Frograil's NS Ocean to Upcountry Tour
Charleston, SC - Spartanburg, SC
From the ocean at Charleston, South Carolina, via what Norfolk Southern currently calls the SC-Line, to Andrews Yard in Columbia, South Carolina, and beyond that the W-Line from Andrews Yard to Spartanburg, South Carolina, this tour takes you through every eco-system between the ocean and the foothills of the mountains. The tour is complete, and represents an opportunity for the railfan to fan a continuous stretch of 222.9 miles.
The railroad has modest traffic, but the area which the line traverses abounds in natural beauty and interest, as it winds its way through the coastal plain, the Congaree Swamp area, the city of Columbia, the Piedmont, and the city of Spartanburg. The lack of intense train frequency makes this an ideal line to fan with grandchildren, as well as with folks who don't mind spending time with you, but don't want to record 72 trains within a 24-hour period. This line is the southeast at it's finest. For more detailed information about the railroad and its geography, go here .
Contents And Navigation:
Tom Campbell. All content from Pregnall to Orangeburg.
Fred Burton. Railfan content and guide, Carlisle to Spartanburg
Phillip Segui. Supplemental information about historical and current aspects in the Charleston and Brosnan Forest areas.
John Wienges. Supplemental information about train frequencies and location-specific material.
Tony Hill, Retired Webmaster and text provider for the entire tour, unless otherwise noted. The guy who created Frograil. Any singular, first person pronouns in this tour refer to Tony.
If you'd like to contribute to this, or any other tour, please contact me at email@example.com, and let me know what you'd like to do. We'll work together: You supply the data/info, and I'll do the HTML stuff and upload it. You'll get a chance to review the fruits of your efforts before the general public sees the finished product, so you can let me have your corrections, additions and changes.
Life Support. Obviously, Columbia is a big city, and everything you could want is available. However, and this is very important, the areas south of the city in the Congaree area and, especially, north of the city to Carlisle, are remote and wild. You will go for seemingly endless hours without passing a gas station, let alone a restaurant. Pay special attention to the list of things you need to pack (go here), and heed very well my warnings, which are in red font.
From North Charleston to Orangeburg, you're not necessarily in big cities, but life support -- food, booze, gas, motels -- won't be a problem. Outside of Columbia, this part of South Carolina is fairly rural. From Orangeburg to St. Matthew there is plenty of life support, but from south of Fort Motte (about 32 miles south of Columbia), there are few places to eat or even get gas, until you are very close (within 8 miles) to the city. There are no grocery stores or drug stores. When you leave the vicinity of I-20 just to the north of the city, there is, Tony believes, one gas station all the way to Carlisle (49 miles by SC-215, and you'll be doing far more miles than that if you are seriously taking this tour), so have a full tank. Those of you used to the northeast and upper midwest may not realize how remote this area is: Be prepared. Between Carlisle and Spartanburg, you are not in as remote an area, but it surely isn't urban! There is little of a Life Support nature in Carlisle (watch out for speed traps), but as you get close to Union and beyond, you're getting back into civilization.
The Railroad -- Geography. Between North Charleston and Orangeburg, you're in the Coastal Plain, and railfanning is drop dead easy. Just follow my directions, and you'll be a happy camper, although you've got be cognizant of the always increasing traffic in the North Charleston - Summerville area. Keep in mind that the railroad departs North Charleston in a straight line, at almost a 45° southeast-northwest bias. That continues to Ladson, when there is a slight curve, and the railroad becomes more westerly, and then once again at Dorchester the line curves and becomes still more westerly. At Branchville, it turns 90° to head due north towards Orangeburg.
From Summerville until you get a little southwest of Fort Motte, you'll be in easy railfan country. The crossings are quite nice, there is often plenty of parking available, and you're never far from a significant highway. That changes when you begin to run into the immovable object that is the Congaree Swamp. From south of Fort Motte - Columbia, you probably would expect to be in the Coastal Plain, and expect the land to be nice and flat. Well, it mostly is pretty flat, but it is also hard by what is today the Congaree Swamp National Monument. Rather than being an ideal area for growing cotton and soybeans, as is the case just a little ways to the east, this is tree farm country, and the tracts of land are vast. This is the area within which the Congaree and Wateree rivers, both of which twist and turn all over the place, join to form the Santee River. It is wild, and the Congaree Swamp by itself is worth a visit to Columbia. This is a very difficult place to watch trains, however.
[Webmaster's Note: You absolutely must have a good map, and you must study it before you try to start your tour into the Congaree area. Many roads have no names listed on any maps. Some roads do not exist on any map. Some roads on the map do not exist on the ground. You must be able to estimate distances and take turns based on those distances. In several places this is a difficult tour, and one which is impossible without a detailed map.]
Through Columbia itself, the railroad is flat, and cuts and fills are generally not a problem. Unfortunately, once you get northwest of the city, indeed, as soon as you get north of I-20, you are no longer in the coastal plain (the fall line is in Columbia itself), and you have the remoteness of the area PLUS hills and curves to contend with. The railroad traverses a rugged area by staying right next to the Broad River all the way to Shelton, where it crosses the river and goes north to Carlisle. However, the countryside opens up somewhat beyond Carlisle, and the majority of the tour north to Spartanburg closely parallels the roads and is delightful.
With the arguable exception of Columbia, not a single road or street parallels the line between Fort Motte and Carlisle! However, if you're patient and willing to do some work, you will be treated to some nice places to see trains. This tour is as interesting for the countryside through which it passes (perhaps more so) than the trains you might see.
The Railroad -- Organization. The line from Charleston - Columbia is the SC-Line, and that from Columbia to Spartanburg the W-Line. W-Line mile points increase from north to south, while the SC-Line mile points decrease from north to south.
The Railroad -- Traffic. More traffic runs from Charleston to Columbia than from Columbia to Spartanburg. Indeed, with the demise of Saluda, traffic is poor north of Columbia -- expect only 4 trains per 24 hours. Most of the traffic that went over the Saluda grade now goes Asheville - Salisbury (and often Linwood) - Charlotte - Columbia (via the S Line). South of Columbia, there are a pair of intermodal/auto rack Atlanta - Charleston hot shots, and a pair of mixed freights that are Linwood - Charleston trains. BMW has recently instituted a pair of autorack trains from Spartanburg -- North Charleston, which adds to the mix, and there have been a spate of import coal trains heading north via the SC-line in late 2004, and continuing on into early 2007.
Depending on the day of the week, where you're physically located, and any extras or locals that you might see, you can expect 6-8 trains a day in Orangeburg, and maybe 1-2 more north of Kingville.
Traffic information was provided by John Wienges, and is obviously subject to change.
AG. An at-grade crossing.
NAG. A not-at-grade crossing. Unless mentioned otherwise, these are usually not worth the time and trouble to drive to.
NARL. Not a railfan location. This is because of any number of reasons, such as lousy photo ops, dangerous, no shoulder on a NAG bridge, etc. As a general rule of thumb, it is wise to avoid NARL's.
Photography Ratings: Photo ratings are included for many crossings, although some tour segments were written without them. Please note that these ratings are my opinion of the photographic field available for pictures, rather than a subjective rating of photogenic/artsy characteristics of the site. All four quadrants of the crossing are evaluated, clockwise, from NE to NW. Each is rated from 1 to 4, with 1 being excellent and 4 being non-existent, either because of a severe drop off, wall of trees, private property, etc. An example would be NE4, SE1, SW3, NW3. This would be a fairly poor location except for AM shots from the southeast quadrant, which should be pretty wide open.
Mapwork: Much of the tour is not easy if you have no detailed map for back country roads. It is definitely recommended 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.
WEBMASTER'S NOTE: I do not recommend or condone walking along the tracks, as this means trespassing or exposing yourself to danger. You may have to be creative, in some instances, to avoid trespassing while getting to the detailed locations included herein, but you will either have to be creative or not visit those sites. At no point in this tour guide, or any other tour which is part of Frograil, is it recommended that you trespass or expose yourself to danger. If you are a fool and have a leg cut off (or worse), don't come crying to me: You have been warned. Trains are big, powerful, and often surprisingly quiet. Don't end up being a statistic.
Columbia to Spartanburg -- Railfan Sites
Charleston -- Historic Overview. We will start this tour, not in Charleston close to the ocean where it logically should begin, but seven miles north, at North Charleston's NS Seven Mile Yard. We will, however, give you two photo locations between the historic area of Charleston and the southern throat of Seven Mile. Some of you who are interested in the historic and archeological aspects of the area might be interested in a little historical information about the line from downtown Charleston up to Seven Mile. Phillip Segui has given us some information, which, while certainly not intended to be definitive, will allow you to do some snooping around the Southern's roots in the area.
At 325 Meeting Street in downtown Charleston, an ancient building, formerly a Southern Railway Freight Depot, now serves as the city's Visitor Center. Across John Street is the old-old passenger station. These buildings were the southern part of the Southern passenger operations in the area. Besides the station, there was a major yard in the area. Traces of the latter may be hard to find. Behind the ex-station is the Camden Towers depot shed, which is in the process of being rehabilitated. It is referred to as the Camden Towers Cultural Center. Across Ann Street from the Camden Towers is another ancient former Southern Freight Depot. Also still extant, to the north about 7 blocks on Columbus Street, are the remains of a fair-sized shop facility, currently being used as a U-store-it place.
The original mainline began in the vicinity of John Street near the Visitor Center, and the tracks still are in place all the way to Seven Mile Yard. Some the tracks going north towards Seven Mile are out of service, but some are still quite active.
[NOTE WELL: The entire area of the ports and industrial facilities throughout the greater Charleston area is considered a high security area. You are not welcome there -- not even photography from public sidewalks or streets is tolerated. Just stay away from the area.]
Charleston -- Rivers Avenue. The ex-Southern tracks leading south of Seven Mile Yard are referred to as the SC-Line, and they are very much in service between the south end of Seven Mile at SC 6.8 and the area of "Magnolia", at SC 2.2. These tracks are used daily by NS to gain access to their trackage rights over CSX from Magnolia to the Port Utilities Commission of Charleston (PUCC)-operated tracks in the Port of Charleston. Magnolia itself is at the west border of Magnolia Cemetery, if Tony read his old map correctly.
Traffic from Magnolia goes via trackage rights not only to the Port, but also to the Kinder-Morgan coal terminal.
