This rail line was originally built between 1849 and 1853 as part of the Wilmington & Manchester Railroad (W&M). This railroad extended from Wilmington, NC, to Manchester, in southwestern Sumter County, then across the Wateree River to Kingville on the South Carolina Railroad (later Southern, now NS). The railroad was never financially stable, and was reorganized several times. Around 1870, it was reorganized as the Wilmington, Columbia & Augusta (WC&A), and was associated with the Wilmington & Weldon (W&W). These two roads formed the core of the railroad that became the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad. In the early 1870s, the section from Sumter to Kingville was apparently abandoned and the rail was used to build an extension directly from Sumter to Columbia. The WC&A then reached Augusta by trackage rights over the Charlotte, Columbia & Augusta (CC&A), later part of the Southern. The section from Kingville to Sumter was apparently rebuilt at some point by Southern, then the section from Sumter Junction to Sumter was abandoned for good by 1940.
The section of railroad from Florence to Mullins formed a key part of the ACL until the Florence to Wilson cut-off was completed in the 1890s. This section was still an important part of the ACL for much of the 20th century. The section from Sumter to Florence was the gateway to Columbia, Augusta and points westward.
CSX abandoned the section from Sumter to Florence in 3 segments. The section from Timmonsville to Lynchburg (9.05 miles) was abandoned in 1987 or so. The section from Florence to Timmonsville (9.21 miles) was abandoned in 1989. The section from just northeast of Sumter to Lynchburg was abandoned by 1992. This section of railroad was always fairly well used up until the time it was abandoned. The last passenger trains ran on this line in 1967.
The section from Pee Dee (east of Florence) to Mullins was abandoned by Seaboard System in the mid-1980s. The section from Marion to Mullins was operated by the Marion County Railroad for a period of time, but this section has apparently been abandoned now also, although the tracks remain in place to the outskirts of Marion.
CSX still operates the line from Florence to Pee Dee (part of the A-line). The Carolina Southern Railroad operates the former CSX trackage east of Mullins to Whiteville, NC. In North Carolina, the section from Whiteville to Malmo, just west of Wilmington, has been abandoned.
Sumter used to be quite a railroad hub, with tracks reaching out in 9 directions at one time. The following is an excerpt from Mayor Bubba McElveen's column in the Sumter Daily Item concerning railroads in Sumter:
"The first train arrived in Sumter in 1852. It came from the west as that part of the Wilmington and Manchester Railroad was completed from what became known as Sumter Junction, as the W&M joined the South Carolina Railroad at that point. Accounts said the hissing, belching, screeching locomotive was being examamied by several ladies, when the engineer pulled the cord for a small toot. He enjoyed watching them being startled, so he cut loose for a sharp blast. All fled into the woods, some not arriving at home until after hiding for several hours.
Over the years, other Railroads followed, and at one time Sumter was considered a hub with tracks coming into stations here from North, East, South and West. This linked our city with most of the major cities of America.
At one time, Sumter had 26 passenger trains arriving and leaving each day. You could ride a train over to Columbia, or Florence and return later that day. If you lived in rural Sumter County, the best way into town was to board the train for a day of shopping in Sumter. Stores advertised that they would deliver your purchases to the station so that you would not have to carry them while shopping or visiting for the rest of the day.
The Railroad Companies (Lines) also promoted special trips to resorts and to the seacoast or the mountains. Many from Sumter took advantage of this and some tales handed down in families tell of the fascination of being pulled by two or more locomotives when vacationing in the mountains. Other stories are about traveling to Charleston, and then going on the Ferry Boat to Mount Pleasant on the way to Sullivans Island and Isle of Palms.
Sumterites that used to go to Pawleys Island would ride the train to Georgetown. Then they crossed the Waccamaw River by ferry from Georgetown to Hagley Landing where they boarded a train for a two mile journey to Pawleys.
This railroad was known as the Georgetown-Pawley's Island Railroad (1902) and was owned by the Atlantic Coast Lumber Company. This made Pawley's a resort for the employees of the lumber company and others.
The Railroads were aggressive in taking advantage of groups that wanted to travel to special places or events. One of the early football games (1908) played in Sumter was the Sumter High team playing the University of South Carolina Second Team.
A special train brought fans from Columbia and then returned them home after the game. Sumter High won 7-0.
In 1939, Sumter High had a championship team that was beating every opponent. A special train was put in service to carry 700 rabid Sumter fans to see the game against the Charleston High Bantams at Johnson Hagood Stadium. Sumter lost..and this made for a long ride home. The cost of a round trip ticket was $1.00. I can recall that the train backed into the depot in Charleston. When I was in the service in Europe, I saw that again in Paris and London.
Just after World War 11, The Citadel Cadets traveled to the Orangeburg County Fair for a scheduled game between The Citadel and the University of S. C. It was fun going, but we were worn out for the return trip to Charleston.
Today, groups talk about taking special bus trips to New York for plays, or to Atlanta to see the Braves play. Other groups like to rent a bus for football games, hockey, basketball and sometimes just a day trip. I will escort one to Charleston this month for sightseeing by horse drawn carriage, and then we will attend the Friday afternoon parade at The Citadel.
In old Sumter, the talk of trips, would lead to a call or visit with Mr. O. V. Player, ticket agent for the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad. He is the father of clerk of Court O. V. Player, Jr. and had a wonderful personality and was popular with everyone just like O. V. Jr."