Charleston & Savannah Railroad

Charleston and Savannah Railroad Through the Swamps

Chartered in 1854, this 120-mile line was built to serve as a link in a potential seaboard route through the Carolinas and Georgia. Such a railroad, it was thought, would enhance the prosperity of the coastal region and make it more competitive with the rapidly growing upcountry.

Construction of the C&S began in February 1856. After many delays and unanticipated expenses, largely due to the long stretches of swampy terrain that the tracks had to cross, the railroad finally opened in 1860. Contractors Daniel Callahan and William H. McDowell completed much of the latter-stage work.

Charleston & Savannah Railroad in the Civil War

During the Civil War, Sherman's troops destroyed some 38 miles of C&S track. (From: The Soldier in our Civil War; a pictorial history of the conflict, 1861-1865, New York: Stanley Bradley Publishing Co., 1893, p. 32. Online at Internet Archive here.)

Following extensive service to the Confederacy during the Civil War, the line was reorganized in 1866 as the Savannah & Charleston Railroad. The road did not reopen for traffic until 1869-70, however, due to its thorough destruction by Sherman's forces.

A default in 1873 lead to receivership, after which it was sold in 1880 to Henry B. Plant. He changed the name to Charleston & Savannah Railway the same year. The railroad became a key property in his Plant System of railway and steamship lines.

In the 1894 edition of The Official Railway List, the C&S reported operating 115 miles of railroad with 22 locomotives, 23 passenger cars, and 725 freight and miscellaneous cars.


Charleston & Savannah Railroad locomotive

From: Rogers Locomotive Works catalog, 1886.

Maps and Timetables:

1856 map at Library of Congress

1861 map at Library of Congress

1863 timetable

1864 map of Georgia section

1866 timetable

1870 timetable

1882 timetable

1883 map

1886 map

Suggested Reading:

H. David Stone, Jr. Vital Rails; The Charleston & Savannah Railroad and the Civil War in Coastal South Carolina. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2008. Georgia's Railroad History & Heritage. © Steve Storey.

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