One of the better photo locations along the trackage between Magnolia and Seven Mile is from the Rivers Avenue/US-78 overhead bridge at MP SC 4.4, in the vicinity of Clement Avenue. This is not a place to park and wait, but if you're circumspect and get on and off the overpass in a business-like manner, you can get good shots to the northwest. Inbounds to the port are nice, as well as CSX traffic on its "Extension" track which parallels the SC-Line to the left the entire way down to Magnolia. The CSX track to the right of the SC-Line is known as "Five Mile", and although it was originally used to go downtown -- to the Port -- it is now severed and serves only as a storage track for excess empty intermodal platforms from the intermodal yard up near CSX's Bennett Yard.
Many thanks to Ron Stafford who provided the information for this location. He states that you can expect at least 4-6 movements over this track on a good day.
North Charleston -- Dorchester Road. Rather than repeat the specific information concerning this crossing, let me direct you to the CSX A-Line tour write-up of North Charleston -- Ashley Junction location. This is MP 5.5 of the NS SC-Line, and is at MP SC 5.5. Looking north from the Dorchester Road vicinity, tracks are in the same order as at Rivers Avenue: CSX Extension to the ports, NS SC-Line, and CSX Five Mile.
Note that if you'll be coming up from Rivers Avenue, you'll just continue north on Rivers/US-78, to a left onto Dorchester/SC-642.
Many thanks to Ron Stafford who provided the information for this location. He states that you can expect at least 4-6 movements over this track on a good day.
North Charleston -- North End Seven Mile Yard. There are any number of logical places to begin our Frograil Norfolk Southern Ocean-to-Upcountry tour. We can try to get close to the ocean itself, but that will mean being frustrated by very heavy security in the area, and also realizing that relatively few trains per day ply the Port to Seven Mile Yard trackage, and vantage points are rare. Therefore, we'll "officially" start our tour in North Charleston, at the north end of Seven Mile Yard, and south of the point at which traffic to and from the Port enters the NS main line. This is an enjoyable place to watch trains, start a tour, and -- if you're really got some time -- to enjoy watching an efficient railroad operate an intermodal terminal.
Take exit 213 from I-26, and go east on Montague Avenue. The first set of tracks you rise up and over will be the NS northern end of Seven Mile Yard (SMY), and the start of the SC-Line to Columbia. We're going to tour this line all the way up to Columbia and Spartanburg, but first, we'll be treated to a good railroad show at this point. All traffic in and out of the major Port activities depart SMY to the north here, as well as all SC-Line traffic, so there will be enough to be of interest. What is most interesting, however, is to watch the container lifts unload the intermodal cars, transfer the cans to terminal shifter flats or over-the-road trucks, stack them with other like-cans, or move the cans to another part of a train. It's almost like a ballet, and it just keeps going and going.
When you've passed over the tracks, bear right towards US-52/US-78/Rivers Avenue. You'll wind around to that major north/south road, and you must go north under the highway you just left, and take your first left. Somehow, make a legal U-turn, and go south on Rivers back under the overpass, and immediately take your first right into Rich Street. This short street passes a few houses, and then directly enters the yard property. There is a No Trespassing sign just before this happens. Do not go beyond that sign. Park to the east of the yard and walk to the vicinity of the sign. You'll be able to see plenty of switching and road action, but the Montague overpass abutment restricts any view to the north.
In fact, the viewing of the action in the yard is much more open and interesting from the Montague overpass. To get there, walk down Rich Street directly away from the yard. You'll see an apartment-like mail box stand to the left, and immediately behind that, there is a faint trail up the steep slope to Montague. This is the easiest way to get up there, but if you're overweight and out of shape, it might be a little too strenuous. Use your best judgement. There is a good sidewalk on both sides of the avenue, but there are 4 very busy lanes of traffic between them, so don't plan on walking back and forth. The view to the south shows the yard office on the left. Phillip Segui points out that this structure used to be the passenger station for North Charleston. West of this building are general yard tracks and the intermodal tracks to the west of the general yard. Beyond those tracks the intermodal equipment unloads the cars, loads the shifters and over-the-road trucks, and stacks the waiting cans. The action is certainly close enough to be easily viewed. It's way cool, and a pair of inexpensive binoculars would make it even more interesting.
North Charleston -- I-26 Overpass. Go back down Rich Street and you'll have to turn right onto US-52/US-78/Rivers Road. Eventually, make a (hopefully) legal U-turn to head back north on Rivers. The first major left from Rivers is Mall Drive; take ita and go up and over the tracks on a NAG/NARL, and then take a right onto Lacross Road. This road is called various things in various places, apparently, and it shows up in various places on various maps, also. As you go north, you'll go under the I-526 overpass, and then will approach the I-26 overpass. Under the overpass, the tracks and Lacross are fairly close together, and the area is fairly open, although populated with lots of bridge support pillars.
Photos are possible, but difficult, and the noise from the interstate is severe, so it isn't really a recommended spot as a railfan location. However, if you know you've got to get trackside quickly to catch a movement, this place will do just fine. If you've got a few minutes before the arrival of a train, get up to the next location, which is excellent.
North Charleston -- Ten Mile. This is the best place in the Charleston Metro area to see the Norfolk Southern. Somewhere along the way, Lacross Road has become Highland Terrace. As you get close to Taylor Street, you'll see some immense, old live oaks on your right, just between the street and the railroad. There is parking here, and the mighty oaks provide great shelter in hot weather. Here are the photo ratings for the Taylor Street Crossing, but I'm saving the best part for later: NE3, SE1, SW2, NW1.
The "best part" is that the trains to and from the Port enter/depart the main immediately north of Taylor, at Ten Mile junction. Phillip Segui points out that the branch to the port/industry area is referred to as "Reed's Branch". Every train in and out of the north end of Seven Mile Yard goes right in front of you here, which will not be the case once we continue north of Ten Mile.
This is a great place to meet friends, tell railfan lies, and just relax.
North Charleston -- Remount Road. Go over the tracks on Taylor, and go out to US-52/US-78/Rivers Avenue. Go north until the first real left onto Remount Road. Note that MapQuest labels Remount Road as Airport Road. That is incorrect. The crossing of Remount and the SC-Line is stellar. As you approach from the east, there is a commercial building area, and you can probably park there. Walk to the crossing, and you'll be rewarded: NE1, SE1, SW1, NW1. The viewing/photo fields are like you're out in Kansas or Nebraska. If only there were more than 6-8 trains per day.
Note that Remount is busy, the airport is noisy, and commercial property is private, so pay attention to details. All in all, this is an excellent place to get excellent railroad photographs.
NOTE WELL: During March 2005, Tim Rich sent me the following heads up concerning Remount Road: "Three of my railfanning buddies, along with myself, have had some rather intense problems with law enforcement there. Across from S. Aviation is the Air Force Base. And we have had three instances where either the military police (twice) or the N. Charleston police (once), have questioned us, searched us, searched our cars, etc."
North Charleston -- Jet Park Road. Continue across the tracks and then take the first right onto South Aviation Avenue. Go up to the intersection with West Aviation Avenue, and cross the tracks. The crossing itself is AG, but NARL, as the Remount Road crossing is vastly superior, and is only 3 football fields south. If you check out your map, you'll see that there is a long section of South Aviation Avenue that parallels the tracks on the west. However, this area is under the flight path of the airport, and there is no stopping or standing along the road. To the north of that area is the entrance to Charleston Air Force Base. Because of Homeland Security concerns, both of these areas are definitely sensitive, and it is strongly suggested you avoid them completely, and take the turn onto West Aviation.
Once past the tracks, take a left onto Fain Boulevard. MapQuest shows a road departing from Fain and heading over to the tracks, but it doesn't exist on the ground. Fain will curve around and parallel I-26 for a distance, and then curve more and end at Eagle Drive. Take a left on Eagle, which will take you to a 90° turn at the tracks, and you'll parallel them via Ward Avenue. The tracks are heavily treed in all along Ward, so continue to a left on Jet Park Road, cross the tracks, and find a place to park. This is a modest-sized container staging area, so be on the lookout for plenty of truck traffic.
The crossing itself isn't much, at NE3, SE3, SW1, NW3, but offers the only location for some distance from the Remount Road area, and is a convenient place to catch something that you hear on your scanner. The MP11 marker is just south of the crossing.
North Charleston -- Midland Park. Continue northwest on Ward, and it will end at Midland Park Road. Before 9-11, there was a crossing here, but Charleston Air Force base has wisely reduced points of entry into the base, and this crossing is now blocked. This is a safe (no road traffic) place to watch trains, and is fairly decent, at NE1, SE2, SW2, NW2.
Ladson. You can get trackside by going east on Midland Park Road, taking the first left onto Stall Road, and taking it all the way to Ashley Phosphate Road, which is THE major east-west thoroughfare in North Charleston. It is an extremely busy road. You can turn left and go to the crossing, but it is much too busy and noisy to be a railfan location. There is an old road, Collins Road, that parallels the tracks for a long ways to the northwest, but access in November 2004 was blocked by road and curb construction. Based on what Tony could see, it appeared that the tracks were heavily treed in. If you have plenty of time on your hands this could be an interesting road to explore on foot or on a bike.
Because of the congestion at the Ashley Phosphate Road crossing, and because Collins Road is at least temporarily inaccessible, at the end of Stall Road, take a right on Ashley Phosphate, drive over I-26, and then enter the interstate, heading west (compass northwest). The railroad is inaccessible for several miles, and we'll use the interstate to efficiently get us close to trackside. After you get on I-26, take the first exit, US-78, and head west. Look for a crossroads with a traffic light -- that is Ladson Road, and you should take a left to get down to the Ladson Road crossing.
Just before the crossing, take a right and park. There is a road that parallels the tracks to the northeast (Stoney Road) and northwest (Lincolnville Road). You're parked off Stoney. At the crossing itself, the photo field ratings are NE2, SE2, SW4, NW1, which is OK, but nothing to write home about. If you'll walk northwest on Stoney a short ways, there is a utility easement (overhead power wires) that has given us a cleared out shot of northbounds. This will give good NE1 shots for individual engines and cars, but certainly not broad panoramic shots.
You probably think you're still in North Charleston here, but you are in fact well out to what used to be "the sticks". Unfortunately, the sticks are becoming "the suburbs", and from here all the way into Summerville, you'll be driving on a rural road that is anything but rural today, so be alert, and appreciate the increasing openness of the crossings we'll encounter.
