South Carolina's Abandoned Railroads

After seeing the abandoned railroad right-of-ways at Shoals Junction and nearby communities, I wanted to know more about the abandoned railroads of South Carolina and what traces could still be seen today. I found part of my answer in the South Carolina section of Abandoned Rails, a website devoted exclusively to abandoned railroads and their history. I was fascinated by the site's individual maps of abandoned railroads because the satellite view shows the right-of-way is still visible in many cases, even after decades of abandonment. 

Some time later, I came across the South Carolina Department of Transportation's draft multimodal transportation plan and rail inventory that included a map of the state's abandoned railroads on page 13. With the map being a static image, you can't zoom in or change views to get more detail like the Abandoned Rails maps that use Google Maps. With the heat and humidity keeping me indoors as often as I can get away with, I decided to keep busy for a while by producing a custom Google map including as many of the state's abandoned railroads I could find information about.

First, the map followed by how it was produced.

I used the South Carolina section of Abandoned Rails to get the starting and ending points of each abandoned railroad. I traced as much as I could first from Google's satellite view when the right-of-way was still visible or could be inferred. Google's map view sometimes came in handy when property lines showed or inferred where the right-of-way traveled. Historical USGS quad maps proved to be quite useful since many of the maps would still show the railroad right-of-way several years after abandonment. Historical soil maps from the University of South Carolina's Digital Library were also useful, but their accuracy in placing man-made features like railroads wasn't nearly as good as the USGS quad maps. After using the maps, I went back the satellite view and was often able to find signs of the abandoned right-of-way that eluded me the first time and allowed me to make improvements.

My sources helped me with every abandoned railroad except for one that has defied my efforts to map its route, the Glenn Springs Railroad. Based on the sources I have (one being Carolana, another being a 1919 letter to the editor), the railroad branched off from the Charleston & Western Carolina at Roebuck, watered at Stone Station, closely followed highway S.C. 215 (built later) through Pauline, and on to the Glenn Springs Hotel.

According to the SCDOT's rail inventory report, the most number of abandonments occurred in the 1980s, with the 1970s a distant second, and the 1930s a close third. The report also shows the miles abandoned dropped way off during the 2000s. The latest abandonment, made official by the Surface Transportation Board in June, was by the South Carolina Central Railroad in the area of Society Hill, SC to Cheraw, SC. I would expect more abandonments to continue at the same slow rate.

Not all railroad news is of abandonments. The recent news of a possible 'inland port' (as reported by Charleston's The Post and Courier, the Spartanburg Herald-Journal, among others) in Greer would mean a big increase in rail activity on the Norfolk Southern line from Charleston to Greer if the plan becomes reality. Stay tuned.


  1. That's an impressive map! I'm guessing there might be a few ghost towns along these routes, right?

    1. Oh, yes. The one obvious ghost town candidate I remember is Alcolu, SC.

  2. Great work and very helpful, especially for folks like us who are looking for a new home. Are there any updates to this work?

    1. Updates are rather infrequent since not much rail is being abandoned these days.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Down and around Shoals Junction

First and last visit to Lyman Mill

Wilson Creek and the ghost town of Mortimer