South Carolina Railroads - Street Railways - Columbia

The following seven (7) known "Street Railways" were operational in the city of Columbia from 1882 to 1936, when the last line ceased operations.

In his book entitled "Palmetto Traction - Electric Railways of South Carolina" (1978) by Mr. Thomas Fetters, he asserts that John McLean built and operated a horse-drawn railway in the city of Columbia in 1822. McLean's line had tracks from "Cotton Town," the cotton market area at Elmwood Avenue and Main Street, south on Main Street to Gervais Street, and along Gervais to the banks of the Saluda Canal. The tracks ended at the cotton warehouse of Alexander Herbemont who stored the cotton bales before loading them onto Charleston-bound river boats. Mr. Fetters asserts that this railway operated for a number of years, but provides no specific end date.

Mr. Fetters also asserts that a second street railway graced the streets of Columbia in 1857. The three-mile line ran from a quarry in the river bottoms of the Congaree River near Granby Lane, east on College Street to Main Street, then along Main Street to the site of the new State House, which was under construction at that point in time. Built by the construction company, the line was used to haul tram cars pulled by teams of oxen. The line was used irregularly during the early years of the American Civil War, but it was destroyed by General William T. Sherman when he reached Columbia in early 1865.

Columbia Street Railway Company

Year Chartered

Year Operational

Year Ended

Length of Line

1882

1882

1892

4.5 miles

The Columbia City Railway Company was chartered on February 9, 1876, however this company never materialized.

The Columbia Street Railway Company was organized on February 9, 1882 by W. D. Starling, Thomas D. Gillespie, and John R. Abney. The original four (4) mile route began near the company's carhouse and stables at what today is 823 Gervais Street. Tracks followed Gervais to Main Street where a double track was laid from the State House to Laurel Street. Two branches continued - one to Elmwood Cemetery following Main Street to Elmwood Avenue and west on Elmwood to the cemetery; the second along Laurel Street to Barnwell Street, south to Blanding Street one block and east two blocks to the Charlotte, Columbia & Augusta Railroad depot. A short spur left this line at Laurel and Pickens and ran north on Pickens to the South Carolina Hospital for the Insane.

Originally, the Columbia Street Railway Company employed six (6) cars with double teams of horses, of which the company owned thirty (30). Soon, nearly eight hundred (800) passengers a day were riding these six (6) cars.

The Street Railway Review of January 1891 reported that the Columbia Street Railway has been transferred to the Electric Company of the city of Columbia and is now in charge of Col. J.Q. Marshall. Electricity will be the motive power and the work commenced at once.

The Street Railway Review of 1892 reported that the Columbia Street Railway had 4-1/2 miles of track operational, six (6) cars, and thirty-two (32) horses. Officers included President J.Q. Marshall, Vice-President W.A. Clark, Secretary J.P. Thomas, Jr., and Superintendent A. Wallace.

In 1892, the assets of the Columbia Street Railway Company were purchased by the Columbia Electric Street Railway, Light & Power Company. The new company decided to retain the original line's name since it was simpler and therefore they did not have to repaint all existing equipment.

Columbia Electric Street & Suburban Railway

Year Chartered

Year Operational

Year Ended

Length of Line

1890

1891

1891

4.5 miles

The Columbia Electric Street & Suburban Railway was chartered by the South Carolina Legislature on December 24, 1890. Within a year, this company merged with the Congaree Gas & Electric Company to form the Columbia Electric Street Railway Company on December 16, 1891.

The Street Railway Review of January 1891 reported that the Columbia Electric Power & Suburban Railway Company has organized with the following officers named: President - Col. J.Q. Marshall; Treasurer - W.G. Childs; and, Secretary - J.S. Verner; Solicitor - B.L. Abney.


Col. J.Q. Marshall - President

1891, name changed to the Columbia Electric Street Railway, Light & Power Company.

The Street Railway Journal of 1892 reported that a bill had been introduced to authorize the consolidation of the Columbia Electric Street & Suburban Railway & Electric Power Company and the Congaree Gas & Electric Company under the name of "Columbia Electric Street Railway, Light & Power Company."

Columbia Electric Street Railway, Light & Power Company

Year Chartered

Year Operational

Year Ended

Length of Line

1891

1892

1911

25 miles

On December 16, 1891, the South Carolina Legislature approved the merger of the Columbia Electric Street & Suburban Railway Company with the Congaree Gas & Electric Company to form the Columbia Electric Street Railway Company.

In 1892, the assets of the Columbia Street Railway Company were purchased by the Columbia Electric Street Railway, Light & Power Company. The new company decided to retain the original line's name since it was simpler and therefore they did not have to repaint all existing equipment. The new company also began to electrify its operations and on May 6, 1893, the Columbia Street Railway (owned by the Columbia Electric Street Railway, Light & Power Company) became the first company in South Carolina to operate electric streetcars. Six (6) small single-truck cars were used on the newly-converted lines.

The Street Railway Journal of December 1892 reported that the Columbia Electric Light & Power Company has ordered six (6) 16-foot car bodies with McGuire trucks.


Columbia Electric Street Railway - 1893

Click Here to view/download a two-page writeup about the Columbia Electric Street Railway included in the Street Railway Review of 1893. This article reported that this Street Railway was five (5) miles long, passed through the principle business and residence streets, with six (6) elegant cars made by the Lamokin Car Works with McGuire trucks.


Lamokin Car Works - Standard Car of 1891 (not Columbia)

In 1894, the Columbia Electric Street Railway, Light & Power Company decided to construct a dance pavilion with the hopes of increasing weekend business. The site selected was on the southeast corner of Greene Street and Carolina Avenue overlooking Valley Park (now Martin Luther King Jr. Park), and the new Shandon Pavilion was built.