Lincolnville -- Van Oshen Road. Go across the tracks on Ladson Road, take a right, and head northwest on Lincolnville Road. This will take YOU all the way to Summerville. As you continue along this road, you'll have to dodge dump trucks, cement trucks, and truss flat trucks, as they deliver the infrastructure to the rapidly building suburban world north of North Charleston. The first major crossing of the tracks is SC-LR-10-169/Van Oshen Road.
As of November 2004, the entire crossing area was cleared. Large trees on all four quads were felled, and the crossing has really been opened up. Wouldn't be surprised to see flashers and drop down gates in the not too distant future. This has certainly increased our photographic fields: NE2, SE1, SW1, NW1. You may be in the burgeoning 'burbs, but you're not in the sticks, so expect the crossing to have a lot of street traffic, and you'll need to be alert.
Lincolnville -- Dunmeyer Hill Road. Further north on what is now Lincoln Avenue (changes once within the Lincolnville city limits), you'll encounter another road that crosses the tracks to the right. This is Dunmeyer Hill Road, and is OK for viewing: NE3, SE2, SW2, NW3. The problem here is that, while the city fathers are nicely mowing the area, there are ornamental trees that have been planted, and they definitely in the way -- and are dragging the photo fields ratings down.
Lincolnville -- Railroad Avenue. Continuing in to Lincolnville on Lincoln Avenue, look for Owens Road, which will cross the tracks. Take Owens to the left, and then take an immediate right onto Railroad Avenue, a dirt road, and one that offers super wide open views of the tracks to the southwest and northwest. Photo ratings are NE1, SE3, SW3, NW3, and those aren't inspiring, but the views from Railroad Avenue really are excellent.
Just to the north of the Owens Road crossing is the MP 21 sign.
Summerville -- Doty & Main. Continuing to the northwest on Lincoln Avenue, you'll have to take a left at the end of Lincoln Avenue, then a right onto East Richardson Avenue, go under a highway bridge (that doesn't appear on MapQuest or DeLorme), and on in to Summerville. Take a right onto South Gum Street, and then a left to parallel the tracks on Doty Avenue. From this point on, there are oodles of places to watch and photograph trains in this town. The town itself is worthy of a few comments.
This is a lovely town, with B&B's, restaurants, a vibrant downtown, and an overall "healthy and energetic" look to it. It's worth spending some time exploring. It gives us a railfan location that will knock your socks off.
In the area of the US-17ALT/Main Street crossing of the tracks, my photo ratings are: NE1, SE1, SW2, NW3, but that doesn't really do it justice. My notes for the entire area east of the crossing state simply "Perfect Location". A great place to get out the lawn chairs, meet friends, and relax under the southern skies.
Summerville -- Industrial Road. As you depart Summerville with Luke and Doty avenues north and south of the track, res., there are numerous photo spots, although those pesky town-planted trees and shrubs do interfere with a decent photo field in most places. Pick your spots. Eventually, Doty will swing 90° to the south, and then meet with SC-165. Take a right, cross the tracks on an AG but NARL crossing, and you'll soon join US-78. One interesting railfan point prior to the first 90° turn from Doty is a woodchip car loadout right at the vicinity of the turn. There is plenty of room for you to get pix of NS and Southern chip cars in this three track facility. This is especially true, because the western-most end of Doty offers wide-open viewing of the main line.
Finally leaving Summerville proper behind, US-78 once again closely parallels the tracks, and after just a short distance, the first real left turn will be into Industrial Road, which houses a collection of rather elderly industrial and commercial buildings. There is plenty of parking near the crossing, and the crossing itself is pretty good, at NE1, SE1, SW2, NW3.
Summerville -- Boral Brick Display. You can drive south on Industrial Road, take two right turns, and then cross over the tracks from the south. However, this crossing is at best so-so, so I'd suggest getting back on US-78, and heading relentlessly northwest, as you have from Seven Mile Yard. Be watchful for a Boral Brick Display sign, and then turn left, onto what MapQuest shows as Melchamp Road. Don't expect to see such a road sign.
The street is a dead end into a brick display showroom and wholesale warehouse, so you can expect some truck traffic during the week. Once you've over the crossing from US-78, the brick facility is straight ahead, a private, gated "Mellichamp" Road is to your right, and a gated private road was to the left, but there was no name for the latter indicated. What's interesting from a railfan perspective is that there is a vestigial spur (for loading bricks) on both sides of the road from the crossing, giving you much greater depth for photos from the south. Also, there is an old loading dock on the southwest quad, giving you some elevation. This is an excellent railfan location. Photo ops are NE3, SE1, SW1, NW1.
Jedburg -- Pete Ewers Drive. When you get into the Jedburg area, take the first left onto Pete Ewers Drive, cross the tracks, and park. Photo ratings are NE3, SE1, SW2, NW2, which aren't bad at all, but the next spot is much, much better, if you can wait a few minutes. Also, while it may look like a middle of nowhere, bucolic side road, Pete Ewers can be quite busy, so keep alert.
Jedburg -- Jedburg Road. When you get across the tracks via Pete Ewers heading south, take a right onto McAlhaney Drive, which will become a good, solid dirt road after Lake Drive goes off to the south. Take the right onto Wilkerson Drive, and then a left onto McMakin Street. The latter is paved, and closely follows the tracks, but they are treed in. Not to worry. You'll reach Jedburg Road, the only crossing in Jedburg, other than Pete Ewers, and it's a doozey. Just north of Pete Ewers, a siding starts, and that siding ends just south of Jedburg Road. Parking is plentiful, and the photo fields are NE2, SE1, SW1, NW1. My notes concerning the area in general sum it up pretty well: "Excellent". This is a lawn chair and cooler location, and if you don't see 72 trains in 8 hours, so what?
I don't have a timetable or station listing for the SC Line, but the siding at Jedburg seems to be a mile or so, max, so it probably isn't routinely used as a passing siding.
Jedburg -- Orangeburg Road. From the excellent Jedburg Road crossing, head north, get on US-78, and continue to the northwest. You'll veer significantly away from the tracks, and will eventually come to a crossing. Orangeburg Road goes off to the south. Take this to the crossing, and you'll note that it's merely a so-so crossing. However, Mossy Road parallels the tracks to the west north of them, and Burbage does the same to the south. Several areas of Mossy Road are wide open for photos. While this crossing is not recommended as a railfan location, both Mossy and Burbage roads are worthy of some exploration.
Ridgeville -- Campbell Thicket Road. This one isn't anything to write home about, but will get you trackside when you need to get there for an impending train, and it will also get you back to a road that parallels the tracks -- which US-78 certainly does not do from Orangeburg Road.
After crossing Cypress Swamp Creek via US-78, look for Campbell Thicket Road to the left, and take it on down to the crossing -- a little over 2 miles. The photo fields are NE2, SE3, SW3, NW2. The problem on the south is that tall trees cause shadow problems, but as mentioned above, this spot will let you enjoy a train trackside, as opposed to listening on the radio, way back up on US-78.
Ridgeville -- Church Street. Once south of the tracks via Campbell Thicket Road, take an immediate right to travel on into Ridgeville proper via Railroad Avenue. After turning from Campbell Thicket, there are a couple of crossings in the vicinity of the wood/lumber yard, but they are only so-so. A little past these, the relentlessly treed in nature of the drive has a few breaks with some nice open areas. As you near the town, there are planted landscape trees between the street and the railroad, and these interfere with photos, but there are still some spots that are pretty good. Finally, you'll get to Ridgeville and Church Street, the main crossing in town. It's a disappointment.
At NE3, SE3, SW2, NW4, the crossing is poor, and the major disappointment is a series of short, ugly poles just to the north of the tracks, which ruin several photo angles. These seem almost designed to take attractiveness away from the downtown area. The next location is somewhat better for photos.
Ridgeville -- Main Street. Main is only one long block from Church, but the viewing is significantly different. The nasty poles are somewhat to the east, and that yields the following photo ops: NE4, SE4, SW1, NW1. The 4's, obviously, are because of the ugly poles, but the views to the west are really quite good. Both North and South Railroad avenues extend some ways to the west, but they are largely treed in. They are probably worth a check by a serious photographer.
Dorchester -- Schoolhouse Road. Drive back up to US-78. A serious drive away from the tracks is now in order, as there is a vast, non-inhabited area from the west of Ridgeville to the community of Dorchester. Follow US-78 west, and then take it to the southwest, as US-178 originates and veers off to the north. You'll come down from the northeast, and gradually swing west and then northwest. The tracks will come in from the southeast. Quite frankly, Dorchester is not railfan paradise, but will give you the opportunity to at least be trackside when necessary. At Schoolhouse Road, the photo fields are NE1, NE3, SW3, NW4. The northwest quad photo field can be greatly improved by walking beyond the metal signal relay box, and shooting northwest of there.
Dorchester -- Salem Road. You can continue further west on Railway Drive, and after 2 very long blocks, you'll come to Salem Road. You'll see Salem Church just to the south. Photo fields are NE2, SE1, SW3, NW4, so they're not great, but the southeast quad for morning eastbounds is pretty solid.
There is a defect detector, "Dorchester", at MP 36.9.
Forest. Beyond Dorchester, you'll notice that fencing parallels the road for miles, primarily on the north, but there is some to the south as well. The white no trespassing signs indicate that this land is part of a Licensed Shooting Preserve, and there are thousands and thousands of acres. Midway through the forest is a small sign at a road displaying the words "Brosnan Forest". You historians will remember that DW Brosnan was a famous Southern Railway president from many years gone by. Could the name of the forest here, paralleling the railroad, be a coincidence? No, the shooting preserve is owned by Norfolk Southern Corporation.
Indeed, Phillip Segui has provided some additional information about Brosnan Forest. As "Shooting Preserve" indicates, there are organized hunting opportunities available in the 16,000 acre preserve, but there is far more there than meets the eye as you zoom by on US-78. There is also a conference center, plus cabins, lakes, par-3 golf, driving range, and other amenities. Once available solely to executives of the railroad and their guests (primarily major shippers and politicians), the corporation has made the facilities available as a conference center for other organizations. Go here for more information.
Actually, Pregnall itself is very easy to find -- after you've zoomed past it! Be on the lookout for a set of tracks veering to the northwest across US-78 as you head yet further northwest. Just before those tracks go across the highway, there is a non-descript lane off to the left. Turn left, and enter Lois Lane (I'm not making this up!). This is a solid dirt road, and goes across the tracks. Park wherever the spirit moves you and walk to the tracks. To the south is the MP 41.0 marker, so we're about 34 miles northwest of Seven Mile Yard.
