Port Royal to Yemasee

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(Forwarded from the Port Royal Railroad)

This abandoned route was part of the original Port Royal Railroad, and was built in 1871.

The Port Royal Railroad was chartered in 1856 to build a line from Augusta, GA, on the border with South Carolina, to the coast at Port Royal, SC. Construction on the line began in 1870 from Port Royal to the west, and continued to Yemasee by 1871; the entire route was completed to Augusta by 1873. That same year, despite financial assistance from the Georgia Railroad, the railroad ultimately failed, and the GRR took over the route in 1878, who reorganized it as the Port Royal and Augusta Railway.

Three years later, the railroad came under the ownership of the Central of Georgia Railroad, but the state of South Carolina requisitioned that portion of the right-of-way within South Carolina in a number of legal battles that took place in the early 1890s. Ultimately, in 1898, the PR&A and the Port Royal & Western Carolina Railroad (at the time both under the control of the state of South Carolina) merged to form the Charleston and Western Carolina Railway. Soon after, the C&WC came under the control of the Atlantic Coast Line railroad in 1897, ultimately becoming an official part of the ACL in 1959.

The line continued operation through the Seabord Coast Line merger, the consolidation of various lines into the Seaboard System, and ultimately, CSX.

This portion of the former C&WC between Yemasee and the end of the line at Port Royal was abandoned by CSX in the early part of the first decade of the 2000s.

It looks like at the end of the line there is a large oil refinery located in Beaufort with a now overgrown classification yard to the side and front of the refinery. From satellite images from 1994, it appears that the line was very active and ran about two to five trains a day on it. From images in 2001 to currently it appears that the line has ceased to exist. The tracks between Beaufort and Burton have been ripped up and taken away. The right of way is slowly being reclaimed by nature. Form Burton to Yemassee the tracks have pine saplings and reeds growing on them. There is a draw bridge at Seabrook that has been left open and is rusting. The line meets the now CSX mainline to Savannah were the oil trains switched onto the line. There was once a wye there but the side that runs north west is now a farm road. Remnants of grade crossings are all over the line and most have been paved over. It appears that all the signals, crossing gates and switch stands were removed a while ago. Plate girder bridges and trestles are numerous too because the line goes through a very swampy and tidal region of South Carolina. I know the last train to run over it had to have been in at least 2007 if not earlier.

John Gaston
Williamsburg, VA
5/6/2011

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The Port Royal Railroad ceased operations the Day before Thanksgiving in November of 2003. The Tracks sat unused until September 2010 at which time the railroad was torn up.

There was no Oil Refinery at the end of the line. It was a Port terminal for the Town of Port Royal. The major products moved through the Port were Clay and Clay Slurry. I documented the line in detail both when it was operating and just before salvage operations began. Various attempts were made to save the line. There were old former customers willing to try Rail service again. A last ditch effort to save the line failed in 2009.

Eugene Cain
Hardeeville, SC
5/12/2011

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I just returned from vacation in the Beaufort and Fripp area. The line is actively being removed. Plans are to make it into a rail trail.

From Yemasee as far south as Gray's Hill the line is gone. The swing bridge at Seabrook is still in place but open. The nearby former SAL bridge is now a crabbing dock.

There were plans to develop a rail excursion that fell through. I think the scrapping was motivated by the high price of scrap metal. I feel this is a loss to the Beaufort area.

The caboose office at Port Royal is also gone. But I did find an old C&O wide vision caboose next to a one-stall engine house in Beaufort in a junk yard.The port facilites also seem unused.

Ed Philbin
Pittston, PA
8/10/2011

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The rails were pulled up in July, 2011. :-( I see that fact, along with closing and selling the port at Port Royal, a major loss for their area. Ports and railroads are the backbone of a growing economy. And they had both. That is like telling businesses and investors to "Get Lost". Those two assets could have been handled alot better than they were. Just think of the lost opportunities. With rising fuel costs, I see railroads future over trucking as a reemerging and growing sector. So sad to see the line pulled up for good.

