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Railfan Sites in South Carolina

A self-guiding railfan tour

Railfan, railfan--where do you see trains in South Carolina?

Here are lots of railfan sites in the state. Why not take a tour? Indeed, we have several tours thru South Carolina. To access a map showing the completed Frograil tours in South Carolina, go here.

The biggee -- a tour from the New York City area down to Miami, has a major component in South Carolina. The CSX East Coast Tour is here, and is currently complete from the North Carolina border to the Savannah River. Locations on this tour are indicated with a blue [CSX-E] annotation. Just click on the site, and you'll automatically be connected to the CSX East Coast Tour.

The Norfolk Southern Crescent Route (New Orleans - Washington, DC) arcs thru South Carolina, and from the Georgia border north into North Carolina has been completed. Those locations on the Crescent Route are indicated with a Southern Railway-colored [CR] annotation. Just click on the site, and you'll be automatically connected with the Crescent Route tour overview page.

As part of the ex-Seaboard Air Line's Wilmington, NC - Atlanta, GA mainline, the modern CSX main is covered from the eastern border with North Carolina all the way to the Georgia border. Sites detailed along this route are identified with a purple [SAL] annotation. Click on the site, and you'll be transferred to the tour.

The Clinchfield tour now includes Spartanburg - Bostic (NC). This is part of a much larger tour of CSX's mountain railroad. For you Clinchfield fans, the entire tour has now been completed all the way to Shelbiana. South Carolina sites on the tour are identified with a blue [CRR] annotation.

A complete tour of the Lancaster & Chester Railway is now available, including the newly acquired Kershaw District. This has been developed as two complete, separate tours for you. This energetic, very successful shortline is fascinating to watch, as it adds customers and workload at a steady, impressive rate. Sites detailed along the original route are identified with a light blue [L&C] annotation, and along the Kershaw District with a similar [L&C-KD] annotation. Click on the site, and you'll be transferred to the tour.

Another Norfolk Southern tour, the "Ocean to Upcountry" tour is completed, and stretches from Charleston to Spartanburg, about 222 miles of incredibly varied terrain. Locations on this tour are indicated with an Southern green-colored [O-U] annotation. Just click on the site, and you'll automatically be connected to the Ocean to Upcountry tour.

Mapwork: If you're going to be looking for railfan locations, you'll need an industrial strength map resource. I definitely recommend you get a DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer, study it before your trip, and copy pertinent pages for your field work. You can find information here about Railfan Maps that are available.

Trainwatching Sites

BENNETTSVILLE -- PDRR ENGINE HOUSE (June 14, 2003)

First of all, you will be frustrated in your efforts to locate this spot on most maps, because most maps don't have this rail line on them. It is a fairly recently constructed line, and MapQuest and other "modern" sources which are decades out of date will not have the line at all. Frograil thanks Bob Graham for the information on this railfan location. Without his specific directions and patient assistance, I'd never have located this spot.

Some history will help: The PDRR runs southwest out of Bennettsville on an ex-CSX, exx-SCL, exxx-ACL (Parkton, NC, to Sumter, SC) line. This ex-ACL line was cut back a segment at a time until all that was left was the segment from McColl to Bennettsville to the (formerly) Becker Sand & Gravel plant at the area known as Marlboro. This line eventually left CSX hands and became the Pee Dee River Railroad. It is a subsidiary of the Aberdeen (NC) & Rockfish Railroad. Some time after that, Willamette Industries built a large wood products mill north of US-15/US-501, and needed railroad access. The PDRR was extended to the mill complex using the right of way of Becker's former line haul from their Marlboro Plant to their Field Plant. The BS&G line passed under the highway in a large culvert on its way from Marlboro to Field. It was not evident to most motorists, as the line was somewhat treed in. The present day highway bridge is in virtually the same location as this culvert used to be, but is offset slightly as the bridge went in while the BS&G line was still extant.

Once the Willamette operation began, PDRR constructed a new engine house just north of the highway overpass. A road connection was made to the old industrial BS&G road that follows their track to access the engine house. This driveway is now "Engine House Lane", and while no turn warning sign exists, the road does have one of those small green street name signs. It is immediately past the US-15/US-501 overpass of the tracks, about 5 miles southwest of Bennettsville. Take the right, and within 100 yards, you'll be at the engine house.

There is a very healthy chain link fence around the facility, but you'll probably be able to shoot at least something, either thru the links, or by standing on top of your car. The bonus to this location is the Willamette yard.