The Street Railway Journal of 1894 reported that the Columbia Electric Street Railway, Light & Power Company had twenty-one (21) miles of track operational and six (6) motorized cars. Officers included President & General Manager J.Q. Marshall, Vice-President W.A. Clark, Secretary W.G. Childs, and Superintendent A. Wallace. The company is in the process of changing to electric.

The Street Railway Review of 1895 reported that the Columbia Electric Street Railway Company will extend its lines, making a belt around the city.

The Street Railway Review of 1896 reported that the Columbia Electric Street Railway, Light & Power Company will lay three miles of rail, etc.

In 1897, the Columbia Electric Street Railway, Light & Power Company leased the Hyatt Park line from the Columbia & Eau Claire Railway. This line had been completed on June 15, 1896 and ran from Stoll's Alley, a half block north of Elmwood Avenue, along Main Street to Hyatt Park at the corner of Main Street, Monticello, and Wilson. This line was connected to the existing Main Street-Elmwood Avenue line by running a short section of track from Main & Elmwood to Main & Stoll's Alley, a half-block away.

The American Street Railway Investments magazines of 1897 and 1898 reported that the Columbia Electric Street Railway, Light & Power Company had 10 miles of track, 12 motor cars, 4 trail cars, Lamokin and St. Louis cars. Officers include - President, General Manager & Treasurer J. Q. Marshall, Vice-President T. T. Moore, Secretary W. H. Lyles, and Superintendent A. Wallace. Capital Stock $75,000. Offices at 85 Gervais Street, Columbia, SC.

The American Street Railway Investments magazines of 1899 and 1900 reported that the Columbia Electric Street Railway, Light & Power Company had 10 miles of track (electric), 8 closed motor cars and 10 open motor cars made by Lamokin and St. Louis. Same officers as 1897 and 1898.

The American Street Railway Investments magazine of 1901 reported that the Columbia Electric Street Railway, Light & Power Company had 13 miles of track (electric), 10 closed motor cars and 16 open motor cars, all made by Laconia Cars. Officers include - President W. B. Smith-Whaley, Vice-President W. A. Clark, Treasurer & General Manager E. B. Clark, and Secretary W. H. Lyles. Capital Stock $350,000.

The Street and Electric Railways Census of December 1902 reported that the Columbia Electric Street Railway, Light & Power Company owned and operated 14 miles of track and had $350,000 in capital stock.

The American Street Railway Investments magazines of 1902 and 1903 reported that the Columbia Electric Street Railway, Light & Power Company had 14 miles of track (electric), 10 closed motor cars and 16 open motor cars, all maded by Laconia Cars. Same officers as 1901. Offices at Assembly and Washington streets.


Columbia, SC Street Railways Map of 1903

Click Here to view/download a 5-page write-up about the Columbia Electric Street Railway, Light & Power Company included in the Street Railway Review of February 20, 1903.

The American Street Railway Investments magazine of 1904 reported that the Columbia Electric Street Railway, Light & Power Company had 14 miles of track (electric), 10 closed motor cars and 16 open motor cars, all maded by Laconia Cars. Officers include - President E. W. Robertson, 1st Vice-President J. L. Minmaugh, 2nd Vice-President & General Manager P. I. Welles, Secretary A. L. Kraus, and Solicitor B. L. Abney. Capital stock $500,000. Offices at Assembly and Washington streets.

In 1904, the Columbia Electric Street Railway, Light & Power Company leased the newly-built line of the Public Service Company that ran from Hyatt Park to Ridgewood Park, a distance of about a mile. The Public Service Company never purchased any rolling stock and had to re-organize by 1907. The Ridgewood Park line also launched in 1907. Here in what was then known as North Columbia, the company built a casino where live vaudeville acts were performed on weekends. A small zoo and a bowling alley were also built to draw weekend passengers.

The American Street Railway Investments magazine of 1905 reported that the Columbia Electric Street Railway, Light & Power Company had 17 miles of track (electric) and 38 Laconia motor cars with General Electric motors. Same officers and office location as 1904. Information as of April 1905.

The American Street Railway Investments magazines of 1906 and 1907 reported that the Columbia Electric Street Railway, Light & Power Company had 19 miles of track (electric) and 38 Laconia motor cars with General Electric motors. The new 1st Vice-President is Lewis W. Parker and the new 2nd Vice-President & General Manager is William Elliott, Jr. Information as of April 1906, and May 1907.

The Electric Railway Review of July 13, 1907 reported: "Columbia (SC) Electric Street Railway Light & Power Company — Work has been started on the construction of an extension connecting with the city system at Bull and Laurel streets, and running to Colonial Heights, a new suburban residence district north of the city. A shuttle car service will be operated when the line is completed."

The Street & Electric Railways Census of 1907 reported that the Columbia Electric Street Railway, Light & Power Company had 21.46 miles of track and $1,600,000 in capital stock.

The Street Railway Journal of November 1907 reported that the Columbia Electric Street Railway, Light & Power Company had 22 miles of track and 36 motor cars.

The American Street Railway Investments magazine of 1908 reported that the Columbia Electric Street Railway, Light & Power Company had 19 miles of track (electric) and 38 Laconia motor cars with General Electric motors. Officers included - President & Treasurer E. W. Robertson, 1st Vice-President Lewis W. Parker, 2nd Vice-President & Secretary G. M. Berry, and General Manager William Elliott. Offices at Washington Street, Columbia, SC. Date of information May 1908.

The American Street Railway Investments magazine of 1909 reported that the Columbia Electric Street Railway, Light & Power Company had 25 miles of track (electric) and 47 Laconia motor cars with General Electric motors. Date of information April 1909.

