The section from Alston to Prosperity originated as a section of the Columbia & Greenville Railroad, on which construction was started in 1853. It crossed the Broad River upstream of Columbia near Alston. Just across the river on the western bank, the village of Peak was created as a camp for the railroad workers. The line continued west through Newberry County towns of Pomaria and Prosperity, on the way to Greenville.
The original bridge over the Broad River was destroyed by Sherman's army in 1865. In 1903 Southern Railways, having acquired the C&G as part of the Richmond & Danville system, built the steel bridge that crosses the river at Peak today. Since at some point the line coming from Columbia had been extended along the east bank of the Broad River on its way to Spartanburg, a turnout at Alston provided access to the bridge and the Peak-Prosperity section. For many years, this trestle was the only bridge across this 40 mile stretch of river, so some residents kept automobiles parked in Fairfield County on the east bank of the river, in order to be able to cross the trestle on foot to reach them and drive to their destinations to the east.
Norfolk-Southern abandoned this 11-mile long section from Alston, including the bridge, to the outskirts of Prosperity around 1995. The rails were taken up, but the many cuts and grades necessary to get the railroad through the rolling hills are still quite fresh. The Broad River bridge still stands, as do some other structures. Towns along this section are Peak, Hope, Pomaria, Kibler and Prosperity.
The bridge and the roadbed in Peak has been the subject of a controversy after abandonment. The Palmetto Conservation Foundation, which coordinates the construction and upkeep of the Palmetto Trail, acquired the bridge and the 11 miles of abandoned roadbed as a major link in the trail through this picturesque and relatively undeveloped section of the state. The village of Peak, a quiet attractive community populated predominantly by senior citizens, situated well off any major roads, having a noticeable turn-of-the-century character and no police or sanitation department, is concerned about the possible impact of the trail on the character of their neighborhood. As of this writing, the issue has not been resolved to the satisfaction of all parties.
The second section of this abandonment extends from Conrad to the west through Old Town, Chappell, across the Saluda River just S of Lake Greenwood, to Dyson, Clay Hill, Brickdale, Ninety Six, New Market, and into Greenwood. This section was abandoned at about the same time as the first section (mid 1990s). NS still operates the section between Prosperity and Conrad. This section parallels CSX's former Columbia, Newberry & Laurens line between Prosperity and Newberry.
Woody and Johnson, South Carolina Postcards Vol. IV: Lexington County and Lake Murray, 2000 Arcadia Publishing, Charleston, SC. Peak lay within Lexington County until around 1920.
http://Southern.Railfan.net/ regarding the absorption of the C&G into the Southern system when the Southern was formed.
The SC Rail Plan 1994 Update and Notices indicates the section was one of the last abandoned as of 1995. It also states the length of the abandoned section is 11 miles.
Thanks to Mitch Bailey for contributing information about this route.