Roger Young Jr.
Rowesville, SC
8/13/2011

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A few corrections. CSX did not abandon the route here. In 1985 the line was sold to the SC Ports Authority. Port traffic continued to increase in the 1990s. The new Port Royal Railroad began rebuilding the line in 1998. many new Ties were installed, as well as some new rail and much needed ballast. The future seemed very bright for the Port. But then things began to change. Beaufort County is the main reason for the line's abandonment. They didn't want the Port or the Railroad anymore. The Port was shut down in 2003 leaving the railroad without a purpose. The newly rebuilt track sat unused for 7 years until the line was sold for scrap in 2010. The Track started coming out in October 2010...but some sections remained through the Summer of 2011. It is all gone now. Many attempts were made to save the line and run a Tourist operation. Several former customers were willing to try Rail service again, but Beaufort County would have nothing to do with it. In the end, the railroad lost and a peice of railroad history vanished forever. I did produce a DVD of the line with footage I shot in the 1990s through 2003 before it shut down. Greg, I will send Pictures to add to this story. We tried so hard to save this line. Beaufort to Yemassee was very scenic and a tourist train here would have been a good thing. Eugene Cain

Eugene Cain
Hardeeville, SC
11/17/2011

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i really miss this line. i was able to ride a freight trin through some of the railroad in 2001. i am currently modeling it any help would be great if you have any suggestions please call 7062313481. i know a great deal about this line.

mac sanders
port royl sc, SC
1/30/2012

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I am curious as to who owns the C&O caboose mentioned above on the property close to the old Engine House on Depot Road....anyone know anything?

Tim Roddey
Ladys Island, SC
7/19/2012

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directed to Tim Roddey, the caboose belongs to Tommy Logan of Beaufort.. he owns land in that area and lives on Ribaut Road..

Thomas O Peeples
Beaufort, SC
9/29/2012

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incorrect. there is still a mile of railroad track in place extending from the port. the entire port property(including 11 street dockside restraunt)is for sale. the ports authority is very interested in selling the remnants of this line to any potential buyers. I have talked to them lately. also, the remaining tracks are in VERY good shape for some reason.... as a track-worker for csx, I can safely say that somebody wants the tracks around for a little longer..

mac sanders
augusta ga, GA
12/27/2013

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The old railroad bed is now a three-mile-long concrete bike path. Will be miles longer by this time next year. Gets a lot of use, and much of the financing has come from outside sources.

joe noll
beaufort, SC
3/10/2014

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I was a new 17 year old enlisted Marine in late July 1947 that arrived at Yemmassee by train from DC, to await the train that would take me to Port Royal (at the time I thought it was going to Parris island). The train was small and the cars were old, wooden seats, with pull shades on the windows, and with a small pot belly stove in the center, I think. On arrival at the port side in Port Royal, a Marine Corporal came on board, cursed at us (in a salty style that was blistering in authority), swatted one man in the head with a comic book he took away from him for not being attentive, and ordered us to shut the windows, pull down the shades, and then we were introduced to Marine discipline and life. We were ordered to run outside (people had gathered to watch the evolution as it must have been a local event), we were ordered to get up into open back picket side trucks and stand nose to back of head and not touch anything and stand at attention. With that, the diver roared away and to the causeway onto Parris Island. I was sure we would lose some men, but we didn't. It is difficult to stand upright in a speeding truck and not fall over without holding on to anything. The next 10 months were something else, but it made a Marine Private (some did not make it through). I retired in 1972 as a Lieutenant Colonel USMC.

Ed Tipshus
Chicago , IL
3/14/2014

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I am doing a research paper on alternative transportation. My mom told me about a train she use to ride that stopped in Early Branch, SC, she mentioned something about her clothes getting sooty where she had to ride in front. Do anyone else remember this back in the late forties or early fifties?

Dree Frazier
Early Branch, SC
4/1/2014

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Does anyone have a video or anything like that of this line? If so I might be willing to buy it from you. My email is islandman97@gmail.com. thanks

mac sanders
augusta ga, GA
7/11/2014

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The last section of track has been contracted to be removed from Ribaut Rd. to the SC Ports Authority, approximately two and a half miles. Removal is scheduled to start 1 Sept. 2014 by Pender Brothers Inc. It's our intention to recycle as much as possible, but we would also like to take this opportunity to commemorate the Port Royal Railroad by making table bases, book ends, small anvils, parking curbs, bar rails and any other ideas we can come up with.

Jim Pender
Beaufort , SC
9/2/2014

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If someone could save a rail section for me that would be great

mac sanders
augusta ga, GA
9/2/2014

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