If you're keeping score, the photo ops for this crossing are NE1, SE3, SW2, NW2, so it's pretty good, but the interesting thing here is what's happening to the railroad. That track to the north is actually a CSX branch that runs up to Sumter (eventually). There is a short interchange track to the south of the main NS track, and that helps greatly with photos. Pregnall is not an urban icon, but is a logical place to end this tour -- but we're going to give you one more location, which is more logical yet.
Pregnall --Smoak Road. Since you're sitting on the shoulder of a dirt road, we'll move you along a little to get you more comfortable -- and also to put you at a much better railfan location. Continue south on Lois Lane, and bear 90° to the west to follow the tracks. They're hopelessly treed in, but you'll shortly come to Smoak Road. Park anywhere available, and walk to the tracks. The photo ratings: NE1, SE2, SW1, NW1 -- pretty gaudy, eh? Actually, this really is an excellent location, and the view towards the northwest is as close to perfect as it gets. The "Pregnall" Southern sign is immediately to the west of Smoak Road.
Between Pregnall and Orangeburg, the text for this tour is courtesy of Tom Campbell.
Byrds. Continue west on US-78. There is a crossing at Byrd Farm Road, but it is private and NARL. You'll note a highway marker sign announcing the community of "Byrds", although most maps call the area "Byrd", after the family that settled the area. We'll go with the highway department, although we're not 100% sure which is correct. The pickings are pretty slim through here, with Gum Branch, Pecan Tree, and Sugar Hill roads all either private or no access -- all are NARL. Of all the roads in the area, Sugar Hill Road probably offers the best access, but you'll need to park well away from the crossing and hoof it back to the tracks.
St. George. As you come into town, take a left onto Cedar Street or any of the other streets leading south towards the tracks. Through most of the width of town, Railroad Avenue parallels the tracks to both the north and south, and photo fields are open. The track is visible for a good distance. You might want to park near the courthouse, but not near the county jail.
Reevesville. Shortly after leaving St. George, you'll come to the busy I-95 interchange. As you can imagine, there are plenty of restaurants, gas stations, and convenience stores in the area. Further west is Shuman Road, a private NARL. As you come into Reevesville, US-78 will magically become Johnston Avenue. Take a left onto Rigby Road, and drive one block to Railroad Avenue and the tracks. There is only about one block of real railroad viewing area, and there isn't much room for decent photos, but this place will get you trackside when you need to be there. Reevesville is MP 52.2.
Reevesville -- Bryant Road. Upon departing Reevesville via US-78, watch for any of the following on the left: Bryant Road, Ruby Drive, or Gant Road. All of these will take you either to the tracks or Bryant Road. The latter bends towards the tracks and then parallels them for about a mile. You'll have to be creative to find a parking place, and may have to do some walking. Bryant ends, on the west, at Independent School District Road. Note that the latter is labeled as Patton Road by MapQuest, but on the ground, Patton is north of US-78, and it's called Independent School District south of the highway.
There is a defect detector, "Reevesville", at MP 54.4
Dorange. Go north on Patton Road to US-78 and take a left to go further west. As you get into the community of Dorange, MapQuest shows a through road, Kizer Road, going south, over the tracks, and then meeting Durhams Corner Road. However, on-the-ground research shows Kizer as only a private lane to a house, so it's NARL. Continue through Dorange, and US-78 will get very close to the tracks. At the point where they almost touch, you'll enter Orangeburg County, and Durhams Corner Road will be on your left.
There's parking between the railroad and the highway. A weed whacker and 15 minutes of work would definitely make this a better railfan location.
Branchville -- Perkins Road. The highway towards Branchville hugs the tracks closely for much of the way, but there are no crossings for a couple of miles. Saddle Ridge Road/SR38-933 has a grade crossing, but parking is a problem, so it's not recommended. Beyond Saddle Ridge is Perkins Road, which offers not only parking, but good visibility.
For you Combat Railfans, there is a dirt road, Reeves Branch Road, that mostly parallels the railroad all the way from Saddle Ridge to on into Branchville. The condition of the road is dependent upon the weather, and you probably don't want to take your $350,000 diesel pusher motor yacht down it. Use your judgement relative to the family sedan, too.
Branchville -- Ott Street. Whether you're on Reeves Branch Road or US-78, when you get to Ott Street in town, take a right or left, respectively, to get to the crossing. This is a good railfan location, but it is more than just another place to watch trains. More on this later.
Branchville -- Station Area. US-78 zigs left when it meets with US-21 in town, goes 2 blocks south, and then zags right to head further west. Between the zig and the zag, the road crosses the railroad, and the station is on the left. The location of the depot is important, because at approximately the point of the Ott Street crossing, there was a railroad junction. In fact, this was the first railroad junction in the United States.
The right of way from Charleston to Branchville was part of the original route of the South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company. The route ran from Charleston to Hamburg, South Carolina (now North Augusta). This was the route of the Best Friend of Charleston. There are still tracks in the area, but the diamonds are gone, the victim of the decision to abandon Branchville - Oakwood (about 10 miles east of Aiken).
The depot contains a museum that has many railroad artifacts, and it even has a Southern caboose -- #X2255. The building also houses a restaurant that is open nights. For admission to the museum, there is a posted sign giving phone numbers to call. There is ample parking in the area, as well as plenty of room for photography, but don't get careless, because the curve of the track and the noisy US-21/US-78 traffic can allow a train to sneak up on you quickly.
There are several restaurants within walking distance of the depot.
Sixty Six -- Mays Chapel Road. The railroad has made a 90° turn beyond Ott Street, and is now heading due north towards Orangeburg. We'll pretty much follow Freedom Road/US-21 now, but we'll give you railfan's directions through the rest of Branchville, as you might want to check out some local crossings. Be advised that Tom does not recommend the following crossings as railfan locations. Just north of the crossing, Calhoun Street veers to the northwest from US-21, and gets you closer to the tracks. Take a left onto Dukes Street, and the crossing is about one football field away. Go back to Calhoun, head north, and it will cross the tracks. Actually, at this point, there are 2 streets and the railroad all crossing at the same place. Definitely NARL.
At this crossing, turn right onto Hughes Street, and then left on Sardis Church Road to go straight north. This will take you to Reynolds Road, and you can take a left and get to the crossing. From the Sardis Church - Reynolds intersection, take a left to go out to US-21. You'll pass Doc, Sixty Six, and Greywood roads, all of which offer no room for fanning, and are NARL. At Mays Chapel Road, take a left and drive to the crossing. This secluded area offers parking and a good view of the tracks.
Rowesville. Back on US-21, continue north. Pass up Hollyhock Road. Note that Freedom Road/US-21 is now Rowesville Road/US-21. When you get into town, Oil Mill Street will take you to the tracks, but there is no room for photos, so pass it up and continue to Elmwood Avenue, and turn left. This will take you to Rowes Pump Drive, which runs parallel to the tracks on the east. In the center of town, Main Street/River Drive crosses the tracks and Rowes Pump Drive, and there is a nice small park dedicated to the pump, owned by Colonel Rowe, which supplied water to steam engines in the early days. There is a grassy area with benches and a bandstand. Rowesville is at MP 71.0.
There is a defect detector, "Rowesville", at MP 70.1.
Go west over the crossing on River Drive, and take the first right onto Calhoun Street. This will take you over the tracks (NARL) and back to US-21. Go north, and there will be several private grade crossings to the left that are NARL. Indeed, there are few places to fan from Rowesville all the way into Orangeburg. Prosperity Drive South and North is a loop in and through an industrial park, and you should be able to shoot from those crossings, but that's about it.
When you get into town, US-21Business will go straight, and US-21Bypass will go to the right. Go straight on US-21Business, and then left to join US-178Business. If you continue northwest, US-178Business crosses the tracks, but it is very busy, so NARL. Therefore, take a right at the tracks to continue north on US-21Business, as it parallels the tracks to the east. The street is Magnolia Street at this point.
Webmaster's Note: Text from this point to Spartanburg is from Tony Hill.
Orangeburg -- Whaley Street. This is kind of a different, interesting location. From US-21Business, take a left on Whaley Street, and then a right onto Crystal. Park to the right in the nice, mown, parking area for the baseball stadium. Crystal parallels the tracks to the north, but all is treed in, so you want to stay right in the Whaley/Crystal area. Photo ops are as follows: NE3, SE1, SW1, NW1. As you can tell, this is a pretty wide open area. Traffic on Whaley and US-21Business is significant, but other than that, this is a very quiet area.
Indeed, this is a lawn chair and cooler location, and although an excellent spot, it's not the last lawn chair and cooler spot we'll see between here and Ft. Motte. We're in a pretty good railfan area!
You can continue north on Crystal until it bends 90° to the west. Continue on and take a right on Broughton Street to get to the CSX yard. There is usually a geep working the small yard (usually full of tank cars for Albemarle Chemical west of the city) in the area.
Orangeburg -- CSX "Crossing". Go over the tracks on Whaley, and take a left to head north on US-21Business. Within a short distance, you'll see the NS overpass of the CSX tracks. The latter is the remnant of the ex-ACL Robbins - Sumter line, and is surprisingly busy, at least in terms of cars transported.
For those of you who cannot pass up a "crossing", even one that's NAG, there is plenty of grassy area between US-21Business and the NS main for a down-on shot of CSX. There is no way to shoot an over and under meet, however, and I really don't recommend this location.
Orangeburg -- Sellers Avenue. Continue north on US-21Business. After a couple of blocks, you'll see a good-sized auto parts store. Take a left onto Sellers Avenue, and park in the store lot, but towards the street, rather than the store. If you're going to be at the location for more than a few minutes, check in at the store, and let them know who you are and what you're doing. This is pretty much a PM location, at NE3, SE4, SW1, NW1.
Orangeburg -- Trinity UMC. There is a grade crossing at the bigUS-301/US-601/US-21Business intersection, but the area is way too hebephrenic to be a railfan location. However, as you continue north, the road you're on has now become US-601, and you'll be off and on it for the next several hours of the tour. Disregard the name of the road, because it changes more often than some people change their underwear.
Stay in the left lane, as you'll be taking a left onto SC-33 two blocks north of the busy intersection. Take the left and then an immediate right onto Boulevard Street, which will hug the tracks on the west side. US-601 hugs them tightly on the east side. You'll see Trinity United Methodist Church on your left, and there is a well-maintained, broad parking area between the street and the tracks. This is definitely a lawn chair and cooler location. E4/W1.
