Beaufort Railroad Company


The Newest Railroad in South Carolina


Special to Charleston Chapter, NRHS



            It is unusual in this day and age to have a new railroad start up, although this particular company is essentially a rail road but not a transportation company. 


            The history of the line stretches back to the Port Royal Railroad, chartered in December of 1856, but not constructed until 1870 with the line running from Port Royal to Yemassee opening in 1871.  The Georgia Railroad guaranteed the bonding for the line when it got into difficulties.  The twenty six foot draft of Port Royal harbor at LOW tide was very enticing, if only the harbor port could be built up.  The line to Augusta opened in March of 1873 and control went to the Georgia RR in May.  But the “Magnolia Route” failed in November of 1873 and was sold in 1878 to the new Port Royal & Augusta. 


            Actually, this was a clever ploy set up by the Georgia Railroad to purchase the Port Royal Railroad on June 6 and the new PR&A took over in October of 1878.  While Port Royal was not the port that everyone hoped for, the Georgia ran through trains from Atlanta to Augusta, down to Yemassee and then to Charleston and Savannah over the Savannah & Charleston line.  Through sleeping cars ran over this route in competition to the Central of Georgia line from Atlanta to Savannah. 


            Two years later, the Georgia RR & Banking Company opted out of the railroad business and leased the Georgia RR to William Wadley’s Central RR & Banking Co (Central of Georgia) and sold the PR&A to Wadley at the same time.  The Georgia Railroad was leased 50/50 by SCL and L&N until 1980, but the lease was renewed for 99 years in 1975. 


            The Central RR&B used the PR&A to lease the Augusta & Knoxville in 1883, a line from Greenwood down to Augusta.  But the Central transferred cotton coming down from the Piedmont to their own line to Savannah and did not ship it to Yemassee.  The Central then purchased the charter for the Savannah Valley as a construction firm to build an A&K line from McCormick to Anderson in 1885.  Similarly, the Greenwood, Laurens & Spartanburg became the construction company for the Spartanburg branch of the A&K which was completed in 1885.  It operated for a year as the GL&S and was then leased to the A&K.  And to complete the game plan, the Central bought the charter of the Greenville & Laurens in 1886 and the line was leased to the A&K upon completion. 


            In 1886, the PR&A released the A&K from its lease, and the A&K merged with the three branch lines to form the new Port Royal & Western Carolina.  (It should be clear that the PR&WC was a Central of Georgia operation.).  The SC charter however called out that although the PR&A was to become a part of the PR&WC, no outside line could buy or lease any railroad now built which extended toward the ocean from the PR&WC.  This clearly meant the PR&A.  But, the PR&A and the PR&WC were both considered to be integral parts of the Central of Georgia by that company.  The lines were operated in this way and the lines were shown on CofGA maps.  This was no secret as the PR&WC leased Central of GA locomotives and ran them with the original name still on the tender. 


            Little remembered now, the Richmond & Danville (Southern Railway) purchased control of both the PR&A and the PR&WC in 1890 in an attempt to get control of the Central of GA and to get a through route to Florida.  Court action prevented the attempt, and the two Port Royal lines returned to the Central of GA.


            The General Assembly of South Carolina, now aware of the illegal control of the PR&A by a “foreign competing company”, resolved in late 1892 to compel the PR&A to comply or forfeit the charter.  A year later, with no change in operation, the charter was repealed and the corporation was dissolved.  Section 5 of the declaration permitted the trains to continue to run.  The PR&A was then purchased three years later in 1896 by the new Charleston & Western Carolina Railway which then purchased the PR&WC to form a single rail system from Port Royal to Anderson, Greenville and Spartanburg.  A year later, the C&WC was purchased by the Walter Group’s Atlantic Coast Lines of Railroads.  To avoid a repetition of the state’s wrath, the ACL lines in South Carolina were organized to become the Atlantic Coast Line of South Carolina in 1897.  The C&WC was controlled by the new ACLofSC.                


            However, there was no connection between the ACLofSC lines and the C&WC lines.  A new track was laid from Denmark to Robbins and the ACLof SC was given trackage rights over the C&WC into Augusta where it connected with the Georgia Railroad to reach Atlanta.


            The C&WC was absorbed by the ACL on December 31, 1959.  The Seaboard Coast Line was formed in 1967, and Family Lines came into existence in 1972 as the L&N was absorbed.  The Seaboard System was formed in 1983 and began to consolidate some of the lines.  In September of 1984, the Yemassee to Port Royal line was permitted to be abandoned. 


            The South Carolina Public Railways Commission, which operated the Charleston Port Railways and which lately had built the East Cooper & Berkeley in 1976, was called on to save the Yemassee to Port Royal line.  South Carolina State Ports Authority purchased the track in 1985 and the South Carolina Public Railways Commission established a new Port Royal Railroad which was operated for the SCPRC by Tangent Transportation, itself a wholly owned subsidiary of SCPRC.  Operation began in 1985 with a new diesel painted Port Royal Railroad leased from Republic Locomotive Works in Greenville.  However, business was minimal with a car or two to the Marine Air Station, to a building supply firm, or to the docks at Port Royal.  A second diesel was acquired in 1987.           


            Tangent operated the line on an “as required” basis until November 30, 2003 when operations were ended.  The right of way was maintained after that date by SC State Ports Authority. 


            In September of 2006, a new entity, Beaufort Railroad Company, was organized with a Certificate of Existence.  The company issued 100 shares of stock and has offices in Charleston.  The sole incorporator was Daniel Green of Charleston.  Beaufort Railroad is a subsidiary of the SC Division of Public Railways. 


            The Surface Transportation Board in Washington then received a Modified Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity for the Beaufort Railroad to provide service “as required” from Yemassee to Port Royal (Finance Docket 34943).   The document was received on December 1, 2006.


            So, the newest railroad is the Beaufort Railroad that has no employees, no equipment, but the right to use the track of the former Port Royal Railroad that has been maintained by the SC State Ports Authority for three years. 


            Actually, an personal inspection of portions of the line in April of 2005 found the track to be in reasonably good condition where observed.  There was no sign of abandonment, but more of a line lying dormant. 


            Good luck to the line.

                            Tom Fetters          



©  2007 CCNRHS