
At the food booths, they were selling Brunswick Stew.  It had chicken and veggies. The nice lady told me it was a cross between a gumbo and a hash. Hash means something other than what I am used to as hash. Here, it is a soupy mix of left over barbeque. Not corned beef and potatoes. The stew was good
The cars.
One beautiful old car was also brought in, and we all looked at it.
Then it was time to go get in line to pick up Lon.
There he is !  He thinks it is pretty cool looking!
The cars and Lon
The Summerville Museum is trying to save this building, but I did not get all the details. I will try to fill this in soon.
TRAINS! TOY TRAINS! This is from the Charleston Train Museum that is set up in the Citadel Mall.
The gentleman told us they have a set up that is 8 times larger down there!

Looking at a model of the Best Friend of Charleston. I think that one was made in the 1930s or 1940s.
Playing games with trains.  Lon is really having fun.
Lon was happy to finally see the trains run !!
Cookies and lemonade!
Lon wanted to play with depth perception. See if it looks like I am holding up the train Mom!!!
We could not quite get close enough to do that with the cars
We had some great music, they said they were playing music from the 1830s through the present.  It sounded good to me.
After I picked up Lon, the good Thai restaurant was passing around Thai chicken and Thai tea.  Those were very good. Pick Thai is the Thai place in Summerville!
It was great to see this old train, and I am glad we did.

This is from the Summerville Journal Scene:  (our paper)

Before the American Revolution, a thriving center of commerce known as Dorchester existed along the Ashley River, eighteen miles inland from Charles Town. Fifty years after the war, Dorchester was an abandoned ruins and the Lowcountry economy was deteriorating.
A new line of settlements upstate from Camden to Columbia were trading at Augusta where steamboats completed the passage with Savannah. Charleston was being replaced as the trading center for the state and the merchants of the city were facing a recession. The economic crisis prompted certain hardy businessmen to consider the establishment of a rail connection between Charleston and Hamburg, a town on the banks of the Savannah River, opposite Augusta.
In 1827, the state legislature authorized the formation of a company which would eventually be known as the South Carolina Railroad. The pioneers of this organization soon began a survey of the land between the two towns to identify elevations and certain obstacles such as large rivers and skeptical landowners. (One such old crank was Colonel Barney Brown who worried that “the blowing of whistles and ringing of bells would seriously disturb the quiet and repose of the citizens and under no circumstances would such a nuisance be tolerated by a respectable community.”)
Yet, most of the people of the countryside accepted the proposed railroad and many donated land for the right-of-way, often offering their timber for the rails. The president of the company reported to the stockholders that “the praise-worthy liberality of our citizens in this particular is without parallel…the privilege has been ceded as a boon to the general good, at the sacrifice of personal convenience and interest.” When the final line was set, it did not approach the site of colonial Dorchester. It did, however, pass through the area that would one day become the long axis of modern Dorchester County.
Construction of the rail line began in 1830. The rails – flat iron strips fastened to heavy heart of pine piles as an elevated trestle-work – soon crossed the fields and forests, swamps and farms of modern Dorchester County.
By 1832, the longest full service railroad in America at the time was in business. To bring the rails alive, the owners of the railroad chose a New York foundry to produce an odd contraption, little more than a boiler and pistons on wheels that would become famous as the first locomotive produced in America and known as “The Best Friend of Charleston.”
Constructing the track was time-consuming – only six miles had been laid in that first year. The Best Friend never ranged beyond a few miles of Charleston and never reached the area known today as Dorchester County. Six months after it began regular service, it blew up as a result of the fireman becoming annoyed with the noise of the escaping steam and so seating himself on the safety valve.

Firemen come and go; so do railroad companies and Best Friends. The South Carolina Railroad became the Southern Railway which became the Norfolk Southern. In 1928, the Southern produced a wonderful replica of the Best Friend of Charleston, along with a tender and two passenger cars. The train was extensively displayed and widely appreciated before it found a home in a Charleston museum. Eight years ago, the Norfolk Southern moved the resurrected curiosity to Atlanta and new is returning it to a permanent home in Charleston. On the way, it will pass through Dorchester County and for the first time, reach Summerville for a stop. Colonel Barney Brown would disagree – but it really will be something to see!

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