Orangeburg -- Zan Street. Continue north on Boulevard to a right onto Zan Street. This is just a short connector over the tracks to US-601, and it's pretty busy, so heads up. Once again, this is a PM location, and it's worth noting that the tracks, which have gone through town on an almost dead north - south line, have now begun to swing to a more northeast/southwest bias, which they will maintain all the way through St. Matthews. NE3, SE4, SW1, NW2.
Orangeburg -- College Avenue. Finally, a good photo location from the east! Continue north on US-601 and be on the lookout for a street peeling off to the left. It's easy to miss. This is College Avenue, and it parallels the tracks on the east for some distance. Most of it is heavily treed in, but the southern end has parking to the right, and a broad view of the tracks north and south. E1/W4. Yet another lawn chair and cooler location. MapQuest shows College extending well north of US-21, but it is cut at Crawford Street, so you're better off getting back to US-601 and heading north. The crossing of US-21 is a NAG/NARL.
Orangeburg -- State A&M Road. We are starting to leave Organgeburg now, and will soon be in the country. Further north on US-601, State A&M Road will be on your left. Take it over the tracks, and then take an immediate left into Guinyard Street. This location is mostly suggested if you need to get trackside in a hurry. NE3, SE2, SW2, NW3. Be alert, as this is a busy road, connecting US-601 and St. Matthews Road to the west.
Stilton -- Rut Road. Just a short way north from State A&M Road via US-601, take a left into Solomon Terrace. This road is easy to miss, so be alert. This will become a dirt road paralleling the tracks very closely, but the entire length is treed in. You'll come to an intersection, and a road, Rut Road, will go left over the tracks, become paved, and pass a convenience station before marrying up with St. Matthews Road.
The crossing itself is pretty good, at NE3, SE1, SW2, NW2. There isn't usually much street traffic, but you'll hear trucks and cars at the convenience center occasionally. A weed whacker would be a very good idea in warmer months.
Stilton -- Fire Tower Road. As mentioned above, Rut Road will take you out to St. Matthews Road. Take a right and you'll soon go over the tracks on a NAG/NARL, and end up at US-601. Take a left and the first real road to the left will be Fire Tower Road. Take this left and go over to the tracks. This is the country now, and even though there is a major interstate and US highway close by, you'll be glad to be in a quiet, still area for a change. Unfortunately, the viewing is only so-so at NE2, SE3, SW2, NW3.
The mile point 83 marker is just south of the crossing, and the dragging equipment detector is just to the north at MP83.0, officially, and is "Orangeburg".
Jamison -- Red Bank Road. As we continue north on US-601, and get closer to I-26, you'll note that there are plenty of new food, motel, and businesses which have located to this area north of Orangeburg. There is also a large, new-looking medical center. However, as was the case the Fire Tower Road, once just a quarter mile west of the highways, you're in the country.
As you approach the interstate and begin to notice all the development going on, look to the left for a Chevrolet dealership. Immediately north of that, turn left to go down Red Bank Road. Just before going over the crossing, take a left and park in the entrance to what used to be a timber staging area. The crossing is excellent: NE2, SE1, SW1, NW1. Red Bank is much busier than was Fire Tower, but the viewing is much better here.
Jamison -- Hickson Road. Once again travelling north on US-601, go through the I-26 stuff, and then take a left onto Hickson Road. This will yield the following crossing ratings: NE3, SE2, SW1, NW2. Pretty good, and it's not particularly busy.
Jamison. Further north on US-601, take a left onto Waterspring Road. Immediately past the tracks, take a right onto Oasis Lane. The crossing you just came over is NE2, SE2, SW3, NW1, so it's pretty decent. This is a lawn chair and cooler area. A weed whacker would be good in hot months.
Riley -- Bair Road. From the Jamison location on Oasis Lane, Mapquest shows a road from Oasis over the tracks and back to US-601. The road is named Double W Road. It does not exist as a through, public road, so ignore the map. DeLorme does not show the road. Get back to US-601 and continue north. When you pass the Calhoun County line, watch for Bair Road on your left. Take it over to the crossing and park.
The crossing is pretty good, at NE2, SE 1/2, SW3, NW2. Must fudge on the southeast quad, as the view to the north is a definite 1, but the view south is a little tighter.
Riley. Continue north on US-601, until you see state secondary road 122 coming in from your left. It crosses the tracks and there is something important to point out here. There is a sign at the end of the secondary road which states that you are 51' from the tracks. I would not want to be a truck driver, or have a big motor home with a trailer, and have to stop at this stop sign. Traffic on US-601 is constant, so you might have to sit for a few minutes -- an eternity if you suddenly hear a train horn. Even pedestrian railfans need to be careful, because you're awful close to the main road, and it can be noisy at times.
The viewing makes up for the awkwardness of the crossing, however: NE1, SE1, SW3, NW1. The mile post 89 sign is just north of the crossing.
Wertz. As you now head further north on US-601, you're beginning to enter the St. Matthews area. The place where US-176 crosses US-601 is known as Speeds Cross Roads, but both MapQuest and DeLorme identify it as Wertz Crossroads, or just "Wertz". Take a left onto US-176, and park to the right well before the railroad overpass. This crossing is NAG, but the bridge has very wide shoulders, and the cut is wide enough to yield some attractive pix. To the north, the view is wide open and very nice. To the south, there are wires running across the view, but they're fairly high. If you have a good photo editor, you can clone them out. The view from the east side of the bridge to the south is excellent, but there is a low hanging tree that will interfere with your southerly shots from the west side of the bridge.
I don't do a lot of overpass shots, but this is a good location.
St. Matthews -- Huff Drive. Just before the city limits of St. Matthews, via US-601, you'll see a road to your left, which is F. R. Huff Drive. It crosses the tracks, takes a 90° turn to the right, and goes into, through, and well out of town to the north. MapQuest shows this street as Railroad Avenue, but that is only within the city limits. In the county, both north and south of town, this is F. R. Huff Drive. Photo ratings at the crossing are good: NE2, SE1, SW3, NW1. The northwest quad is really nice, because you're on a slight rise, giving a somewhat different perspective to your view. A little north of the crossing is MP 91.
St. Matthews -- Bethel AME Church. Keep going north on Huff Drive, which will become Railroad Avenue. You'll see the Bethel Church on your left. Park in the grass parking area to the right of the street. Viewing, either from here or from across the tracks from US-601 is iffy, at barely an E3/W3, but this is an important spot. From just north of here all the way through downtown, the tracks are in a ditch, as per High Point and Gastonia. Viewing is lousy, because the ditch is deep and steep. So, if you know there's a train coming, and you don't have time to get back to the first Huff Drive site or north of downtown to Depot Street, stay here and do the best you can.
St. Matthews -- Depot Street. Continue right through town on Railroad Avenue. Eventually, you'll see the ditch give way to ground level running again, and you'll come to Depot Street. Photo ratings at the crossing are NE1, SE3, SW3, NW1, which is excellent for southbounds. There is a large gravelly area on the northwest quad that was probably the site of the station. There is no shade, but this is still probably the best location in St. Matthews, per se.
St. Matthews -- Halfway Swamp Creek. Keep going north on Railroad Avenue, which will become F. R. Huff Drive again. You'll go around a fairly sharp bend to the right, and go over a tiny stream in the middle of the bend. Milligan Circle will go off on your left. As you approach this point, the road dips down to follow the ground level, but the railroad continues level on a fill. There is a fairly modest open deck bridge over the valley of the creek, and it presents both a classic southern scene and a photographic nightmare.
The scene is pure southern country, as everything, vertical and horizontal, is draped in a heavy layer of Kudzu. There is a tall, dead snag behind the center of the bridge with full kudzu drapery, and it looks somewhat ominous. Because you're looking south-southeast, you'll be looking directly into the sun virtually 365 days a year. The bridge is visible from US-601 east of the tracks, but it's a good ways in. You can probably get permission to tramp over from the property owner, but be careful, as that heavy kudzu will bury a Volkswagen in about a week.
I'd love to see a good image of the bridge. It's also a classic structure to model.
St. Matthews -- Preference Road. Immediately past the bridge at Halfway Swamp Creek, the railroad finally alters the north-northeast bias to begin to turn more easterly, as it has to skirt the belly of the Congaree River basin and swamp. It does this by going far to the east and then across the eastern edge of what today is the Congaree Swamp National Monument, and then turning sharply northwesterly to head on into Columbia. From the bridge east, photo considerations change fairly often.
Continue north on F. R. Huff Drive as it follows the tracks (which are completely treed in) until it ends at Preference Road. There is a mill of some sort to the east of the latter, and it's noisy. US-601 has rejoined the tracks, and that adds more noise. Finally, there is no shade here at all. Added to all this misery is the fact that the photo fields are not so hot: NE3, SE2, SW3, NW3. We only mention it in case you've left the bridge, and suddenly realize you've got a train about to end up in your lap.
Singleton -- Hemlock Road. This site is much better than Preference Road, if you've got the time. Take a left from US-601, and park north of the crossing. Viewing is: NE1, SE3, SW3, NW1, which is excellent for southbounds. Remember that the tracks are actually more east-west than north-south here.
Singleton Plantation. Get back on US-601, take a left, and continue northward. The next left after Hemlock is Weinges Court. It leads back to a crossing, and just before the tracks you encounter -- not a STOP sign -- a WHOA sign. These are definitely horse people. The property north of the tracks is obviously private, but you can park on the southeast quad and be OK. You will not be bothered if you let someone know you're waiting for a train, but do not venture into the fields, even if there appears to be nothing planted in them.
Of railroad note, this point is the crest of the long climb out of the Congaree River basin. Heavy freights can be barely moving here, while lighter trains can be running at track speed. Southbounds beyond this point are normally rolling right smart by the time they get to St. Matthews.
Photo ratings are NE1, SE3, SW1, NW3. If you've got binocs, you'll see the MP 95 sign well to the south.
Fort Motte -- True Blue Road. Along F. R. Huff and US-601 from the edge of St Matthews all the way past Singleton Plantation, you've been treated to a fine agricultural scene. Cotton, peanuts, etc, etc, and all seems immaculate. You are going to abruptly leave that type of geography now, and the change will affect your railfanning, and not just the types of plants you'll see along the way. We are entering a Combat Railfans' environment, and only the wimps will continue north on US-601 to avoid the Fort Motte area. Even though Fort Motte is just a tiny community, I'm going to refer to the entire area of forests to the south of the Congaree River as "Fort Motte", as it's completely different than that which you'll see along US-601.