The American Street Railway Investments magazine of 1910 reported that the Columbia Electric Street Railway, Light & Power Company had 25 miles of track (electric) and 49 Laconia and Brill motor cars with General Electric motors. Officers include - President & Treasurer E. W. Robertson, 1st Vice-President Henry Parsons, 2nd Vice-President & General Manager William Elliott, and Secretary G. M. Berry. Information as of June 1910.

The Electric Traction Weekly magazine of December 17, 1910 reported: "Columbia, SC – Service is now opened up on the new extension of the Columbia Street Railway reaching the Shandon annex section."

The McGraw Electric Railway Manual of 1911 reported: "Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Co. — Organized Jan. 6, 1892, under the name of the Columbia Electric Street Railway, Light & Power Co., name changed in May, 1911. Is a consolidation of the Congaree Gas & Electric Co., Columbia Electric & Suburban Ry. Co., the Columbia Street Ry. Co. and the Columbia Water Power Co."

The Electric Railway Journal of April 29, 1911 reported: "Stockholders of the Columbia Electric Street Railway, Light & Power Company will vote on May 15, 1911, to increase the authorized stock of the company from $1,600,000, consisting of $1,000,000 of common stock and $600,000 of 6 per cent cumulative preferred stock, to $3,000,000, to be composed of $2,000,000 of common stock and $1,000,000 of preferred stock. At the same time the stockholders will vote to change the name of the company to the Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company." [the vote did occur on May 15th and the name was changed]

Columbia & Eau Claire Electric Railway

Year Chartered

Year Operational

Year Ended

Length of Line

1896

1896

1897

?? miles

The Street Railway Review of 1896 reported: "The Columbia & Eau Claire Electric Railway has been incorporated to build to Marstellar Springs to develop real estate which it controls. Capital stock, $50,000; incorporators, F. H. Hyatt, Chas. W. McCreery, W. A. Clark and J. S. Muller. F. H. Hyatt has been elected president and treasurer; C. W. McCreery, vice-president, and J. S. Muller, secretary, of the new Columbia & Eau Claire Electric Railway. The road is half finished. Its pleasure park is being beautified."

In a separate report (P.394) from the same magazine of 1896: "A new electric line from Columbia, SC, to the highlands north of the city was opened June 15. The line is known as the Suburban and Eau Claire Electric Railroad, and is operated by the Columbia Electric Light & Power Company."

In yet another separate report (P.423) from the same magazine of 1896: "The Suburban & Eau Claire Electric Railroad Company, a new road opened June 15, at Columbia, SC, is putting in a large amount of work at Hyatt Park, the terminus of its line. Work is progressing rapidly on a $6,000 casino and the 15 acres of the park are being put in shape for summer use. The park contains two mineral springs, the water of which will be pumped to the casino. The grounds are well shaded and the resort promises to be a most delightful one."

In 1897, the Columbia Electric Street Railway, Light & Power Company leased the Hyatt Park line from the Columbia & Eau Claire Railway. This line had been completed on June 15, 1896 and ran from Stoll's Alley, a half block north of Elmwood Avenue, along Main Street to Hyatt Park at the corner of Main Street, Monticello, and Wilson.

Public Service Company

Year Chartered

Year Operational

Year Ended

Length of Line

1904

1904

1907

1 mile
The Public Service Company was chartered on June 2, 1904 with the intention of construct and operate street railways in both Richland and Fairfield counties, and to produce or generate gas, light, and power. The company did lay tracks from Hyatt Park along Ridgewood Avenue to Ridgewood Park, however, the Public Service Company leased these tracks to the Columbia Electric Street Railway, Light & Power Company, and never acquired any rolling stock. It was re-organized in 1907 as the South Carolina Public Service Company.

Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company

Year Chartered

Year Operational

Year Ended

Length of Line

1911

1911

1925 (leased) / 1934 (dissolved)

32 miles

The McGraw Electric Railway Manual of 1911 reported: "Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Co. — Organized Jan. 6, 1892, under the name of the Columbia Electric Street Railway, Light & Power Co., name changed in May, 1911. Is a consolidation of the Congaree Gas & Electric Co., Columbia Electric & Suburban Ry. Co., the Columbia Street Ry. Co. and the Columbia Water Power Co." The company operated 25 miles of track (electric) and 51 motor cars.

The Electric Railway Journal of April 29, 1911 reported: "Stockholders of the Columbia Electric Street Railway, Light & Power Company will vote on May 15, 1911, to increase the authorized stock of the company from $1,600,000, consisting of $1,000,000 of common stock and $600,000 of 6 per cent cumulative preferred stock, to $3,000,000, to be composed of $2,000,000 of common stock and $1,000,000 of preferred stock. At the same time the stockholders will vote to change the name of the company to the Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company." [the vote did occur on May 15th and the name was changed]

The Electric Railway Journals of June 10 and June 17, 1911 reported that the Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company has ordered through J. G. White & Company, New York, NY, six (6) semi-convertible cars from The J. G. Brill Company. These cars are to be of the pay-as-you-enter type, 30 ft. 8. in long and mounted on Brill 27-G-1 trucks.

The McGraw Electric Railway Manuals of 1912 and 1913 reported that the Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company operated 25 miles of track (electric), 50 motor passenger cars, of which 6 are the pay-as-you-enter type, and 3 service cars. Capital Stock $2,000,000. Officers include - President & Treasurer E. W. Robertson, Columbia, SC; Vice-President Henry Parsons, New York, NY; Secretary R. Charlton Wright, New York, NY; and, General Manager Guy C. Dustin. Offices at Washington Street, Columbia, SC.

