SAL passenger trains thru Charleston, SC in 40s & 50s : LUSENET : ACL and SAL Railroads Historical Society : One Thread

Can anyone tell me what SAL Passenger trains passed through Charleston, SC? I read from a previous FAQ that the OBT passed from Raleigh to Savannah via Columbia. Does that mean it circumvented Charleston? Was this the main routing for all main SAL passenger trains (Meteor, etc.)? There used to be a deck and swingbridge across the Ashley River just North of the Citadel and the Charleston station not too far from there. Did the SAL trains ever venture downtown to Union Station on the Cooper River where the ACL and Southern hung out? (Also is this true? Did the Southern use Union Station? Charleston artist Jim Booth did a painting called "Rolling Thunder" depicting this but I happen to know he used an old photo of ACL Pacific 1604 backed into the station. I have the picture he used.) Does anyone have pictures for sale of SAL trains on the Ashley bridge, at Central station, near the Citadel? Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.

-- David Wiggs (, November 22, 1998


I don't have my maps with me, but I can think of at least three interchange points in Charleston where the referenced train could have switched from ACL to SAL trackage and vice versa. 1) Town Creek (ACL X SAL). The only problem is the connecting track is on the downtown side of the crossing which means the train to back up the penninsula to the ACL North Station or the nearest wye track. 2) Interchange track between SAL and joint ACL/Sou trackage serving fertilizer plants/Exxon terminal near Milford Street. Very unlikely to have transferred the train at this point. 3) The ACL's Cooper River Branch leaves the ACL mainline south (~1000 ft)of the ACL Charleston station. The branch served(s)the former Charleston Naval Station as well as numerous industries. The Cooper River Branch crosses the SAL EC line approximately 1-2 miles away. Not sure of the ACL/SAL track arrangement(no maps), but this would be my first choice for transferring the train. Hopefully someone more knowledgeable of the operations at that time can weigh in with the correct answer. Good luck. Buddy

-- Buddy Hill (, November 10, 1999.

The SCL Gulf Coast Special was using the EC route at least during the latter half of 1968. If anyone can pinpoint the beginning and ending dates of this use, please speak up. Also, how and where did the trains get from the SAL to the ACL in Charleston? And speaking of the SAL lift bridge over the Savannah River, anybody have any photos of the bridge, especially with a train on it?

-- Larry Goolsby (, November 10, 1999.

For a brief period of time in the mid-1960s (I don't remember the exact year), the EC line also hosted the ACL "Gulf Coast Special" Nos. 75 & 76 from Charleston to Savannah. This was due to the fact that the ACL main was undergoing major track maintenance during the daytime, and this was the only major passenger train to pass between Savannah and Charleston during the middle of the day - the main ACL passenger fleet passed through in the late evening and the pre-dawn hours. The "Special" would pull into Savannah via the SAL vertical- lift bridge, turn on the wye onto the ACL main, and back into the station - the only time a train was known to use a back-up movement at the new station.

-- Tom Alderman (, November 10, 1999.

I lived as a small child on the Citadel grounds from 1958 through 1962 with a view of the tracks. While I know that most trains were freight; and used F's and Geeps for power, there were occasional irregular passenger moves over the line during this time -- probably due to operational issues on the other main. I can distinctly remember several sets of E units with passenger cars -- although they must have been secondary trains or extras as I do not remember any streamlined trains.

-- Bjarne Henderson (, November 08, 1999.

I remember my father taking up to the Grove Street station to watch the trains. I was four or five years old at the time and period must have been around 1956 to 1959. I remember the station and also remember a passenger train backing into the station from the east and north. Can't remember what type of engine. I do know that freight service was also stopped over that line and eventually routed north through the North Charleston mainline.

-- Juan Manigault (, January 30, 1999.

I'd like to acknowledge an error in my previous answer. Bob was quite correct regarding the year (1931) that the SAL moved from CUS to the Grove St. Station. Sorry about that Bob - I misread the date on the station in my photos. Thanks.

-- Buddy Hill (, December 17, 1998.

Based on Prince's SAL book, the Charleston area was served by local passenger trains 25 & 26. During the 20's, express trains 45 & 46 were routed over this line. Others more knowledgeable of SAL train schedules and operations can provide you with dates of operation of the above trains or any others not mentioned.

Early SAL passenger trains into Charleston were obviously powered by steam with doodlebugs being used in later years. As Bob stated the locals stared calling the train the Boll Weevil as the doodlebugs reminded them of the insect ravaging the region at the time. The two well known doodlebugs 2027 & 2028 (in citrus paint) put in occasional appearances in the Charleston area. When the doodlebugs were down for repairs or in use elsewhere on the system, the train was powered by steam, usually a L-2 or L-2-s 4-6-0 pulling a mail/RPO and two coaches. In later years the Boll Weevil was powered by an E-unit or a GP-7. I have been told that following the appearance of the doodlebugs the train was always referred to as the Boll Weevil regardless of headend power- steam, doodlebug, or diesel.

The Charleston Union Station (CUS) was built in Nov 1907 and burned Jan 10, 1947. The SAL's East Carolina mainline was constructed into Charleston sometime around 1915. SAL trains probably started using the CUS about that time. The SAL stayed at the CUS until 1934 when they moved all passenger operations over to the newly constructed Grove Street Station. The stucco depot was razed sometime during the late 50's or early 60's. Based on an article in the Charleston newspaper and a 1956 SAL employee timetable, it appears passenger service between Hamlet and Charleston ended sometime around 1956 or 57. The newspaper article stated that passenger service between Charleston and Savannah ended a year earlier (55 or 56?). The photograph accompanying the article shows the last SAL train into Charleston was powered by SAL GP-7 No. 1763. This SAL train was the last passenger train into Charleston proper as the ACL and Sou had previously retreated to their respective North Charleston passenger facilities in 1948-a year after CUS burned. A little known historical fact regarding the CUS - according to my grandfather the C&WC ran a train between Yemassee SC and Charleston (CUS) sometime during the 20s or 30's ($$DESPERATELY $$ seeking photos and info!). A former ACL engineer confirmed that the train (Nos 41 & 42) used C&WC locomotives and equipment manned by ACL operating personnel. Hope this lengthy answer helps. (No emails please - using someone else's computer)

-- Buddy Hill (, December 15, 1998.

I ran across more info on your question. Prior to the 1931 construction of SAL's Charleston depot near the Citadel, SAL's passenger trains did call at Union Station, along with ACL and Southern. A photo of the SAL depot can be found in SEABOARD AIR LINE RAILWAY ALBUM by Albert M. Langley, JR, W. Forrest Beckum, JR and C. Ronnie Tidwell, published by Union Station Publishing, North Augusta, SC. Does anyone know if the depot is still standing?

-- Bob Venditti (, December 01, 1998.

All of SAL's passenger trains were normally routed on their direct north-south mainline between Savannah and Columbia via Fairfax and Denmark, SC, completely avoiding Charleston far to the east. However, SAL ran one daily passenger train on it's eastern Savannah-Hamlet route called the BOLL WEEVIL (No's. 25 & 26). This was generally powered by "doodlebugs". Service on the line was cut back to Hamlet-Charleston in 1952, and was eliminated entirely in 1956. (see separate Q&A listing on the BOLL WEEVIL for more info)

-- Bob Venditti (, November 29, 1998.

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