As you leave the Singleton area via US-601, the railroad swings sharply to the north, and requires some cross country driving to get to the next crossing. Look for Inabinet Road on the left, take it, and it will T at True Blue Road. Take another left, and you'll be heading sharply northwesterly. You have left the manicured farms of Singleton and have entered the world of forestry plantations. These latter are huge, and you'll see a lot of them in the miles ahead.
You'll go over the railroad on a NAG, but it is definitely a railfan location. The bridge is nice and wide, and there really isn't a lot of traffic, although if logging is going on in the area, stay away from the bridge. There is a lazy curve on the railroad in both directions, and the railroad is steeply north-south here. Photo ops: NE1, SE3, SW1, NW1. These are very good, and are worth waiting for the right train in the right light. There is a defect detector to the south at MP 97.4, "Fort Motte".
Fort Motte -- Town Square Street. Continue northwest over the True Blue overpass, and take the next right. You'll see a sign to the Fort Motte Hunt Club. This is Spigner Road, although there will be no sign. NOTE WELL: You need to slow WAAAAAY down and take it easy on this dirt road. It can be very, very rough if it hasn't been scraped for awhile, or it there has been a hard storm recently. Expect all manner of detritus from the trees overhead to be littering the road. As you drive along the way to the village, note the beautiful black lake on your left. If you've ever wanted to do some bird watching, this is the place. You'll eventually see the railroad come in on your right, only to lose it as you veer away from it. No problem, as you'll T into a paved road, signed as Ft. Motte Road. Take a right and just before the crossing, take a left onto Town Square Street. Park just after your turn.
You might be surprised to learn that this isn't just any old town whose time has come and gone. Indeed, during the Revolutionary War, a woman made significant contributions of courage and capital to the American cause, and the "fort" was named in her honor.You are encouraged to look up Rebecca Brewton Motte, and learn about her courageous history.
Today, there is little to indicate that an actual village once stood here. There are a couple of crumbling brick buildings, and the name of "Town Square Street" makes one appreciate that such a square must have existed once, but mostly what is out here is the forest -- and it is relentless. This close to the Congaree, there are lots of varieties of trees besides pine. Just north of here is the true "forest primeval".
The train tracks are pretty much northeast-southwest here, with photo rating on the crossing of NE1, SE2, SW1, NW4.
Fort Motte -- Wiss Road. From the Town Square Street location, keep going northeast, and you'll parallel the tracks on what has now become Wiss Road. Eventually, you'll cross from north of the tracks to the south. This crossing isn't half bad -- and is our last before a major detour. Photo ratings are NE1, SE2, SW3, NW2. Really, this is just a way far out place for folks to get together and have fun. And you guys who don't like to be around people will love this area, also.
Wateree. You should continue northwest on Wiss, and you'll see Moye Lane come from the north. Out of sight, but just to your left before you get this far from the last railfan location is the MP 101 sign. Continue on Wiss, until to come to a real intersection. Take a right onto Lang Syne (note that the street signs are probably turned around here), and go due south towards US-601. You'll come to a stop sign, and should take a left onto Red Clay Road, which will run into US-601.
Go north on US-601 to the crossing of the branch from the NS main up to Wateree (and on to Hagood via Eastover Junction). This is not technically on the tour, but is very important to the railroad. Just north of US-601 is a huge International Paper paper mill, and NS services the mill with coal for its power plant, and battles CSX for loads in and out of the mill. There is also an SCE&G power plant on this spur, but it is believed CSX has the contract for supplying coal to it. There is no life support here. You will probably see a few cars on the ex-siding just north of US-601, but longer strings of cars will be southeast of you, towards Kingville.
Kingville. Just after the railroad crossing of US-601 in Wateree, turn left on Joe Collins Road. Then, take a left on Griffin Creek Road. Go straight at the stop sign, and after 1.1 mile, turn left on an unmarked, unpaved road. This little road over the tracks gives access to a few singlewides, and you'd better get the OK to be there before you start roaming around taking pictures. That said, this is an excellent place for photos from the southwest side of the tracks. You may see some TopGon cars along the ride south from Wateree. Apparently, NS has the contract to supply International Paper with coal, and it is not uncommon to see 30-50 cars along here.
Here, in the main track area, there is one main track and one siding track. The coal cars will be east of this area along Griffin Creek Road.
Continue past the road to the singlewides for .3 mile. Take a left and go over the tracks, and then take an immediate right to parallel the tracks. This is a rough road, with stout trees and brush overhanging the road. If you're worried about the paint job on your Lexus SUV, do not go down this road. There are lots of places to stop and drink a cool adult beverage here, while waiting for a train, but the road is going to end shortly. If you're really into macho railfanning, you can go straight and then over the tracks, but for mortals, you'll have to turn around and go back the way you came. Get back on Griffin Creek Road, which will swing to the northeast away from the tracks, and eventually run into SC-48/Bluff Road. Take a left and head on Bluff Road towards Columbia.
Gadsden. As you go northwest towards Columbia, the railroad will come up to cross SC-48 just southeast of Gadsden. Just before this crossing, there are two places for you to consider -- one railroad, the other life support. Park in the Post Office parking lot, and walk to the western edge of the property. The railroad comes through on a very nicely mown, almost manicured bias, and pics are good for much of the day. The next building from the post office is a small, local restaurant, and you'd better get some grub here, because you may be out on the line for awhile.
Gadsden -- Wolfe Road. Shortly after crossing the tracks in Gadsden, you'll come to Wolfe Road going north. This is a dirt road, and you want to take it until it dead-ends at the tracks (contrary to both the county map and DeLorme Atlas!). Park off to the northwest. There is excellent viewing from the west, and OK from the east. There is a defect detector here ["Gadsden" MP 111.4].
Gadsden -- Goodwin Road. Continue westbound on SC-48 to the next decent intersection, and go right on Goodwin Road. This is a fine place to watch trains, and is immediately south of the MP 112 marker.
Weston -- Meeting House Road. From back on SC-48, go west to Meeting House Road. Take a right and go north, cross Clarkson Road, and turn left immediately before the tracks at Railbrooke Road, which, alas, ends just a few hundred yards ahead. On the other hand, you'll get good photos here from late morning on, and it's pretty quiet. This is a nice place to see a few trains. [Web Master's Note: The nice-appearing road (on my deLorme) next to the tracks between Weston Road and LR-S40-2049 does not exist.]
Columbia -- Hopkins Area. Retrace your route to Clarkson Road, and turn right, towards Columbia proper. Clarkson will end at Lower Richland Boulevard, and you'll turn right to approach the tracks. Just before the tracks, turn left on Back Swamp Road, and parallel the tracks for a short distance. There is a road across the tracks (not on any map) which gives OK pictures from both sides of the tracks. Continue on Back Swamp until it ends at Pincushion Road. Take a right and head back towards the tracks. Just before Pincushion ends at Montgomery Lane, there is good viewing from both sides of the tracks.
From here all the way to Andrews Yard in Columbia, it is very difficult to get trackside, and the crossings become increasingly busy with traffic. Therefore, when Pincushion ends at Montgomery Lane, take a left and go back to SC-48/Bluff Road. Go right on Bluff, and go right in to Columbia towards I-77.
Columbia -- Andrews Yard. From I-77 in the southeast corner of Columbia, take the Shop Road exit and go west on Shop Road. Take a right onto Andrews Road, and before you actually get onto Andrews, take the very hard right to go down to the yard. You can get a good look at the central/east end part of the yard here, and there are always a few growlers parked about, but the area is all posted, and Tony wouldn't advise doing anything but taking a look and leaving.
Go back the way you came, and take a right at Andrews Road, and continue along. You'll go by some very modest, single story homes. Keep looking to your right, towards the tracks, and you'll see a large, brick, 2-story building behind the houses. Take your first right and drive to the building's parking lot. If you're lucky, you'll be able to park facing the tracks. This is the yard office (the yard tower is just to your left), and houses the folks who run all railroad ops in the area. One supposes it also houses the railroad's Special Agents. As a suggestion, you might want to find the super's office and ask for permission to take photos from the grassy area between the parking lot and the sidewalk. Beyond the sidewalk is the yard itself. It's worth a try. You are facing virtually 00° north here, so photos would be good almost any time, but don't be surprised if your view is cut off by immobile railroad cars.
Andrews is a busy yard. Besides the Charleston-Spartanburg line we're fanning, the R-Line from Charlotte comes into here, as do the line to Augusta and a short branch to Edmund. None of the lines involved has a huge number of trains, but they add up to considerable activity in the aggregate.
Columbia -- Andrews West. Continue west on Andrews until you come to a tee, with a very large, fenced in SCDOT yard in front of you. Take a right and follow the yard via the dirt road westward. Classification takes place in this area, and you're on private property, so you can take pix. [Web Master's Note: If you are going to stop and watch trains anywhere in this area, have at least one male friend with you.] One thing which may not be apparent is that CSX has been paralleling the yard on its north side. As you continue west, you'll go around a large scrap metal facility, and then the road will curve to the left, and end at George Rogers Boulevard. Take a right and continue west on George Rogers. The railroad next to you is the CSX, which has crossed NS and is heading for the yard at Cayce or Elmwood Junction. Look across the very large, fenced in field (which is probably used as a parking lot for football games), and you'll see the NS main, which is somewhat elevated at this point. From this point on, you will be seeing tracks going in every direction everywhere, or so it seems, and we're going to concentrate only on the Charleston-Asheville main line.
Columbia -- Flora Street. Continue west on George Rogers, and it will bend further north and become Assembly Street, one of Columbia's busiest. The University of South Carolina is all throughout the area, so be careful and alert, as college students either think they're invincible, or are unable to see automobiles. Right where the street bends and becomes Assembly, Flora Street will be on your right (just after you cross over the CSX tracks). Take the right onto Flora and drive 2 blocks to the tracks. Park along East Broadway, which is a dirt road. Viewing from the north is OK, and viewing from the south is excellent. Be alert around the streets, because they are active.
Columbia -- Devine Junction. As you continue north on Assembly, you will cross a double set of tracks. Almost immediately thereafter, take a left on Catawba Street, re-cross the same set of tracks, and then take a right on Lincoln Street. The area around the tracks posted "No parking, no trespassing" but parking can be found close by. (Updated 1/5/15)
The two tracks in front of you are actually those of two different railroads, at least they seem to be operationally. The southern track is CSX, and the northern is NS. Amtrak uses the CSX track to get to the station, which is our next stop. You will see both tracks curve north, and the CSX track also diverges to Cayce Yard to the southwest. This is a very busy area, as most north-south and east-west traffic has to go through here. It is a very difficult area to railfan, unless you know train numbers for both railroads, because you'll hear horns blowing and not know what tracks they'll be using. If you're a primitive railfan like me (no scanner), you'll see most of the action if you'll just stay in this area. The entire area is quite open, and is not posted. However, I'd stay well back from the tracks, and I'd want at least one male friend with me.