The Electric Railway Journal of March 29, 1913 reported: "Columbia (SC) Railway, Gas & Electric Company has built in its own shop two pay-as-you-enter cars and a concrete mixer. They are equipped with Westinghouse motors. It is stated that the company will build more cars in its shops."

The McGraw Electric Railway Manual of 1914 reported that the Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company operated 25 miles of track (electric), 50 motor passenger cars, of which 6 are pay-as-you-enter type, and 3 service cars. Capital stock $2,000,000. Officers unchanged since 1913.

The Electric Railway Journal of April 11, 1914 reported: "Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company, Columbia, SC, will build two 53-ft. cars in its own shops."

Poor's Manual of Public Utilities and Street Railways of 1915 reported that the Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company operated 23.16 miles of track and 50 motor cars.

The Electric Railway Journal of September 25, 1915 reported: "The strike of the employees of the Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company, Columbia, SC, in progress about a week, was settled on Sept. 18, mainly through the efforts of Governor Richard I. Manning. With two exceptions the men on strike will all be taken back by the company. In future all differences will be submitted to arbitration. The strike was precipitated by differences between the men and the company over questions of fare accounting. In a statement which the Governor issued following the settlement of the strike he said:

" 'I am highly gratified at the peaceful and happy solution of the differences between the car men and the street railway company. I feel that the pleasant and prompt settlement of differences was brought about because of the desire for justice, and I am glad that justice has prevailed. One especially pleasing point is that under the agreement all differences will be settled by arbitration and this should totally eliminate all danger of strikes and lockouts in the future.' "

The Electric Railway Journal of December 18, 1915 reported: "Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company, Columbia, SC — Plans are being made by this company to extend operation to the Wales Gardens section in the near future. Tracks have already been laid."

The Electric Railway Journal of March 24, 1917 reported: "Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company, Columbia, SC — This company plans to construct an extension of its line on Hardin Street."

The Electric Railway Journal of June 2, 1917 reported: "Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company, Columbia, SC — This company plans to construct an extension between 5 and 10 miles long to the prospective United States Army camp [Camp Jackson] east of the city."

The Electric Railway Journal of June 16, 1917 reported: "Columbia (SC) Railway, Gas & Electric Company has ordered four city cars with maximum traction trucks and four extra sets of trucks from the St. Louis Car Company."

The Electric Railway Journal of July 28, 1917 reported: "Columbia (SC) Railway, Gas & Electric Company is reported to be in the market for four semi-convertible cars to be used in service to the cantonment near this property. The company is building four semi-convertible cars and expects to lay about five miles of double track."

The Electric Railway Journal of August 18, 1917 reported: "Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company, Columbia, SC — A double-track line from the limits of Columbia to Camp Jackson has been completed by the Columbia Railway,Gas & Electric Company and operation will be begun at once."

The Electric Railway Journal of September 15, 1917 reported: "Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company, Columbia, SC — A contract has been awarded by the Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company for the grading on a 1-1/4-mile extension of the double-track line at Camp Jackson. The line will be extended from the present terminus at the camp, parallel with the camp for this distance. The line will be further extended when the government demands require it."

The Electric Railway Journal of October 20, 1917 reported that the Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company has purchased one 500-kw. rotary and ten double-truck cars.

The Electric Railway Journal of December 15, 1917 reported: "Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company, Columbia, SC — This company's line to Camp Jackson is being extended to the center of the camp between sections F and G, and will continue to within a few yards of division headquarters, then turn to the left and join the main track at the Jackson circle, near the camp post office. The line will be double-track."

The Electric Railway Journal of November 8, 1919 reported: "The City Council of Columbia, SC, has called a meeting to consider an offer submitted by E. W. Robertson, president of the Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company, to sell to the city the railway system now operated by that company. By authority of the board of directors of the company, the offer was made to sell the railway system to the city on the basis of its present valuation. What action the City Council will take is not known. Mayor Blalock stated that a vote of the people will be had if the City Council favors the proposition."

The Electric Railway Journal of January 31, 1920 reported: "No action has been taken by the city of Columbia, SC, on the offer of the Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company, Columbia, SC, to sell its railway property to the city, and the matter has apparently been dropped. The offer of the company was referred to previously in the Electric Railway Journal. The letter of the company offering to sell to the city bore almost exclusively on the paving question, the offer to sell being based on the theory that should the representatives of the city insist upon paving the company would dispose of the property to the city. There was no question of fares involved. Under the charter of the company it has the right to raise fares without permission of the municipality and the company did raise its fares from 5 cents to 7 cents effective July 1 last."

The Electric Railway Journal of April 9, 1921 reported: "The Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company, Columbia, SC, has applied to the State Railroad Commission for permission to increase fares between Columbia and Camp Jackson. The company is asking for a rate of 2 cents a mile which would mean a 14-cent fare instead of the present 10-cent rate. In its petition the company claims that the returns do not meet the operating costs. The railway is also planning to discontinue the privilege of free transfers. In the city of Columbia the present fare is 7 cents."

The Electric Railway Journal of November 19, 1921 reported: "The Columbia Electric Street Railway, Light & Company, Columbia, SC, recently increased its rates from 7 to 10 cents between the Fair Grounds and the city and at the same time put into effect a 3-cent charge for transfers for passengers coming into the city."

The Electric Railway Journal of December 10, 1921 reported: "The Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company, Columbia, SC, which during the first ten months of 1921 suffered an operating loss of $91,000, has petitioned the City Council to discontinue service on Gadsden and Richland Streets, which connect Elmwood and Main by way of the Governor's mansion."

