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Branchville Railroad Museum — Branchville, South Carolina

SC Picture Project  |  Orangeburg County  |  Branchville Railroad Museum

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Branchville Railroad Museum

The Branchville Railroad Shrine and Museum stands at the site of the world’s first railroad junction that was created by splitting a rail. By 1833, Branchville was part of the world’s longest railroad, which ran 136 miles from Charleston to Hamburg. (Hamburg was located in Aiken County but no longer exists). Several years later, a route was established between Branchville and Columbia, making Branchville a junction. The line to Columbia was in operation by 1842, and soon afterwards other branches were added in towns such as Camden.

Branchville Station SC

Lamar Nix of Seabrook © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The train depot was heavily damaged by a fire in 1995, but it has since been restored as a museum. It houses a replica of the Best Friend of Charleston, a steam locomotive which carried passengers en route from Charleston to Hamburg, passing through Branchville. It made its first trip on December 25, 1830, and was received with much excitement.

Branchville Depot

Ralph Hobson of Greenville, 2017 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The railroad was the product of the South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company, which incorporated in 1827. Cotton merchant William Aiken, Sr. was the company’s founder and first president, and the City of Aiken – founded in 1835 as a stop along the Charleston-to-Hamburg line – was named in his honor. Aiken’s son, William Aiken, Jr., served as South Carolina’s governor from 1844 through 1846.

Branchville Aerial

Larry Gleason for Aiken Aerial Photography, 2013 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Replica of the Best Friend of Charleston

The Branchville Museum houses a replica of the Best Friend of Charleston, a steam locomotive which carried passengers en route from Charleston to Hamburg, passing through Branchville. It made its first trip on December 25, 1830, and was received with much excitement.

Branchville Depot Best Friend Train Replica

SCIWAY © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Its service was short-lived, ending with a deadly explosion when an engineer closed the steam valve to extinguish its sound. Pieces of the locomotive were salvaged, and the Phoenix was built to replace the doomed engine. Though its own course was ill-fated, the Best Friend marked the start of a transportation transformation in the United States.

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10 Comments about Branchville Railroad Museum

Gerald Myers says:
September 14th, 2015 at 11:16 am

My grandfather, Williwm C. (Pencil) Taylor, worked there as a telegrapher.

SCIWAY says:
August 21st, 2015 at 6:03 am

Hi, Danielle. We suggest calling the museum at the above telephone number to see about scheduling a shoot. Best of luck!

Doug Suggs says:
October 2nd, 2018 at 7:49 pm

Newton Junction in England was a railroad crossing at grade also known as a daimond The Junction in Branchville South Carolina was a split rail Junction where trains can diverge from one main track to the other two different types of Junctions and the One in Branchville was the first of its type

SCIWAY says:
September 19th, 2014 at 9:41 am

Hi, Karen! Thank you for commenting. While the superlative was challenged years ago regarding the English junction of which you speak, Branchville officially was declared the first created by splitting a rail. Also, the first sentence of this page does state that the museum stands at the “site of the first railroad junction.” Thanks to your comment, we are amending the page to include this explanation of the title.

Karen Herschell says:
September 18th, 2014 at 3:07 pm

I really do hate to burst your bubble, but I was just looking at Wikipedia which says that the first railway junction was constructed in 1831 in England, at Newtown Junction (now Earlestown Station) near Newtown-le-Williows. It is claimed also that Branchville’s junction is the “oldest” but the tracks no longer converge, so it is no longer actually a junction. Therefore I don’t see how it could be the oldest. Perhaps it should be called the site of the first railroad junction in the Western Hemisphere. Which is still impressive for a very little town in rural South Carolina! I just don’t like inaccurate statements.

Shannon Pritchard says:
November 24th, 2012 at 10:48 am

It would be helpful if you had a rail map of the service area.

Scott Johnson says:
November 8th, 2012 at 10:16 am

Hello. My grandfather, Scott Johnson, Sr., would travel from Johnston to deer hunt there during the middle of the week. Always remember his stories of having such a great time, fellowship, and even getting a ‘doe’ on doe day. If you have any stories to share I’d be more than interested to hear them. Thanks, Scott Johnson, III

Ernie says:
October 10th, 2012 at 2:14 pm

I must say Branchville is a place that holds many, many memories for me. My dad used to deer hunt at the old Rose Hill hunting club. He started taking me when I was 3 years old and at one time he was the president of the club. Even though I’ve never had the pleasure of going inside the rail station I have seen it many times. My dad passed away in 1998 and I have missed this town so much. My uncle and myself came down to visit on 10/6/2012 and we ate lunch at the Churn which has the best food in this state even after 27 years!!! While we were eating I swear I could hear my daddy laughing. I will be back to the best little town very soon. I would like to thank the town of Branchville and my daddy for memories that I will hold for the rest of my life. Thank you for all of your hospitality.

Harold Jessen says:
January 25th, 2011 at 7:36 pm

My father started to work for the Southern in 1946. He started out at Branchville. In the summer, my mother and her three children would come and stay in the old house on the corner of 78 and Main St.

Harry C. Metts, Jr. says:
August 16th, 2010 at 6:32 pm

Was hoping someone might know of the early settlers in the Branchville area. In particular Christopher Metz from the Netherlands. I am from SC and have many descendants from the Branchville area. Please comment if you have any information.


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