Historic Charleston Foundation Trolley Lecture

 Events, History and Preservation  Comments Off on Historic Charleston Foundation Trolley Lecture
Jan 212015

The Rise and Fall of Charleston’s Trolleys, 1859-1938
Guest Speaker: historian Nicholas Butler, Ph.D.

King Street Trolley - Charleston, SCOn February the 23rd, the Historic Charleston Foundation will present a talk on the history of Charleston’s trolleys at the Charleston Museum.

For 77 years after the Civil War, the streets of urban Charleston were lined with iron track for a fleet of streetcars or trolleys. The initial horse-drawn system was electrified in 1897, but the cars and tracks were scrapped in 1938 in favor of “modern” diesel buses. Might this pre-automobile relic offer a solution to transportation woes? Join historian Nic Butler for a look back at the motives behind the creation and the demolition of Charleston’s first mass transit system.

A native of the Palmetto State, Dr. Butler attended the University of South Carolina before completing a Ph.D. at Indiana University. He has worked as archivist of the South Carolina Historical Society, as an adjunct faculty member at the College of Charleston, and as a historical consultant for the City of Charleston. Since 2005 he has been archivist, and now historian, for the Charleston County Public Library.

Free Admission!

Monday, February 23, 6 p.m.
The Charleston Museum Auditorium
360 Meeting Street
Charleston 29401

Two Additional Dates …

Wednesday, March 11, 6pm – 7pm
Charleston County Public Library – Main Library
68 Calhoun Street
Charleston, SC 29401

Saturday, March 14, 1pm – 2pm
Charleston County Public Library – Main Library
68 Calhoun Street
Charleston, SC 29401


Best Friend Locomotive to Return to Charleston

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Mar 282013

The Best Friend of Charleston, a scale replica of an 1830s locomotive that briefly served the city, will return at long last in September after six years on loan to Norfolk Southern headquarters in Atlanta.

Best Friend of Charleston PostcardWhen it does come back, the engine which is nearly 100 years old itself will head for a new glass-enclosed display museum near Ann and John streets downtown, in an area known as the East Shed.

The site will feature more than 3,500-square-feet of museum space. The engine also will be lit up at night for after-hours viewing.

“It may be that the building may not be able to be completed until the train comes in,” said Charleston Mayor Joe Riley in reference to the physical effort required to move the machinery into place.

The city’s $1 million investment will go for the museum, bathrooms and renovation of some of the East Shed area.

The original Best Friend became the first locomotive line to offer regularly scheduled commercial passenger service by traveling a six-mile path of track from downtown to what today is near Dorchester Road.

The original engine arrived here by ship in 1830 in pieces, from the West Point Foundry in New York. Its inaugural trip came on Christmas Day, carrying 141 passengers. Six months later the locomotive was lost to a boiler accident.

The current replica was built in the 1920s from the original plans. It was meant to be a focal part in the 100th anniversary of the “South Carolina Canal and Rail Road Company.” Southern Railway then took the replica on trips across the country, according to the train’s website.

In 1993, Norfolk Southern Railroad donated the Best Friend to the city of Charleston, where it went on display.

In 2007 the engine was moved to Atlanta to become part of a display inside the company’s downtown office building. In exchange, Norfolk Southern paid the city $250,000 and did a restoration.

Riley said the museum will add to the block’s draw, along with the nearby Visitor’s Center and Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry.

Mary Lehr, who operates a museum dedicated to the Best Friend at Citadel Mall, said she is looking forward to the return, slated for around Sept. 15.

Put Best Friend on Fast Track Back to Charleston

 History and Preservation, News  Comments Off on Put Best Friend on Fast Track Back to Charleston
Apr 142012

The Post and Courier today has an article on the continuing struggle to bring the replica of the Best Friend of Charleston Best Friend of Charlestonback to a respectable home. “The next big trip of the Best Friend (actually a replica of the original locomotive) seems to be approaching even more slowly — the way weeks pass for children awaiting Christmas. It will be the train’s trip home to Charleston from Atlanta where it has spent the last five years on display in the lobby of Norfolk Southern’s headquarters.