"Officials of the company, in advertisements in the daily papers, have set forth the problem the company faces, and have asked for the co-operation of the citizens in solving the financial difficulty. This the company hopes to do without resorting to increasing the fare to 10 cents. F. H. Knox, president of the Columbia company, said that the installation of one-man cars would hardly relieve the situation because of the heavy expenditure, and that the company hoped to avoid a drastic reduction in wages of the employees. All the lines of the company showed a loss in October."

The Electric Railway Journal of February 25, 1922 reported: "Following the discharge of twenty-one employees of the Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company, Columbia, SC, on Feb. 14 a strike was voted upon by the railway employees. On Feb. 16 no cars were running on the company's lines. F. H. Knox, president of the company, stated that he was preparing a statement explaining the company's position but that no plans had been made for the resumption of service. It is said that the company has been operating at a loss for some time and that officials intimated that relief would have to be forthcoming."


Columbia, SC With No Streetcars - 1922

Click Here to view / download a four-page article provided in the March 18, 1922 Electric Railway Journal about the many problems facing the Columbia street railway system, including worker strikes and questionable city council actions. The fifth page comes from the next issue of March 25, 1922, explaining how things began to get resolved. The sixth page comes from the next issue of April 1, 1922 indicating that things are still problematic, but the system is now operational.

The Electric Railway Journal of January 6, 1923 reported that the Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company abandoned 2.00 miles of track during 1922.


Birney Safety Cars Made by J.G. Brill Company for Columbia, SC - 1923

The Electric Railway Journal of June 2, 1923 reported: "Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company, Columbia, SC, placed an order with the J. G. Brill Company of Philadelphia for six one-man cars of the standard Birney safety type. Additional equipment of this type is contemplated, but no orders have been placed."

The Electric Railway Journal of June 9, 1923 reported: "Operation of one-man cars by the Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company, Columbia, SC, will be permitted under an ordinance introduced by title into the City Council. The ordinance was introduced by the Mayor, who said he had a letter from the South Carolina Railroad Commission showing that that body had given the railway company authority to put on the one-man car in Columbia. There have been rumors for some time that the one-man cars would be used in Columbia. Charleston uses that system. The Columbia railway, which charges a fare of 7 cents with 3 cents for transfers, has, according to reports, been losing money and the adoption of the one-man car will reduce expenditures. At the present time, two-men cars are in operation. Jitneys, charging 10 cents per passenger, operate extensively in Columbia and have cut into the revenue of the car company to a considerable extent."

The Electric Railway Journal of June 23, 1923 reported: "The City Council of Columbia, SC, recently passed an ordinance prohibiting jitneys from running through the principal business streets soliciting passengers. The fare on the jitneys is 10 cents and on the cars of the Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company 7 cents."

The Electric Railway Journal of October 13, 1923 reported: " 'Jitney' drivers in Columbia, SC, have scored two victories in the courts during the past few days, and as a consequence the competition which the Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company is meeting with will likely be redoubled. Recently the South Carolina Supreme Court held that the city ordinance prohibiting the operation of motor vehicles for hire on certain sections of Main Street, save under restricted conditions, was null and void. The ordinance, the court interprets, is an attempt to legislate the 'jitneys' out of existence. The case originated in the City Recorder's Court, where a jitney driver was tried and convicted of violating the ordinance. The case was then appealed to an associate justice of the Supreme Court, who decided that the ordinance was null and void."

The McGraw Electric Railway Directory of 1924 reported that the Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company operated thirty-two (32) miles of track, twenty-nine (29) motor passenger cars, of which six (6) are one-man cars, and two (2) motor service cars. Officers include - President F. H. Knox, 1st Vice-President Henry Parson, and 2nd Vice-President J. B. S. Lyles

The Electric Railway Journal of April 26, 1924 reported: "Stone & Webster, Inc., Boston, are reported to have an option on the Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company and associated utility properties in and near Columbia, SC, with a view to possible purchase of these properties and the development of additional power for central South Carolina. It is further said that a proposition has been made to the Columbia Canal Commission to pay the state $200,000 for settlement of the pending litigation over proposed completion of the canal. The offer is said to have been made by George J. Baldwin, Savannah, Southern associate of Stone & Webster and Benet, Shand & McGowan, Columbia, and T. Frank Watkins, Anderson, counsel for the company."

The Electric Railway Journal of August 9, 1924 reported: "Acquires Columbia Railway — W. S. Barstow & Company have announced the conclusion of negotiations for the acquisition by the General Gas & Electric Corporation of the Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company, Columbia, SC. The purchase carries with it various subsidiaries. Plans of the purchasers include connection of the two sections, which lie about 100 miles apart, by transmission system."

The Electric Railway Journal of September 27, 1924 reported: "Authority has been granted the Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company by the South Carolina Railroad Commission to put on one-man cars on additional lines in the city of Columbia where travel conditions warrant. R. L. Peterman, for the company, stated that the intention is to extend gradually the one-man car system as conditions warrant. One-man cars are already in use on a number of the lines of the railway."

The Electric Railway Journal of October 18, 1924 reported: "L. F. Pearce has been retained by W. S. Barstow & Company, the new owners of the Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company, Columbia, SC, in the office of secretary and treasurer. Under the former ownership at Columbia Mr. Pearce was secretary."


1926 White Bus - 22 Passenger - Not Columbia, SC

The Electric Railway Journal of January 2, 1926 reported: "The dawn of the new year in Columbia, SC, will see in operation a fleet of ten 29-passenger White buses of the "pay-as-you-enter" city type, a certificate for operation having been granted the Carolina Transit Company of Columbia, SC, by Samuel McGowan, chief highway commissioner. Ten buses will operate over five routes and will provide transportation facilities to sections of Columbia not now served by the street car system of the Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company. Suburbs will also be served and one town, New Brookland, across the Congaree River from Columbia. Ten-cent fares will be charged with 5-cent fares for school children and three tickets or tokens will be sold for 25 cents."

