One of the things I love to do when we travel is seek out old railroad stations. They are especially prevalent in rural areas of North and South Carolina, and I have found them in Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee, as well.
One of the stations we pass by on a regular basis is the station in Branchville, SC. It’s on one of the “slow-cuts” we like to take when we are headed to Hilton Head and want to get off the freeway. I’ve taken pictures there before, and have been particularly interested in the old freight depot that sits across the tracks. It is in pretty sad shape, but a few years ago was given a new roof, and while I don’t know for sure I am hopeful that some funding will find its way there to complete the restoration. Both buildings are beautiful and reflect the good old days of American railroading.
According to one of the signs there, Branchville was on the first commercial railway, from Charleston to Hamburg, SC. Construction began in Charleston in 1829 and was completed to Hamburg in 1833. The distance was 136 miles and at the time was the longest railroad in the world and twice as long as any in the United States.
The railroad branched out from Branchville to Orangeburg in 1840, and Branchville became the first railroad junction in the world.
The Branchville Depot was built in 1877 and featured a dining room there trains would stop for breakfast and dinner. It claims the distinction of having had three former US Presidents dine there: President William McKinley, President Theodore Roosevelt and President Howard Taft.
The depot today is a symbol of Branchville’s rich railroad history and contains Branchville’s Railroad Shrine and Museum and a restaurant. It seems that we have never been there when either was open, but at some point I will be sure to get inside and look around.