A piece of locomotive history is returning to Charleston after it makes a stop in Summerville. The train is named ‘The Best Friend of Charleston,’ and it is currently in Atlanta outside the headquarters for Norfolk Southern.
The announcement of the train’s return came on Thursday, which was proclaimed Best Friend Day in Summerville.
Chris Ohm, the executive director of the Summerville-Dorchester Museum, said the railroad has always been important to Summerville and the Best Friend helped to develop the area around the train stop. He said it took people and materials back and forth from Charleston.
The Best Friend of Charleston was not only the first locomotive built in entirely in America to be put in regular service, its route was the first regularly scheduled route within the US. Additionally, although unfortunately, the explosion that destroyed the original Best Friend is probably the first major, and fatal, train accident within the US.
The replica, built in the 1920s, is owned by the city of Charleston. It’s being returned to the city after six years on loan to Norfolk Southern headquarters in Atlanta. It will be housed in a new, glass-enclosed display museum near Ann and John streets downtown, in an area known as the East Shed.
The locomotive, tender and two coaches, all built in 1928 to specifications of the original equipment, are on loan from the city of Charleston, S.C., for five years. The original Best Friend made its inaugural run Christmas Day 1830. The replica was built to celebrate the centennial of the South Carolina Canal & Rail Road, one of Norfolk Southern’s earliest predecessor companies, which operated the original Best Friend. Railroaders at Norfolk Southern’s Chattanooga Diesel Shop refurbished the replica prior to its Atlanta arrival.
The return — ironically by truck — has been scheduled for Oct. 28, said Chris Ohm, Summerville-Dorchester Museum director. The locomotive, wrapped in plastic for transport, will be unwrapped in the town after arriving about noon.
It will be displayed at a museum in Charleston that is currently under construction.