Click Here to view / download a half-page article from the Electric Railway Journal of March 27, 1926 entitled "Columbia the Gem of Transportation."

The Electric Railway Journal of May 8, 1926 reported: "Before many weeks have passed it is more than probable that the clang of the trolley gong, so long a familiar sound in Columbia, the capital of South Carolina, will be replaced by the bark of the bus, for the South Carolina State Highway Commission has given a permit to the Carolina Transit Company to operate buses on streets which they have heretofore not touched."

"Months ago, when citizens petitioned that the Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company, which operates the railway, be allowed to take up a short stretch of track, it was made known that the railway was losing money — from $6,000 to $8,000 monthly — and that it was only a question of time when operation would cease. The Carolina Transit Company was then organized and some time later was authorized to operate buses in sections not served by the street cars. Jitneys, carrying passengers at 10 cents a head, continued to operate in direct competition with street cars."

"In an effort to save the street cars a "zone" system was put into effect in the hope that by this system railway revenues would be increased. But losses increased under this system instead, and now buses carrying 29 passengers each have been allowed to operate on streets served by the railway."

"F. K. Woodring, general manager of the Broad River Power Company [see below], which controls the Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company, has entered no protest to the operation of the buses. Street car fares may have to be raised. They are now 5 cents in each zone."

"The jitneys, mostly cars of a light and popular make, carry only white passengers. The buses and street cars carry whites and negroes. Meanwhile, Columbia has three systems of transportation — buses, streetcars, and jitneys. Columbia is a city of about 40,000 people. It cannot support three different transportation systems."

The Electric Railway Journal of November 20, 1926 reported: "There is apparently no demand on the part of citizens for the restoration on railway service in sections recently abandoned by the Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company. That company is now operating only three trolley lines — these catering largely to the retail business district and the railroad station. Wires are up and the tracks in position in many other sections of the city, but no cars are being operated. The railway is now charging 10 cents for each passenger, as is the bus company, but interchangeable transfers are given between the trolleys and the buses without extra charge."

The Electric Railway Journal of March 19, 1927 reported: "Railway service at Columbia, SC, was indefinitely suspended on March 11 by the Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company largely because business has fallen off to a point where the expenditures needed to be made to the physical property to put it into proper operating condition would not be justified. Columbia is a city of more than 35,000 population. The railway system included 32 miles of line. Months ago railway officials made known the straits to which they were reduced. One non-paying line after another was discontinued until only a few were left. Last month, on all lines in the city, not more than an average of 600 to 700 passengers a day rode the cars."

The Electric Railway Journal of April 16, 1927 reported: "Operation of street cars in Columbia, SC, suspended on March 11, has not yet been resumed. The matter of suspension of service may find its way into the courts of the state. On petition of a citizen, the South Carolina Railroad Commission ordered the Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company to show cause why it had suspended operation without permission. The railway failed to show cause, whereupon the commission ordered it to resume operations within a stipulated time or else pay a fine. Then the company filed an appeal for further hearing before the commission, this appeal serving to stay the execution of the "pay a fine or resume service" order, and at the same time asked that it be permitted to discontinue the service permanently."

"The Railroad Commission, giving as its opinion that "the unregulated unrestricted system of 'jitney' transportation has utterly destroyed the railway system in Columbia," handed down an order permitting permanent discontinuance of service and at the same time revoked the order to pay a fine or resume service. Now the question has arisen of the right of the commission to grant permission to suspend service and the matter may get into the courts on that angle. As is shown by the order, the 10-cent "jitneys" continue to be a most disturbing factor in the transportation problems of the city. They offer keen competition to buses operated on a regular schedule and over a definite route. The jitneys, operated without route or schedule, carry passengers at the same rate as the buses and take them direct to their door or office."

The Electric Railway Journal of February 1930 reported: "The United States Supreme Court has consented to pass upon the suit between the state of South Carolina and the Columbia Railway Gas & Electric Company which originated over the suspension of railway operation in Columbia. The Supreme Court of South Carolina held that the franchise linked inseparably the operation of the electric street railway, light and power businesses — all public services — and that the railway service could not be separately abandoned. The company appealed to the Supreme Court from the decision of the state court. In their brief to the court requesting that the appeal be dismissed, the state and the city authorities contend that they have never held that a unit charter requires railway operation at a loss. They contend, however, that the company has not made an honest effort to make the service pay." [this decision was changed - see Broad River Power Co. below]

The Electric Railway Journal of July 1931 reported that the Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company accepted delivery of seven (7) Twin Coach Model 20 buses - date not given.

The Electric Railway Journal of September 1931 reported that the Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company accepted delivery of two (2) Twin Coach Model 30 buses - date not given. The same number were reported delivered in October 1931.

The Electric Railway Journal of November 1931 reported: "Buses of the Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company carried 348,925 passengers during the past three months while street cars carried 257,587, the Supreme Court was told on Oct. 15 by engineers who conducted a survey of the transportation situation here in connection with the plan looking toward a complete readjustment."

The Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company was formally dissolved in 1934, and the streetcar lines were transferred legally to the Broad River Power Company, which had been leasing the system from the Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company since 1925.

Broad River Power Company

Year Chartered

Year Operational

Year Ended

Length of Line

1924

1925

1936

32 miles

A year after being created and chartered by the W.S. Barstow Company, the Broad River Power Company purchased the assets of the Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company in 1925. The Broad River Power Company also took over operations in Spartanburg, SC.