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BENNETTSVILLE -- WILLAMETTE YARD (June 14, 2003)

While I don't like to start you from a specific spot, you'll need to start at the PDRR engine house for this one. From US-15/US-501, continue past the engine house and just follow Engine House Lane north. It is close and if you're used to I-95, a little uncomfortable, but the road is sound and you have nothing to worry about. Just slow down. You'll cross a creek, and then come to a yellow gate, which is almost always open. Continue straight (do not cross the tracks), to the PDRR yard area. I don't recommend venturing to the northern area of the yard, as that's pretty close to the mills, and those folks don't like strangers poking around. The sun will be pretty good to you most of the time, and you can get decent shots. If you see a van with NC plates, stop and introduce yourself, and you'll probably be able to get lots of good info, but remember that business is booming, and those guys are really busy.

Frograil thanks Bob Graham for this information. This is a location that only an expert can bring to light.

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COLUMBIA (CAYCE) (9412xx)

CSX This is CSX's yard facility in Columbia. From I-26, take US 1 north (actually goes east-northeast), to south on State. At the crossing, you will see the yard throat and generally about 1-4 engines.

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DARLINGTON (December 11, 1998)

Best known for it's motor speedway and NASCAR racing, Darlington is still an important rail freight destination. While not on any thru route any more, there are covered hoppers and tank cars all over town, and evidently, business must be pretty good. There is a small yard to be reached by going south on Business US-52, and turning east on Avenue A. Other yard tracks are in the southwest part of town south of Broad Street and west of Chalmers Street. According to Harry Ladd's "U.S. Railroad Traffic Atlas," this is all part of the South Carolina Central (SCRF), a Rail-Tex operation. Engines are based in Hartsville to the west of Darlington. I'd suggest calling the railroad for approximate time for Darlington switching action. There is quite a maze of trackage in Darlington, and the operations of this active shortline should be very interesting and photogenic.

Of note is the fact that the track into Darlington is continuous weld, and in excellent condition.

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EASLEY (9503xx)

PICKENS In the north side of town, just west of SC-135, and just north of the NSC main line, at a cement plant, you will usually find a Pickens Baldwin.

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ESTILL -- NORTH

From Fairfax, via US-321, there are extensive areas with E1/W4 viewing coming into Estill. The track is dead north - south.

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ESTILL -- "N.E. Estill" (April 2007)

This is the location of the north end of the Estill passing siding. As you drive south from Estill -- North into town, you'll see the signals and signs for the north end of this siding. Photo ratings are E1-W4.

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ESTILL -- STATION AREA (April 2007)

As you drive into Estill via US-321 from the north, you'll see nice park to the east. The area near the station and the tracks is noisy, so be careful. The station itself is on its last legs -- get your pix now. Photo ratings are E1/W3 (because of clutter and poles).

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ESTILL -- "S. E. ESTILL" (April 2007)

South of most of the town of Estill via US-321, this is the end of a passing siding. There is a lead to an industrial facility to the west. Photo access is E-/W3 (access is a potential problem on the west).

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FLORENCE -- RAILROAD ACTION (December 11, 1998)

Once a real, real biggie on the southeast US railroad map, Florence is pretty much a shadow of its former self. However, rather than sit around and sniff, sniff, sniff, about times past, the astute railfan will get out and about in Florence, because there are still some nice things to see, and some good action to boot. Stripped of any complications, there are three rail things happening in Florence of interest to action-oriented railfans: 1. The Washington - Jacksonville mainline of CSX runs thru town, and also carries two Amtrak trains daily. 2. The South Carolina Central (SCRF), a Rail-Tex operated shortline heads from Florence to Darlington and Hartsville. 3. There is a fairly good-sized yard, including a car repair facility, which services SCRF, Florence traffic, and the large volume of freight coming from DuPont and other large industrial customers north of town on the CSX.

The place to see the action is pretty much under the Church Street overpass, which is right in the middle of the town. If you're careful, you can avoid obvious trespassing, and should have no trouble getting good pix from virtually any of the tracks in the area. Do not park on railroad property, and do not venture out to the tracks. Also, be aware that CSX can run quite fast thru here.

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FLORENCE -- RAILROAD STRUCTURES (December 11, 1998)

As a city with a rich railroad history, it's understandable that the fan will be able to see some fine examples of railroad architecture, and there are some really nice buildings here. I'm going to detail three of them, and there may be more, but I'm certainly no expert on the city.