Columbia -- Gadsden Street. Here's a suggestion from Reggie McDowell. "With regards to the Devine Junction area, you can actually go one more street down past Lincoln to Gadsden Street. Make a right, cross the tracks (which is the CSX Eastover Sub), and park short of the next set of tracks. The tracks right in front of you wil be th e NS R Line, and then the W Line."
Columbia -- Amtrak Station. Cross the tracks and continue north on Lincoln to Devine Street. Take a left onto Devine, cross the tracks again, and then go north (right) on Pulaski Street. Take a right onto College Street and park at the station. You can watch trains from the west only. The tracks are almost dead north-south here. There is a bluff to the east.
Columbia -- Lady Street. From the station, go west on College, and then take a right and go north on Huger Street. At Lady Street, take a right and go back east. The bridge on Lady which goes over the tracks is rather odd. It was built for 4 lanes, and the street is only two. The excess area on both sides of the bridge, for some reason, has been given about 8-12 inches of concrete. The result is that there is a more than one full lane's area, raised and physically separated from the street, on both sides of the street! The view down onto the tracks is unimpeded , and the cut is wide open and very clean. If you like down on photography, this is a superb location.
[Webmaster's note: While doing the on site research for this part of the tour, Tony inexplicably missed checking out the next 2 sites, but thinks they are worthy of being included. Take them with a grain of salt, however, because Tony did this by map only. The print will be in italics until we continue the tour based on empirical data. Please e-mail me with any info you can contribute to these descriptions: firstname.lastname@example.org ]
Columbia -- Gervais Street Station. [This is out of order, but Tony wanted to keep the italics in one location.] Continue east on Lady, and take your first right (Gadsden Street) after the tracks. Go south one block to Gervais, and take another right and go over the tracks. According to the Steam Powered Video' s Southeast maps, there is a railroad location here, and is identified as "Gervais Street Station."
Reggie McDowell gives us some color concerning this location. He says the Gervais Street station "...now exists as a couple of restaurants.... The tracks have been taken up, but after you pass the restaurants, you can still see a set of tracks that branches off from the station still in the brick that is laid down there now."
[Webmaster's Note: You are now going to be heading out of the city, which abruptly ends just north of I-20. The railroad will hug the Broad River all the way to Shelton, but you'll be several miles to the east. Between I-20 and Carlisle (which is 49 miles by SC-215, but much farther because of the need to constantly get back and forth from the highway to the tracks), there is one place to buy gas that I'm aware of. There are no restaurants, food stores, etc. For the entire route, you are in an area of vast tree farms, including the last 17 miles which are within the Sumpter National Forest. Before proceeding on the next part of the tour, gas up, eat, etc., and then hit the road.]
Montgomery. Continuing north on Huger, get into the far right lane and go right (east) on Elmwood Avenue when Huger ends. After 6-7 blocks, take a left and go north on North Main Street. After about 1 1/2 miles, take a left onto SC-215/Monticello Road. This will be your friend for the next several hours. SC-215 will take you under I-20, and within a surprisingly short distance, you will be in a completely non-urban environment. According to the map, you should be able to have access to the railroad by taking the first left past the interstate (Peeples Street). However, the entire area adjacent to the tracks is taken up by a monstrous brick works, and you are not allowed on the property.
Continue north on SC-215 about 6.5 miles to Montgomery Road, and take a left. Drive all the way to the tracks, which are 2.8 miles from SC-215. The road ends here, and you do not want to park in any area which will block access to the tracks. There is a chain with a very professional looking padlock on it. Strangely, the crossing itself is paved. Apparently, this place is used as a put-in for CSX's road/rail trucks. You'll be able to see trains here, but the viewing is only so-so.
Wallaceville. Go back to SC-215 and continue north. Just inside the Fairfield County line, Richtex Road goes towards the tracks. Tony did not drive down it, but there is a defect detector there ["Richtex" MP W144.9]. Again, Tony did not drive down the road, and does not know if there is any access to the tracks. About 7 miles from the Fairfield County line, Wallaceville Road will be on your left. Take Wallaceville Road to the intersection with Depot Road, and turn left and take it to the end. Park, but be careful not to block the gate. There is still a spur track here, which allows for real good viewing from the east, but the west side is tight. The railroad is on a SE-NW bias here, so plan your lighting well.
Alston. Continue north on SC-215 until you get to the junction with SC-213, a distance of about 4 miles. Go west on SC-213 and cross the river. Do a U-turn and come back slowly over the bridge. Looking to the south, you will see the remains of a railroad trestle. Keep that in the back of your mind as you take your first right, which does not have a road sign, although MapQuest shows it as SC-S-20-35 -- you might be able to find that above a stop sign at the turn. Continue on this road, and take another right onto Shadow Drive. Park at the tracks, and walk out and take a look. This place is Alston, and was the site of an active yard. The reason for the yard is not obvious, as there is no industry here. The secret is that trestle you saw from the SC-213 bridge.
Once upon a time, there was a Southern Railway secondary main from Greenwood through Newberry and Prosperity to Alston. There is still a segment of the route open, Conrad to Prosperity, but beyond there, NS uses the CNL to Columbia. The station list Tony had still showed a "yard" at MP W135.5, and there is a "Y" notation in the Steam Powered Video atlas. However, the only thing Tony could see was the single main track and a little used side track. If there is still yard trackage, it must be south of this point. Had Tony had more time, he would have liked to hike down to the point where the junction to the route over the river was.
An e-Mail from someone with recent knowledge of the area: Scott Harper, a conductor for the Lancaster and Chester Railway, used to work for the NS out of Columbia, and has this to add to our knowledge of this place:
"There is now nothing but the mainline and passing siding there. When I was working for NS out of Columbia (97-99) I occasionally worked the local on the W line that went to Union. During this time the V line was still in place all the way to Prosperity; however, it was out of service. The wye began just on the east side of the bridge over the Broad River, with the switch stand being on the trestle itself. The west leg of the wye joined the W line just east of the crossing that crosses the main and siding with the east leg going just around the curve back towards Columbia. Sadly, the wye and remaining trackage on the V line has been removed within the past year of so since I left from NS. I am not sure if there was ever a yard there or if it was merely just a junction. If there was any yard trackage at this location it was removed long ago."
An even more recent e-mail was received from Brian Wall, who commented in the summer of 2007:
"At ALSTON we drove to the tracks on the dirt and gravel road mentioned in the tour and could see the ALSTON sign to the east. This road off SC-213 begins as asphalt, but quickly turns to a well traveled dirt and gravel road. Take the unmarked right fork to the tracks, cross over and go to the abandoned bridge mentioned in the tour. This bridge is being converted into a walking/hiking trail. These through truss spans date to 1904 (look for the builders plate), and will become part of the Palmetto Trail, which will run from the South Carolina mountains to the coast near Charleston."
All this interesting background information aside, this is a pretty good place to watch trains, with good viewing from both sides, but especially from the east.
Parr. Return to SC-213 and go right. You will shortly see a sign for Parr, and you will turn left and follow the road until it ends at a very strange-looking (and there is no identification sign) facility. Was this an old nuclear plant of some sort? [NOTE: Tony had had two distinctly different e-mails proclaiming this: a. The Parr Shoals plant and b. The V.C. Summer Nuclear Station. He had no idea which is correct, and only can give you what he saw.] Anyway, there is a big grassy area on the other side of the fence, which gives excellent viewing from the west. There is fair viewing from the east. This might be a nice place to sit and relax awhile.
Blair. Go back to SC-213, then back to SC-215, and continue north to Salem Crossroads, some 11 miles north of the SC-213/SC-215 intersection. Take a left on SC-34. In between these two intersections is Monticello reservoir, which, compared to most such lakes, seems remarkably undeveloped. Buy your land now, before it's too late. As you drive down SC-34 towards the tracks and the river, you'll pass Old Blair Road. Within a mile or so, you'll come to another Old Blair Road. Take this right and drive to the village of Blair. Pass the cement plant and take a left onto Granite Road, which will take you to the tracks.
There is superior viewing from the east and pretty good from the west. This is a place to get out the lawn chairs and coolers. Stay away from the MoW materials and storage areas.
Clayton. Go north on Granite, which ends in one block, and bear to the left onto Buckhead Road. [WARNING: You are deep within the National Forest now, and the roads are very rough. They are paved, but are rather uneven. They also go up and down and all around. Slow down and take it easy.] At the intersection with Road 99, go left and continue several miles to an intersection with Shelton Road. Take a left onto Shelton and head towards the river and railroad. Take a left onto Clayton Depot Road. This road will wind down to the tracks, and make a rather sharp 1880° loop. Park at the apex of the loop. Note that on the inside of the loop, almost hidden among the trees, are two somewhat large, old concrete silo-like buildings. These are old, really old. Are they lime kilns? If not, what were they? As you walk down towards the tracks, you'll note the foundation of the old depot. This area is of great interest to the fan who's interested in industrial and railroad archeology, but the train watching access is rather limited, so it's not recommended for photography.
In the summer of 2007, Brian Wall reported that a local resident told him the silos are all that remain from the Shivar Springs Bottling Company.
Shelton. Backtrack to Shelton Road and turn left towards the river. The road dead ends at the tracks. There is good viewing from the east, and it's OK from the west, especially if you'll walk a little south. As you go towards the north, viewing from both sides worsens. The railroad curves to the west and goes over the Broad River into Union County.Any dramatic shots of trains on the bridge would have to be done via a boat, as it's really rugged around the bridge -- and dangerous. Stay away.
The community of Shelton is apparently long gone, but Brian Wall found some structure foundations in the woods. He also reports that the bridge itself is a very impressive six-spanned through truss, with a builders plate dated 1925. It is not, however, a railfan location for the reasons stated in the previous paragraph. Do not trespass in the vicinity of the bridge or tracks.
Get back on SC-215 by taking Shelton Road all the way. Take a left and go north to the tee with SC-72/SC-121. Go left (west), cross the Broad River and enter the village of Carlisle.