The Electric Railway Journal of June 18, 1927 reported: "With the transportation problem in Columbia, SC, rapidly becoming more aggravated, members of the Columbia City Council have asked R. L. Peterman, vice-president of the Broad River Power Company, which formerly operated cars in Columbia, about the possibility of resuming railway service. In reply to a question from the Mayor of Columbia, Mr. Peterman said he saw "no hope at all" for the resumption of service. He expressed the belief that railway service could not be made to pay and that street cars as a mode of public transportation were gradually being abandoned. Mr. Peterman, however, said he would take the matter up with higher officials of his company." 

The Electric Railway Journal of December 10, 1927 reported: "A manufacturer of buses with a branch office at Atlanta, Ga., recently made a definite proposal to the City Council of Columbia, SC, to operate the street cars of the Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company in connection with the buses now run there. The proposition was made by attorneys representing the manufacturer and the Carolina Transit Company, which originally operated the buses in Columbia. Some time ago the bus maker, creditor of the Carolina Transit Company, took over the operation of the buses."

"According to the proposal, the bus maker will organize a company with a capital of $250,000 to take over the bus lines and the railway equipment, now idle in the carhouse, and run the two in conjunction."

"The suggestion is conditioned on several points, namely, that a proper arrangement can be made with the Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company, owner of the railway system, whereby the new company will have conveyed to it the franchise of the old company; that a contract can be arranged to furnish the new company with power at a reasonable rate for a period of ten years; that the City Council enforce the ordinance regarding the operation of jitneys on the streets of Columbia, an ordinance now before the South Carolina Supreme Court; that all litigation concerning the railway system be terminated, and that the Council use its efforts in securing a reduction of the taxable value of the railway system as it appears at the present time and that the Council relieve the system of any obligation for street paving which now exists by virtue of ordinances passed heretofore."

"According to the proposal, the manufacturer believes that at the beginning of operation by the new company some 25 or 28 pieces of equipment, including cars and buses, would be in operation on the streets of the city. The Columbia Council has taken the proposal under consideration."

The Electric Railway Journal of January 14, 1928 reported: "An emergency state in the transportation muddle in Columbia, capital of South Carolina, was reached recently when the buses of the Carolina Transit Company, 21 all told, were sent to Charlotte, N. C, where they were put in storage, leaving the Columbia field to the unregulated jitneys. A year ago Columbia offered a choice of three modes of transportation to its citizens — one could ride on street cars, buses or jitneys — the fares amounting to about 10 cents in each instance. Now only one system remains, that of the jitneys, which have no definite schedule, operate over no definite route and are withdrawn from the streets at the pleasure and whim of the owners. These vehicles are owned by individuals.

The Electric Railway Journal of March 3, 1928 had a half-page article on the situation in Columbia, SC, of which the following is a verbatim excerpt: "Glossing over the facts will not mitigate the conditions aggravated since Jan. 1 of this year when the citizens were left to the mercy of unregulated jitneys for their means of transportation. Almost a year has transpired since the Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company, unable to justify necessary expenditures to physical property, abandoned service on its railway system of 32 miles. A glance at the traffic records since 1923 is convincing proof of the inability of the company to continue to supply this service. In that year 3,270,321 passengers were carried. Since then there has been a consistent decline — 1924, 2,948,928; 1925, 2,290,734 and in 1926, 1,613,891. The loss of patronage forced the company to abandon service on March 11, leaving approximately 50,000 people to be transported by the systems which had contributed to its downfall, namely, the Carolina Transit Company and the 10-cent haphazard jitneys."

In another article within the same magazine, it was reported: "Another panacea for the transportation ills in Columbia, SC, was suggested recently when the City Council adopted a resolution to the effect that bus equipment to the amount of $25,000 or $30,000 be purchased and leased to some responsible concern for an annual sum sufficient to repay the city in approximately three years. This company would be granted exclusive right during this period to operate bus service in Columbia and to control all forms of motor vehicle transportation charging not more than a 10-cent fare. This resolution sets forth that the city intends to hold the Broad River Power Company for whatever loss, if any, may fall upon the city from the putting into effect of such a plan."

"Meanwhile, action is pending in the Supreme Court to compel the Broad River Power Company to resume railway operation. Several bus operating concerns have made definite offers to operate systems in Columbia under certain conditions, but so far none of these offers has been accepted."

"The General Assembly, now in session, has under consideration a bill introduced by the Richland delegation (Columbia is in Richland County) which authorizes the City Council to control traffic on the city streets. The purpose of this bill apparently is to put the jitney out of business, as the measure provides that the Council may designate on what streets jitneys may run."

"Citizens generally are becoming more and more aroused over the transportation situation and it promises to be a main issue in the election for the members of the City Council to be held in April."

"Several of the suburbs of Columbia are being served by privately owned buses which make three or four trips each day. Parents of school children are demanding that something be done to enable them to get their children to school without being forced to depend entirely on uncertain jitneys. Since March, 1927, no street cars have been running in Columbia."


1928 Studebaker Bus (not in Columbia, SC)

The Electric Railway Journal of April 14, 1928 reported: "The transportation situation in Columbia, SC, in more or less of a muddle since the cars of the Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company stopped running in March, 1927, bids fair to be cleared up in the near future. At the present time the city is being served by the Columbia Bus Company, a concern which has in operation nine 16-passenger Studebaker machines, with ten additional buses expected about the middle of April; also in operation are a number of unregulated 10-cent jitneys."

"An ordinance has been passed by the City Council effective this month which provides that all motor vehicles operated for hire shall run on prescribed routes fixed by the City Council. A similar ordinance was passed several months ago. A jitney driver who violated it was technically placed under arrest, and the case taken direct to the State Supreme Court to determine the constitutionality of the ordinance. Since that time, however, the General Assembly of the state has met, and it passed an Act which specifically gave the Columbia Council authority to regulate motor traffic on the city streets. As a result of this Act the case before the Supreme Court was dismissed before a decision was handed down. It is not believed that the jitneys' union will contest this second ordinance, passed since the General Assembly passed its measure authorizing the Council to regulate motor transportation."