The big-city ACL station is at the extreme north end of the gigantic McLoed Medical Center complex. In fact, it is now the home of many of the administrative offices of the center (what I'd give to have my office there, on the north side of the building!). To reach the station, go east off Church street, south of the railroad overpass, and south of the McLoed center, on Cheves Street. Go east until you're almost past the entire medical center, and then turn north. This will take you close to the long, two-story station. You'll see the obvious way to get there as you approach the building. McLoed has done a beautiful job of restoring and maintaining the building.

Immediately west of the ACL station, and actually very easy to miss, is the stand-alone Amtrak station. It would be a shame to miss this structure, as it is perhaps the nicest Amtrak station I've been in. Dedicated in 1994(?), it is modern, but not stark. It's really, really nice, and Florence should feel proud of the building. It would be a pleasure to wait for a train in this structure. You can get good pix from the station's platforms almost all day long.

Further to the west is another station. Go west from Church (Lucas) Street on Darlington Street to the large Baptist Church on the SE corner of Darlington and Irby. This station must have been an SAL station, but I cannot confirm this (Help!!). It is used by the church, apparently, for storage, and I was lucky enough to get inside. The building has a lot of "stuff" in it, but is in good condition overall, with the floor plan and walls still intact. It's worth going a few blocks out of your way for a photo. The folks at the church are real nice, too.

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FLOYD (October 6, 2001)

Floyd is a village/crossroads about 5 miles north of Darlington. Heading south on US-52 towards Darlington, you'll see the crossbucks and warning lights telling you a crossing is imminent. Immediately before crossing the tracks, take a left and go east along the tracks. Out of sight from the highway, and about 100 yards in, is a small yard office for the South Carolina Central Railroad. This is a Railtex line, and the Floyd area has two Nucor Steel facilities. This is a pretty active place, so make sure you get the OK to get photos. As of Oct 2001, the yard engine was a Texas & New Mexico unit, #2053. It looked to be a stock GP-7, but may have been a GP-16.

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FULLER (August 31, 1999)

This locality is a few miles west of Clinton, along the CSX (ex-SAL) line to Greenwood and Atlanta. Take SC-72 west from Clinton, and after a few miles, take a right onto Apple Orchard Road. This will bring you to the crossing in about 1.5 miles. At Fuller, there is a nice curve, and a CTC siding. At the latter, the constantly-lit signals can give you a clue as to impending train movements. This is a densely forested, humid, low-lying area, and sound can play tricks on you. You might clearly hear a train blowing for crossings as if it were nearly on top of you, while in fact, it maybe on the former CN&L line from Clinton to Laurens, so be alert.

One of the most knowledgeable fellows around, Fred Burton shares this info with us.

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GLUCK (May 13, 2003)

From US-29 southwest of Anderson, go south on SC-81. The line next to SC-81 is the ex-Charleston & Western Carolina Railway (an ACL property), which is now a Pickens operation. Gluck is just a few miles south of Anderson, and you'll come to a plastics molding plant, which is a major PICK customer. There is an old boxcar next to SC-81 at the small yard. There is an engine that services the plant, and if not elsewhere out on the line, you'll usually see a couple of other PICK engines here.

Frograil thanks Bob Graham for the information on this railfan location. Lighting is best in the early morning and afternoon.

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GREENWOOD -- LODGING (970124)

LODGING (970124). Econolodge Motel. All CSX traffic from both Atlanta and Augusta destined for Greenville/Spartanburg and Charlotte/Bostic/Hamlet uses this line. According to the trainmaster on 970125, it is hard to detail how many trains use the line per day, but 25-30 is probably a good average. They are pretty short (20-70 cars), usually, but are designed to handle the hills and (especially) curves of the railroad routes involved. All things considered, they're pretty fast trains. The line is plainly visible from the NW side of the motel building, and I'd recommend the 2nd floor, of course. The motel is an el-cheapo, with a "lobby" redolent of Indian cooking. You can walk over to the line and see some trains--it will take all of 5 minutes to walk there. You'll hear train horns plenty early enough to set up good photo locales for north-bound trains, but south-bounds can sneak up on you quite quickly.

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HAMPTON (April 2007)

Hampton is a little southeast of the busy Fairfax, SC, junction. It's on the line between Fairfax and another junction at Yemassee. Reached by US-278, there is plenty of life support on the latter. East of downtown, at the crossing on SC-363, there is wide open viewing from the northeast and northwest. The tracks are at about a 315° northwest - southeast bias.

