The Carolina and Western Railroad

Cummings to Tillman, SC

The Carolina and Western was another logging railroad with delusions of common-carrier grandeur. It began in 1888 as a logging line of the W.F. Cummings Company, reaching the Coosawhatchie River from Cummings, just below Varnville, on the Charleston & Western Carolina line. W.F. Cummings and two other investors had the Carolina and Western chartered in 1902 as a common carrier. The new standard-gauge line turned out of the C&WC in the mill village of Fechtig and meandered on the high ground around the Coosawhatchie in a mostly semicircular route, establishing a number of small villages along its route. It did not reach Tillman and a connection to the (Cayce-Hardeeville) Southern line until 1912. Other towns on the line included Smithville, Copes and Grays.

The C&W in its short life was surely one of the most quixotic common carrier railroads in history. The actual rails were mainly laid by lumber mill workers. The lumber mill would schedule two-week shutdowns specifically for this purpose of extending and relocating the line to fresh stands of timber. The amateurish trackwork that this approach generally produced (added to the inherent challenges of building a railroad in a swamp) resulted in numerous accidents and derailments. Three separate incidents occurred over the life of the road, which resulted in a total of two locomotives and a freight car loaded with fertilizer off the rails and submerged in the Coosawhatchie Swamp. (The locos had to be recovered and sent to Georgia for repair). The C&W advertised an "irregular", rather than scheduled, freight and passenger service; i.e. the trains ran when needed. The road kept a combination passenger-baggage car for "picnic specials" run on such occasions as the Fourth of July, but loggers commuted to the camps in boxcars. The first combination car rotted away in the humidity, necessitating the purchase of a replacement. The C&W requested, and obtained, permission from the state to build the last section to Pineland rather than Tillman, but ended up building to Tillman anyway.

The C&W's end was as eccentric as its career. Frank Cummings, upon retirement in 1916, just "pulled the plug" on his railroad, lumber, and logging enterprises. Some associates who had invested in supporting business ventures (one C&W locomotive engineer owned, among other things, the second combination car) were apparently simply left twisting in the breeze.

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