The Electric Railway Journal of February 9, 1929 reported: "The transportation problem in Columbia, SC, a costly and stubborn jam it has proved to be, now bids fair to be solved, though the situation so far as it concerns the restoration of railway service is still with the courts. Responding to the insistent demands of the citizens that something be done the Columbia City Council recently decided to give "some bus company" protection from railway competition for a period of three years, no matter what the courts might decide as to compelling the restoration of street cars, withdrawn from service in March, 1927."

"Immediately after this announcement was made, the Columbia Bus Company, which has been giving a "sort of service," ordered seven 29-passenger gas-electric buses and two 17-passenger buses. These nine vehicles, with the equipment the company already had, gave it a fleet of 30 buses and with this fleet it was able to cover the city fairly well. The bus company, in its efforts to make good under the protection offered by the Council, also placed small placards, with printed schedules, at each street intersection in the retail business section of Columbia, giving the time to the different suburbs."

The Electric Railway Journal of May 1930 reported: "A motion to advance the hearing of a case from the South Carolina courts dealing with the right of regulatory authorities to compel the operation of railway service at a loss was granted by the U. S. Supreme Court on April 21. The case has been assigned for argument on May 2."

"The controversy involves the right of the Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company to abandon its railway in Columbia, SC. Counsel for the railway contends railway service was abandoned because of losses sustained over a period of years. Notwithstanding the losses suffered, the South Carolina authorities sought to compel the continuance of operation."

"Railway attorneys carried the case to the Supreme Court on an appeal from a mandamus proceeding instituted by the attorney-general of the state to compel the resumption of operations. The Supreme Court of South Carolina held that the railway service could not be separately abandoned, if the business as a whole is profitable."

"The Broad River Power Company, which purchased the gas and electric properties, says the decision of the state court is contrary to the fourteenth amendment to the federal constitution, since it compels the operation of railway service at a loss. Exception also is taken by the company to the admission of evidence by the state court which purports to show that the railway, if properly managed, could be operated in the future at a profit. The company maintains there is no evidence to support this opinion as to future operations."

The Electric Railway Journal of June 1930 reported: "In a decision handed down on May 19, the United States Supreme Court denied the right of the Broad River Power Company to suspend railway operation in Columbia, SC. This ruling sustains an order of the South Carolina Supreme Court directing the Broad River Power Company and its subsidiary, the Columbia Railway Gas & Electric Company, to resume operation of the abandoned service."

"The opinion rendered by the Supreme Court on the case held the corporate history of the company to be of paramount importance in determining whether or not operation of the service can be required. It is pointed out by the court that none of the special legislative Acts defining the privileges conferred upon the corporations contains any words affirmatively providing that any part of the privileges granted should be deemed separable, or that they might be exercised independently of any other."

"It was also ruled by the Supreme Court that the contention advanced by the company in regard to compelling a public service corporation to continue service at confiscatory rates, does not apply. The order compelling the company to serve does not involve a determination of whether or not the rate is confiscatory, it is pointed out. The written opinion of the Supreme Court states further that the order directing continuance of service does not foreclose appropriate proceedings for the determination of a proper return."

"Announcements carried in editions of the afternoon papers at Columbia on May 19 that the United States Supreme Court had upheld the State Railroad Commission in its order to resume service were read eagerly by the people. At once the question was raised "When will the service begin ?"

The Electric Railway Journal of March 1931 reported: "Twelve street car lines or the same system as operated by the Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company, Columbia, SC, in 1925, were ordered re-established by the Supreme Court on Feb. 13. Provision is made in the order for modifications or changes so as to require the operation of a full, adequate and satisfactory service. Such changes, it orders, may be legally made either upon written agreement of the parties concerned in the litigation or by petition to the Supreme Court, which said:

"Further this court intended to hold and did hold, that under the franchise contract with the city of Columbia, City Council had a right by ordinance to regulate the electric railway operations and service by respondents and said ordinances specifically require the operation upon regular schedules of all the lines leading to and from and within the city of Columbia."

"The order further provides that the Broad River Power Company and the Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company must make a written report at each term of the court until otherwise ordered, as to the fulfillment of the court's order to the power companies. The order of Feb. 13 is the result of a petition filed by the power companies on Feb. 4 and another by city attorneys."

"The power companies asked the court if its original order was correctly interpreted by the re-establishment of three street car lines. The petition against the power companies asked that the companies be cited for contempt of court. Attorneys for the comipanies say no further litigation is planned over the operation of the railway service, which was discontinued in 1927."

The Electric Railway Journal of September 1931 reported: "Recommendation has been made that the Broad River Power Company pay a $125,000 fee to attorneys who conducted the litigation to force it to operate cars here. This finding is contained in a report to the South Carolina Supreme Court by Special Referee Perrin of Spartanburg. The attorneys had asked $250,000. The company also would pay certain lesser costs in the case, under the referee's recommendations. The referee points out that the case is "one of the most novel and interesting heard or tried in this State for many years."

According to Mr. Thomas Fetters in his book entitled "Palmetto Traction - Electric Railways of South Carolina" (1978), the Broad River Power Company finally restored streetcar service on January 9, 1931, and the initial service included two cars operating from Union Station to North Columbia. Eventually, service included seven (7) cars and five (5) bus lines, and over the next five (5) years the service continued to deteriorate once again. Street car lines were ultimately abandoned permanently on November 22, 1936. Along the way, the leased Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company was formally dissolved in 1934 and the remaining car lines were transferred to the Broad River Power Company - for two years, that is.



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