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LAURENS (970125)

Kind of confusing here, really, and I'm a little hazy on some specifics, but this will get you in the right place. CSX comes up from Greenwood, and goes thru to Spartanburg. The Carolina Piedmont Railroad comes down from Greenville, and has an office headquarters here. There is a small yard, office, and usually one or more of CPDR's 3 GP-10s. Also, there is often a CSX 6-axle engine idling during the weekends. This yard is in the southeast quadrant of town: From the junction of Business US 76 and Business US 221, go east on Business US 76. The yard is one block south of Business US 76, about 1/4 mile from the intersection.

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LAURENS -- C&WC/CN&L CONNECTION (January 3, 1999)

This is a relatively new connection, and it basically allows an easy connection between trains heading to/from three destinations: Greenwood, Spartanburg and Columbia. Take exit 9 from I-385, and head south on US-221. The connection is to your right, about a mile from the exit. Expect a total of about 21-28 trains per day thru here.

Ronald Wolfe, a most knowledgeable South Carolina railfan, has been kind enough to contribute this material for our use and enjoyment.

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LURAY (April 2007)

This town is on the CSX line between Fairfax, SC, and Savannah, GA. Reached via US-321 directly south of Fairfax, SC, this small town offers wide open shots from the US-321 area, both from the east and west. US-321 is busy, but there is plenty of room to be completely safe while taking pix.

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McBEE(October 21, 1999)

Locally pronounced "MAC-bee", McBee is on US-1 some 50-55 miles northeast of Columbus. The still-standing Seaboard Air Line station is at the railway crossing with SC-151, just to the north of the latter's intersection with US-1. The CTC interlocking at the south end of the siding is about 100 yards north of the station. Signals at either end are illuminated only when they are lined by the dispatcher for an impending movement, or if a train is in the block.

The remnants of a small yard lie alongside the siding. At the north end of the siding, a wye leads across US-1. This is the former SAL branch to Hartsville and Poston, which now extends only 6.2 miles to the Carolina Light and Power Robinson generating plant. This spur is still built with approximately 80-lb jointed rail, with sand and pebble ballast -- surely not the sturdiest conduit for 6-axle locomotives pulling loaded unit coal trains!

To get to the Robinson plant, take SC-151 south from McBee about 6 miles, going just over the county line, where you will have an intersection with Old Camden Road. There is a "Markette" convenience store where coal train crews will stop for refreshment; their engines will be parked at the end of track about 50 yards in back of the store. About 100 feet beyond there is the entrance to the employee parking lot for the coal power plant, from which you can see the crews pull and spot coal cars without having to trespass in restricted access areas.

Train service in McBee is minimal. In addition to irregular movements of coal for Robinson, the mainline here only sees, usually in the afternoon and evening hours, one thru freight each way between Columbia and Hamlet, plus Amtrak's Silver Stars between 1-4AM.

The entire line between Hamlet and Savannah via Columbia (much of which still has jointed rail) has been downgraded in recent years. It originally served as SAL's passenger route (freights went via Charleston and Andrews, SC), and therefore, passing tracks were only 42-84 cars long, making the entire route virtually useless for more that a minimum of thru freight movements. Several CTC sidings have been removed to reduce maintenance costs: Only Lugoff, Camden, Sheppard, Cheraw and Wallace remain in this area.

One of the most knowledgeable fellows around, Fred Burton shares this info with us.

Webauthor's note: It seems to me that this is a potentially very important railroad segment for CSX. If the traffic growth stemming from the Conrail purchase continues to materialize as it seems to be so far, it's not inconceivable that some relief for the busy, largely single-tracked Pembroke, NC - Savannah, GA mainline could come from this line. Also, the curvaceous, largely single-tracked Hamlet, NC - Greenwood, SC Atlanta mainline is pretty busy right now, and it's entirely possible that a Hamlet - Columbus - Augusta (via NS trackage rights) - Atlanta routing might become practical. Remember, railroad traffic is bursting at the seems, and we should all expect to see some things done differently in the near future.]

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McCOLL (June 14, 2003)

Noted primarily as a spot on the Dillon - Hamlet CSX (ex-SAL) line up from Charleston, SC, McColl is also the interchange point with the Pee Dee River Railway, a division of the Aberdeen & Rockfish Railroad. The PDRR works some very large wood products facilities and is headquartered in Bennettsville. The interchange in McColl with CSX is carried out in a 2-track "yard" on the PDRR, which parallels Railroad Avenue. From the intersection of US-15/US-501 and SC-381/Main Street, go southeast on Main to the crossing of the PDRR..

