Sumter to Camden

The North Western Railroad of South Carolina

Guignard Drive in Sumter, SC, which is the ROW of the old Northwestern of SC - Sumter - Camden line, looking N. There was a trestle on this line as it crossed Shot Pouch Branch, and the Sumter Airport was located in the area to the left of this picture. Alice Drive Middle School and USC-Sumter are currently located in the area of the old airport.

The North Western, affectionately known as "None Worse", had its beginnings as two separate logging lines, had one section that almost became part of the main SAL "S-line" through South Carolina, and finally built an extension to Camden and had an operating agreement with the ACL.

The Charleston, Sumter & Northern Railroad was chartered to extend a line from Vance on the Eutawville RR on the south side of the Santee River, across the river through Millard to Sumter, Cheraw and eventually Monroe, NC. The line was already extended across the Santee in 1888, and in 1890 the CS&N built through Millard, Packsville (now Paxville), Silver, Tindall, Pocalla Springs and into Sumter (see Sumter to Saint Paul). From Sumter the line was extended to Elliot where it connected with the Bishopville Railroad, to Lamar, Darlington, Mont Clare, Marlboro and into Bennetsville where it met the South Carolina Pacific, a subsidiary of the Cape Fear and Yadkin Valley Railroad. The last extension in 1892 took the line to Gibson, NC, where it connected with the Raleigh and Augusta Air Line with trackage rights into Hamlet.

It became clear that the whole purpose of the CS&N was to become part of the SAL line south into North Florida, and the line became the focal point of interest for the SAL and ACL. It provided an alternate route to the south versus the ACL, and the ACL was worried about the competition. However, the SAL did not financially support the CS&N, and due to all the building, the CS&N entered receivership in 1892. It is believed that vandals burned the bridge over the Santee River and apparently the SAL lost interest. Still worried about the potential competition, the ACL formed the Charleston & Northern Railroad in 1895 for the sole purpose of buying the line. This happened soon after, and then the ACL broke the line up and assigned parts to several member companies or sold the lines to others. The section from Saint Paul to Sumter was sold to the Wilson & Summerton Railroad. The section from Sumter to Darlington was assigned to the Manchester and Augusta Railroad, and the section from Darlington to Bennettsville and Gibson was assigned to the Cheraw and Darlington Railroad.

In 1899, the Wilson & Summerton Railroad was renamed the North Western Railroad of South Carolina. This name had actually been used by the ACL in 1889 when it planned to build from Sumter to Camden, but it had not acted on the plan. Thomas Wilson of the W&S reached an agreement with the ACL, and with ACL backing extended the line to Camden. Construction started in 1900 and the line was opened in 1901. The line ran down what is now Guignard Street in Sumter, with a trestle over Shot Pouch Branch, to Dalzell, Providence Springs, Seal's Siding, Borden, Rembert, to North West Junction 3.2 miles from Camden. The NW used trackage rights over the South Carolina & Georgia (later Southern) into Camden. In 1913, the NW built a branch from Seal's Siding (which became Manville Junction) through Bradford Springs, Swimming Penns, and Carter's Crossing to Manville in Lee County, 9.5 miles. In 1927, the NW had 6 locomotives, 8 passenger cars, 26 freight cars and a roundhouse near Harvin Street in Sumter.

The worst wreck on the NW occurred on September 16, 1928 at Tindall when a flooded bridge gave way during a hurricane and two crewmen were killed. Because of lack of business mainly due to movement of the timber companies in the area, the Sumter to Camden portion was abandoned on August 3, 1935, and then remainder was abandoned on October 25, 1935. Spurs remained in service in Sumter, with a few still visible. It was reported in 1989 that the station in Dalzell was still being used as a warehouse, although it could not be located in July 2001. Most of the ROW between Sumter and Camden can still be made out in satellite photographs from the outskirts of Sumter to North West Junction. In some places, the former ROW is used as dirt roads. US 521 uses the former rail bed from Rembert to a point just S of North West Junction, where SC 261 intersects with US 521 (this section is almost entirely straight). At this point, the former raised bed ROW can be seen going off into the woods where the highway leaves the ROW.

References

  • Logging Railroads of South Carolina by Thomas Fetters
  • Special thanks to "Mayor Bubba" McElveen of Sumter for other information on this and other lines in and around Sumter, SC

According to Fetters, the CS&N was originated by the owners of the Eutawville RR, which turned out from the SC & Ga (Southern after 1894, now NS) Charleston-Branchville line at Pregnalls, thru at least Vance. The Eutawville has become part of CSX's Creston Branch, and an NS branch to Giant connecting with the Creston Branch.

The CS&N was indeed motivated by the prospect of having their line incorporated into a proposed SAL "short line to Jacksonville" from Hamlet, NC. I presume these SAL plans took shape eventually by 1899 as the S Line and later the Charleston Subdivision aka "the East Carolina division" between Savannah, GA & Hamlet, neither of which were routed anywhere near Eutawville or Sumter.

Fetters actually stated the Santee bridge was deliberately "opened for navigation" on the Santee after the ACL finished divvying up the pieces of the CS&N.

A number of small railroads seem to have gotten caught up in this "SAL short line to Jacksonville" venture, also including the Branchville & Bowman, and the Hampton & Branchville. Neither Fetters nor any other source I've seen seems to state exactly how this rumor or proposal was disseminated.

Also, I wonder if the CS&N/Eutawville, B & B, H & B, etc, were actually in any sort of talks with SAL or with each other in furtherance of this scheme. The B & B supposedly did some grading near Miley, & that's actually deep within H & B territory. As H & B's name implies, the original plan for that line when chartered was to head straight to Branchville. At least one 1902 map, the one used as front endpapers in Fetters, depicts the H & B as being completed or planned to run straight to Branchville.

I note that if a rail line from near Savannah going toward Vance and Sumter were to stitch together the H & B as originally planned, and the B & B, there'd have to be a considerable distance, roughly 30 miles, of either trackage rights on the Southern line, or a parallel railroad going out of the way toward Charleston, to connect up with the Eutawville at Pregnalls; maybe someone was contemplating building new trackage overland some 20 miles from Bowman to Vance and the southern end of the CS&N.

Mitch Bailey
Lexington County, SC
10/17/2013

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