Carlisle. This village, somewhat infamous for a radar trap on SC-72, is the site of the only passing siding between Columbia and Spartanburg. At 6,886 feet, it's big enough to handle most trains, but is not used often, simply because there aren't many meets on the line. Get to the north end of the siding from SC-72 by turning left onto Cambridge Street just before (east of) the tracks. You'll go away from the tracks for one block, and then turn right onto Sarlor (?) Avenue. Take your next right, almost immediately, onto Cottage Street, cross the tracks, and turn left on Elloree Street. These directions take longer to type than to drive. Photo access is easy. This is approximately MP W109.
Retrace your route, and get back to SC-72. Continue west to the intersection of SC-215, and turn right to go north. You'll cross the CSX main, and the not-at-grade NS/CSX crossing is one block to your northeast. Brian Wall reports in the summer of 2007 that the SC-215 overpass has now been replaced with a wider one, making it easier to photograph trains at the crossing. Do be careful, however. To get to the crossing area itself requires blatant trespassing, and the views are poor, so it is not a railfan site. Continue north on SC-215.
Santuc. You'll be very close to the railroad from Carlisle north for several miles. Photo opportunities are many, especially in winter. On the other hand, draperies of kudzu can give a very effective touch to a summer photo. About 6 miles north of Carlisle, you'll reach the crossroads of Santuc. There is a crossing, and just north of the crossing, the railroad makes a broad NE-SW-SE curve. If you want to get photos here, or anywhere else along the line, you should be aware that the railroad is in excellent condition, and track speed is 45 mph -- you will need to be ready to shoot your pix, so scouting ahead might pay off well for you.
There is a defect detector just north of the crossing ["Santuc" MP W102.4].
Monarch Mills. As you begin to approach the built up area around Union, your love affair with SC-215 will end, as it veers off to the left, and you stay straight on what is called Monarch Highway. The latter continues to follow the tracks into Monarch Mills, and SC-215 goes into the south of Union as Belt Line Road. This, in turn, runs into the US-176 By-Pass on the southwest part of Union, and that's where you'll find food, gas, shopping, etc. But back to the W-Line tour:
Monarch Mills is, as the name implies, a mill town. If you haven't seen an old Southern mill town, take some time an look around. Some such towns are somewhat depressing, as most of the textile industry has long since moved on. In more cases than not, the towns never fully recovered. The red brick architecture of the old mills is impressive, and you can easily visualize dozens of 40-foot boxcars bringing in cotton and other supplies, and taking out partially- or fully completed textile products. That railroad business left several decades ago -- when was the last time you saw a 40-foot boxcar in revenue service?
South of town, the railroad crosses from the east to west side of the road, and remains so through town. There are numerous crossings and areas for photography. As the tracks approach the small downtown area, they go from a northwest to westerly direction. Just before that happens, there was a wye and connection to the Union & Glen Springs Railroad (later the Buffalo Union-Carolina Railroad). There were yard and interchange tracks, and the station was apparently in this area. When you get close to this area, via Monarch Highway, be alert, and you may see the remnants of the north leg of the wye. Just past this, take your first left onto Moore Avenue. Moore ends at Jeffries Street -- turn left again.
Jeffries curves around and becomes Cross Street, and crosses the tracks. Just past the tracks, take your first left, which is Railroad Street. There is excellent viewing here from the south, and some interesting railroad history to explore. To continue the tour, retrace your steps to Monarch Highway, and continue north to SC-49/Main Street. Take a left, and head west into Union.
Union -- Perrin Avenue. Main Street goes east-west, and parallels the railroad until the latter swings to the north, about half-way through town. Note that SC-49 separates from Main Street in the eastern edge of town, and you need to stay on Main Street. Here's how we recommend you tour the railroad in Union:
Stay on Main Street all the way to Church Street, and take a left to go over the tracks. After the tracks, take another left onto Perrin Avenue. This parallels the tracks on the south side, all the way through town, and you can actually go almost back to the site in Monarch Mills by taking Line Street at the end of Perrin. Go back the way you came on Perrin, and turn right on South Boulevard to go back over the tracks. Take a left onto Main Street, and you've completed a circuit of the majority of the trackage in the area. Continue on Main until the railroad crosses it, and take the first right after the crossing, to get on Mountain Street.
Union -- Southern Station. About one block north of Main Street is the Southern Station, and it's probably the most impressive building in town. You'll want to get some pix, and then move on, as the area is somewhat confined, and there are better places to photograph trains. This is MP 95.7.
To continue through Union, go north on Mountain to East Academy Street, and take a left. Cross the tracks again, and then take a right to go north on Pinckney Street. After just 2 blocks, the road will "split", with Pinckney going right and over the tracks, and Thompson Boulevard/SC-18 going to the left. Before continuing, however, take a good look at the area immediately north of where Pinckney and Thompson split. The Union & Glen Springs Railroad came from west of Union, and crossed the Southern Railway at this place. It's hard to visualize a tower and operator here, but there once must have been. Pinckney follows the tracks on the east side for quite a ways, until it once again crosses them and re-joins SC-18, while Thompson/SC-18 hugs the tracks on the west. Take your pick and explore.
Lockhart Junction. As you travel north out of Union on SC-18, it becomes Jonesville Highway, and it hugs the railroad relentlessly. A little north of the crossroads of Bonham, however, the road swings to the northwest towards Jonesville, and you'll see Bob Little Road to your right, going back towards the tracks. Take Bob Little and you'll soon cross the tracks, which will also start to swing towards Jonesville, and you need to stay straight north on Bob Little. You will come to a major intersection with SC-9, aka Jonesville-Lockhart Highway. Take a left and head towards Jonesville.
Within a mile or so, the railroad will cross to the north of SC-9. Just before this happens, Peach Shed Road will go off to your right. Take it and you will immediately cross what was the branch to Lockhart. If you miss the turn, don't worry about it, because Peach Shed parallels what was the branch west towards Jonesville, and crosses the tracks at what was the junction with the main line up from Union, and then ends at SC-9. So, if you miss the first turn, just wait till the tracks go across SC-9, and then take your first right.
You can find the area in which the junction was located, and you might want to walk around and do some amateur industrial archeology. Get back on SC-9 westbound to drive into Jonesville.
Jonesville. SC-9 is Main Street through town, and parallels the railroad all the way. [WEBMASTER'S NOTE: Do you remember the Pinckney Street and Thompson Boulevard/SC-18 split back in Union? SC-18 was US-176 at one time, but has been replaced by a comparatively new road to the west of SC-18, and is the main road between Spartanburg and Union. We mention it because some old maps still show US-176 going through Jonesville, and this can be confusing.] Almost in the dead center of town, Depot Street comes in from your left. Take a right and go to the area of the tracks. There is plenty of room here for pix.
Continue on towards Spartanburg, but turn your "alertness monitor" up one notch, because we are beginning to get into the Spartanburg metro area. SC-9 is the major route to Myrtle Beach, and traffic can be quite heavy. You can follow SC-9 into Pacolet, but 2 miles out of Jonesville, Old Spartanburg Highway goes across the tracks, and follows them on the east side all the way to downtown Pacolet (as Main Street). Both roads closely parallel the railroad, but you might be more laid back on the old road.
Pacolet. This is an interesting town, and is another excellent example of a mill town. Just to the north of Pacolet are Central Pacolet, Pacolet Mills, and the Pacolet River. There was a railroad branch which went up to Pacolet Mills, and as was the case in Monarch Mills, one can image the very large volume of boxcar traffic which must have moved in and out of Pacolet. If you stayed on SC-9 to enter town, go north on SC-150 in the center of town, go over the tracks, and then take the first right onto East Main Street. Two blocks east of the SC-150 overpass is the site of the wye where the line from Pacolet Mills came down to join the Southern main line. If you came into town on Old Spartanburg Highway/Main Street, the site of the old wye is just past Hill Street.
White Stone/Camp Croft. Continue northwest on Main Street, which becomes West Main after crossing SC-150. SC-9 curves away from the railroad for awhile, and you'll want to stay next to the tracks on Main. West Main and the tracks will go under (?) US-176 (the new road up from Union) and SC-9 (which have joined immediately south of this point), and continue due west. Past US-176/SC-9, the street name changes to Structofab Road, which will shortly end at Southport Road/SC-295. Go west (right) on Southport, and you'll note the railroad briefly goes off to the north. It shortly comes back in, however, and just as it gets very close to the road, West Murph Road is on your right. This intersection is just to the east of White Stone, and there is a defect detector there ["White Stone" MP W75.2].
Further west, you'll come to the first intersection of Croft Circle Drive, which is indeed a circle, and intersects again with Southport a little ways west. This place was an active military base at one time, and as you drive the streets, even though it's been many years since it was closed, you can still see the "military" in the place. The headquarters was on Headquarters Loop, which is just west of the 2nd Croft Circle intersection. Where the tracks came across Southport, into the Warehouse Road/ Utilities Road area was the railroad's "Camp Cross" station, but we don't know if there were ever a passenger station here, but it's a reasonable supposition, as lots of young men must have passed through here in years gone by.
The training areas and firing ranges of the post have been turned into Croft State Park, which is very large, and has the potential to become one of the nicest parks in the state. However, back in 1995 when your friendly webmaster was there last, much of the park was closed because of several incidences of live ammunition being found, and the state wanted to make sure the place was safe. If the campground is now opened, Croft State Park would be an excellent place to stay while you explore Norfolk Southern and CSX north, east, west and south of Spartanburg.
Spartanburg -- East. More correctly, this place is "East Spartanburg", and is reached by traveling west on Southport, and then taking a right on SC-56, Union Street, and heading towards the downtown area. The first major street after the Southport/Union intersection is Country Club Road to the right. Get on Country Club, and immediately find a place to park. In years gone by, the railroad continued to parallel Union Street into the downtown area, where it joined the Crescent Route at the depot to travel south to Hayne Yard. However, this was a very congested area, as the CSX's predecessor roads and the Crescent Route all kind of glommed together right at, and behind, the Southern depot.
The solution was to build a new line from just south of Country Club Road almost due north to the Beaumont Interlocking on the main line. You can see vestiges of the original right-of-way, but not much remains. This is MP W70.7. Trying to railfan between here and Beaumont is close to impossible, although there are some crossings. We recommend you continue north on SC-56, and stay on it as it joins US-221/Church Street, and continue right through downtown to the station, which is now a visitors center. For directions from the Station to Beaumont, you need to get on the Crescent Route tour, which is here. The Introduction to the overall Crescent Route tour is here.