Frograil thanks Bob Graham for the information on this railfan location.

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NEWBERRY (January 3, 1999)

NOTE: Some of these traffic directions are a little non-specific, but Newberry is a town of less than 11,000 folks, so use your railfan nose to advantage.

Coming into town from the north on US-76, take US-76Business into town. You will pass under a railroad overpass, which is actually a siding, where a train may sit to wait for an opposing movement to clear. If such a train can't be seen from the bridge, turn left and get up to the tracks to see if you can see a train and/or its motive power.

At the first traffic signal, turn right to get into downtown Newberry. In downtown, there is a steel trestle to your right. Turn right onto one of the streets to get to the trestle, and then follow the street near the trestle to get to a street that crosses the tracks. Turn right on that street and cross the tracks. There may be some CSX and/or NS units sitting there (most likely the Newberry switcher if CSX).

East of the town of Newberry is a siding where there may be a train waiting for an opposing movement.

Ronald Wolfe, a most knowledgeable South Carolina railfan, has been kind enough to contribute this material for our use and enjoyment.

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ORANGEBURG (July 2004)

Located 49 miles south of Columbia, on a line that runs from Sumter to Cope, this is a surprisingly busy yard. From the busy intersection of US-301/US-601 and US-21Business, go south on US-21Business. The NS tracks will be hard by you on the west. You'll see them go over the CSX line. Take a right onto Whaley Street, and then an immediate right just past the tracks onto Crystal Street. This will end at Bayne(?) Street, where you will take about a 105° turn to the southwest. Take this turn and go 2 long blocks to Broughton Street and take a right. This will deposit you in the yard area after just one block.

The yard is mostly stuffed with tank cars for the Albemarle chemical facility about a mile west of town. There is usually a geep working the yard and chemical plant areas. A coal train services the power plant at Cope on an irregular basis.

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ROCK HILL (9503xx)

NSC You will probably find a few engines just north of the center of town. The Charlotte-Columbia secondary main is pretty busy, but the northwest-southeast line is rather shaky.

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SCOTIA (April 2007)

South of Fairfax and Estill on the CSX Fairfax - Savannah, GA, line, Scotia is just a crossroads, but has a great railfan photo location at the Daley Road/SC-333 crossing. Photo ratings are E1/w1, unless there are LO's being unloaded in the area. This is an excellent country railfan location.

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SUMTER(August, 2000)

CSX This is a pretty impressive-appearing yard. It's also quiet--real quiet. Maybe 1 job works out of here, and you'll usually find 1-3 engines. The yard is immediately west of the US 521 overpass in the center of town.

USAF On Shaw Air Force Base, you can usually find 2 switchers.

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TATUM (June 14, 2003)

Imagine this: A typical intersection, with 2 very orderly roads crossing each other at 90° angles. That what Tatum is -- except that the intersection of US-15/US-501 and Bennettsville Firetower Road (CR-22) is diagonally intersected by the Pee Dee Railroad coming up from Bennettsville. What you end up with is a 6-way intersection, and you can get confused very easily. To the northeast of the intersection is the old Tatum ex-ACL freight station. If you know a train is coming, you can work this bizarre intersection to give you almost perfect light at any time of the day.

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TATUM -- WEYERHAUSER

On US-15/401, heading south from Tatum, you'll pass a Weyerhauser Industries Plant on your right. Just south of the plant is a water tower that is lettered Marlboro County Water Board (or something like that). Turn right into the dirt road, which goes down to the Pee Dee River Railway (technically the Pee Dee River Railway Division, Aberdeen and Rockfish Railroad), switch for the plant. The PDRR road units currently in use will often be there when not working elsewhere on the line. If no engines are there, look for a truck with North Carolina tags. If one's there, that's how the crew gets down to run the PDRR from Aberdeen, and you'll know the crew has the engines out on the line. At times, however, the railroad will leave the engines inside the plant area, which is definitely off-limits to non-employees.

Tatum is between Bennettsville and Laurinburg, NC, in the northeast part of the state.

Frograil thanks Bob Graham for the information on this railfan location.

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Cities And Sites

Contributors:

(1) Ronald Wolfe, a most knowledgeable South Carolina railfan, has been kind enough to contribute this material for our use and enjoyment.

(2) One of the most knowledgeable fellows around, Fred Burton shares this info with us.

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