South Carolina Railroads - Branchville & Columbia Railroad


Year Chartered or Incorporated

Year Line Operational

Year Service Ended

Original Starting Point

Original Ending Point





Branchville, SC

Columbia, SC
+ 1899 - Absorbed by Southern Railway.
* 1894 - Merged into the South Carolina & Georgia Railroad, gave up line name.
+ 1843 - Merged into the South Carolina Railroad, retained line name.
+ 1837 - Acquired by the Louisville, Cincinnati & Charleston Railroad, retained line name.

The Branchville & Columbia Railroad was sixty-six (66) miles in length. Its maximum grade was twenty-five (25) feet per mile and its miminum radius of curvature was 2,800 feet. The line cost $1,500,000 to construct. It was actually started by the South Carolina Canal & Rail Road Company, which also owned the Charleston & Hamburgh Railroad, but was faced with financial difficulties and sold both lines to the Louisville, Cincinnati & Charleston Railroad Company in 1837.

The South Carolina Canal & Rail Road Company held exclusive rights, due to its charter, of building a railroad from Charleston to Columbia, and immediately after completion of the Charleston & Hamburgh Railroad, the company began to make plans in that direction. In a communication to Columbia, the company hinted that the organization of a separate company would probably be welcomed for the purpose of building a branch to that place.

Acting upon this suggestion, a group of Columbia citizens applied to the South Carolina General Assembly for authority to form the "Columbia Rail Road Company" and to confer with the South Carolina Canal & Rail Road Company as to the terms on which it might build the road. The request was granted in an Act approved on December 19, 1833. Negotiations were soon underway between the two companies.

The Columbia citizens appointed a committee to make a survey of the route, and they included: Benjamin Hart, Abraham Blanding, D. Ewart, J.W. Clark, A. Wallace, and James Boatwright. This committee selected Andrew A. Dexter and C.E. Detmold to perform the survey.

The route recommended was to cross the Congaree River over a bridge at Columbia or Granby, then go down the river across the Congaree Creek to Thom's Creek and up the valley of that stream to its head. The grade at this point was to be overcome by an inclined plane. From the elevation thus attained the route passed between Big Beaver Creek and Little Bull Swamp over the ridge between Cawcaw Swamp and Limestone Creek, crossing the former three miles from Orangeburg then proceeding to the left of Orangeburg and down the River Road to Branchville. The total length of the proposed route was a fraction more than fifty-nine (59) miles.

The only deviation from the line thus selected, in the opinion of the committee, "should be for the purpose of forming a junction with a Rail Road from Sumterville, or the country east of the Santee and Wateree Rivers." Several other routes were suggested but found to be unfavorable. The route directly down the Congaree River in particular was regarded as "financially impracticable and utterly inexpedient."

Detmold and Dexter recommended the adoption of the embankment plan instead of the pile system as used on the Charleston & Hamburgh Railroad, which was already being abandoned. The committee estimated the total cost for this line to be $547,986.

This was about as far as the citizens of Columbia went in this matter. They were apparently unable to meet the conditions imposed by the South Carolina Canal & Rail Road Company, however, the idea of building the railroad was not abandoned.

Throughout the summer and fall of 1835, it was agitated by both Columbia nad Orangeburg citizens. The original group in Columbia considered a plan to "go it alone," and even started the survey, but the South Carolina Rail Road Company intervened once again.

Nothing more was done until the latter half of 1837, when the Louisville, Cincinnati & Charleston Rail Road Company bought the stock of the South Carolina Canal & Rail Road Company along with the right to build the branch from Branchville to Columbia. The Louisville, Cincinnati & Charleston Rail Road Company began the survey below Columbia to Branchville, and this was completed by mid-1838.

The route decided upon proceeded down the east side of the Congaree River, crossed it near McCord's Ferry above the mouth of the Wateree River, then went through the valley of Buck Head Creek to its head. From that point the route went in a circuitous path to Orangeburg and then directly to Branchville. This route avoided the necessity of an inclined plan and passed through much less barren country.

The engineers recommended the usage of T-rail, stating that while it cost more than flat bar, it was far superior in every way. A double track was at first contemplated, but this idea was abandoned in early 1839.

Early in 1838, contracts for construction of the road beds were let, and work began immediately. By September of 1839, the whole project was under contract, but the limited resources of the company had prevented the progress previously planned. By August of 1840, the section from Blackville to Orangeburg had been completed. During the next year many unexpected difficulties were experienced.

Beginning in January of 1841 and continuing to mid-summer, incessant rains caused the flooding of the lowlands and the rising of the rivers and tributary streams to unprecendented heights. This not only retarded ongoing work, but also destroyed much of what had been received as finished.

Ten more miles of track were opened up on September 5th, running past Orangeburg to Lewisville and within thirty-one (31) miles of Columbia. Work was pushed with vigor during the next few months, and the road was finally opened to Columbia on June 20, 1842. The actual total cost turned out to be $2,274,96.31.

Thus was completed the only piece of railroad building executed by the Louisville, Cincinnati & Charleston Rail Road Company. The actual operation of this line was performed by the South Carolina Canal & Rail Road Company - by request of the LC&C Rail Road Company - until 1843, when the two companies were consolidated to create the new South Carolina Railroad Company.

Towns on Route:


Hamptons (1850s)

Woodlands (1850s)


Hopkins Turnout (1849)

Weston (1887)

Gadsden (1842)

Kingsville (1855)

Fort Mott (1847)

Lewisville Depot (1841) > St. Matthews (1842)

Jamison (1854)

Stilton (1898)


Felderville (1878)

Rowe's Pump (1855) > Rowesville (1876)

Sixty-Six Mile (1850s) > Sixty Six


© 2007 - J.D. Lewis - PO Box 1188 - Little River, SC 29566 - All Rights Reserved