Colleen Carducci, director of real estate management for the city of Charleston, says she is confident that by the end of 2012 the Best Friend will be displayed on John Street in a new glass structure. The city is in negotiations with a builder.

If things go well, the building will connect via a conference room to an existing railroad shed, which will be renovated to accommodate a commercial venture — likely a family-style restaurant.

But if the city is unable to find a private partner to take on the East Shed project, it will proceed with the glass structure alone.”

We really need to make sure that adjoining space is used for a related project like a full rail museum or historical transportation retrospective and planning center.

Read the full article from the Post and Courier here.

Amtrak History Train Visits Charleston

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Mar 202012

In celebration of the 40th anniversary of Amtrak, America’s Railroad® is offering the public an opportunity to view an Exhibit Train, a unique traveling display showcasing the railroad’s history. The train will stop at Ansonborough Field in Charleston, S.C. on March 24 and 25. The exhibit will be open from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. both days.

History TrainThe free exhibit showcases Amtrak history over the decades, displaying memorabilia such as vintage advertising, past menus and dinnerware, and period uniforms. The display will also include train-themed kids’ activities at Chuggington Depot (weather permitting), based on the popular children’s animated television series on Disney Junior.

In addition, commemorative 40th anniversary merchandise will be available for purchase onboard the train including: Amtrak: An American Story, a 144-page commemorative book that chronicles the history of the railroad with archival photographs, a historical timeline and personal narratives for each decade; Amtrak: The First 40 Years, a documentary DVD that provides an exclusive look inside America’s Railroad® with hard-to-find photographs and video footage as well as interviews with past and present leaders.

For more information on Amtrak’s 40th anniversary, visit the official website at Amtrak40th.com. The site provides details of the anniversary celebration and tells the Amtrak story by allowing users to explore 40 years of historic photographs and other materials in an extensive and dynamic archive. The site also hosts a blog, provides a link to Amtrak’s online store, and allows individuals to sign up to receive an email alert when the Exhibit Train is coming near their town.

Video of Amtrak Terminal Visioning Session

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Sep 052011

CARTA has plans to build a new Intermodal Center that will house Amtrak, Greyhound, and CARTA operations near West Montague Avenue and Dorchester Road in North Charleston. When that new station comes into place, the old Amtrak station that was built in 1956 will ceased to be used. So, the question is, what should be done with that old station? It is the property of CSX, and the adjoining tracks will continue to be used, but should the building be re-purposed as a museum? A community center? A business incubator?

Those questions and more were addressed at a recent community forum held at the old terminal itself. From a bit of history to a view of the future, you can get a glimpse of it all in the video below.

Visioning Session

Amtrak Station Visioning Session - North Charleston

Amtrak North Charleston Passenger Terminal Visioning Session from Michael Carnell on Vimeo.

Bring The Best Friend home

 History and Preservation  Comments Off on Bring The Best Friend home
Sep 032011

Replica of The Best Friend of CharlestonA great editorial in the Charleston Post & Courier today….

The Best Friend of Charleston is coming home, but the timetable is still uncertain.

Nor is it certain that the artifacts belonging to the independent Best Friend of Charleston Museum will be included in the exhibit.

Now that the city is pushing forward on its plans to prepare a permanent home on John Street for the steam locomotive, it also should ensure that the appropriate artifacts are displayed with it.

The Best Friend — actually a replica of the first steam locomotive in the country to establish regularly scheduled passenger service — is in Atlanta on display at Norfolk Southern Railroad, which paid the city $250,000 in return for permission to restore it and keep it for five years. That time is up in 2012.

The agreement requires the city to use that money for a permanent home for the train. Charleston Mayor Joe Riley said it will be supplemented with money from a tax increment finance district.
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