Best Friend of Charleston – Charleston, South Carolina

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In the fall of 2013 a replica of the 1830 steam locomotive The Best Friend of Charleston arrived to its new home behind the Charleston Visitor Center. This photo captures the locomotive as it made a stop in Summerville along its journey from its former post in Atlanta so people could catch a glimpse of the historic replica. The replica was built in the 1920s to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the charter of the South Carolina Canal and Rail Road Company in 1827. The original steam engine was built in New York in 1830 and ran its inaugural trip on Christmas Day of that year.

Best Friend Train

Darrell Parker of North Charleston, 2013 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The initial route of The Best Friend, as it was informally called, ran six miles inland from Charleston. The December 29, 1830, edition of the Charleston Courier described the monumental event:

“The one hundred and forty-one persons flew on the wings of wind at the speed of fifteen to twenty-five miles per hour, annihilating time and space … leaving all the world behind. On the return we reached Sans-Souci in quick and double quick time, stopped to take up a recruiting party – darted forth like a live rocket, scattering sparks and flames on either side – passed over three salt creeks hop, step and jump, and landed us all safe at the Lines before any of us had time to determine whether or not it was prudent to be scared.”

Best Friend

Darrell Parker of North Charleston, 2013 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The success of the train was widely-touted, and The Best Friend of Charleston became the first steam locomotive to provide passenger service in the United States. Unfortunately, The Best Friend soon met its end when on July 17, 1831, a fireman aboard the locomotive who was inexperienced with steam engines closed the valve in an attempt to eliminate the whistling sound made by the train releasing steam. The train exploded as a result, killing the fireman and destroying the locomotive. While other steam engines were making regular trips up and down the tracks at this time, The Best Friend was considered the pioneer of the steam locomotive.

The 1920s replica had been on display in New York and Atlanta before coming to rest in a new train museum behind the Charleston Visitor Center. The museum is housed in a renovated building that was once an old train shed. It was dedicated on May 9, 2014.

Best Friend of Charleston Info

Address: John Street, Charleston, SC 29403

Best Friend of Charleston Map

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