South Carolina

Branchville Railroad Museum – Orangeburg County, South Carolina

South Carolina  |  SC Picture Project  |  Orangeburg County Photos  |  Branchville Railroad Museum

The Branchville Railroad Shrine and Museum stands at the site of the world’s first railroad junction that was created by splitting a rail. By 1833, Branchville was part of the world’s longest railroad, which ran 136 miles from Charleston to Hamburg. (Hamburg was located in Aiken County but no longer exists). Several years later, a route was established between Branchville and Columbia, making Branchville a junction. The line to Columbia was in operation by 1842, and soon afterwards other branches were added in towns such as Camden.

Branchville Station SC

Lamar Nix of Seabrook © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The train depot was heavily damaged by a fire in 1995, but it has since been restored as a museum. It houses a replica of the Best Friend of Charleston, a steam locomotive which carried passengers en route from Charleston to Hamburg, passing through Branchville. It made its first trip on December 25, 1830, and was received with much excitement.

Branchville Depot

Ralph Hobson of Greenville, 2017 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The railroad was the product of the South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company, which incorporated in 1827. Cotton merchant William Aiken, Sr. was the company’s founder and first president, and the City of Aiken – founded in 1835 as a stop along the Charleston-to-Hamburg line – was named in his honor. Aiken’s son, William Aiken, Jr., served as South Carolina’s governor from 1844 through 1846.

Branchville Aerial

Larry Gleason for Aiken Aerial Photography, 2013 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Replica of the Best Friend of Charleston

The Branchville Museum houses a replica of the Best Friend of Charleston, a steam locomotive which carried passengers en route from Charleston to Hamburg, passing through Branchville. It made its first trip on December 25, 1830, and was received with much excitement.

Branchville Depot Best Friend Train Replica

SCIWAY © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Its service was short-lived, ending with a deadly explosion when an engineer closed the steam valve to extinguish its sound. Pieces of the locomotive were salvaged, and the Phoenix was built to replace the doomed engine. Though its own course was ill-fated, the Best Friend marked the start of a transportation transformation in the United States.

Branchville Railroad Museum – Add Info and More Photos

The purpose of the South Carolina Picture Project is to celebrate the beauty of the Palmetto State and create a permanent digital repository for our cultural landmarks and natural landscapes. We invite you to add additional pictures (paintings, photos, etc) of Branchville Railroad Museum, and we also invite you to add info, history, stories, and travel tips. Together, we hope to build one of the best and most loved SC resources in the world!


The South Carolina Picture Project is a volunteer project which earns no profit. We work hard to ensure its accuracy, but if you see a mistake, please know that it is not intentional and that we are more than happy to update our information if it is incorrect. That said, our goal is to create something positive for our state, so please make your comments constructive if you would like them to be published. Thank you!

10 Comments about Branchville Railroad Museum

Gerald Myers says:
September 14th, 2015 at 11:16 am

My grandfather, Williwm C. (Pencil) Taylor, worked there as a telegrapher.

SCIWAYNo Gravatar says:
September 19th, 2014 at 9:41 am

Hi, Karen! Thank you for commenting. While the superlative was challenged years ago regarding the English junction of which you speak, Branchville officially was declared the first created by splitting a rail. Also, the first sentence of this page does state that the museum stands at the “site of the first railroad junction.” Thanks to your comment, we are amending the page to include this explanation of the title.

Karen HerschellNo Gravatar says:
September 18th, 2014 at 3:07 pm

I really do hate to burst your bubble, but I was just looking at Wikipedia which says that the first railway junction was constructed in 1831 in England, at Newtown Junction (now Earlestown Station) near Newtown-le-Williows. It is claimed also that Branchville’s junction is the “oldest” but the tracks no longer converge, so it is no longer actually a junction. Therefore I don’t see how it could be the oldest. Perhaps it should be called the site of the first railroad junction in the Western Hemisphere. Which is still impressive for a very little town in rural South Carolina! I just don’t like inaccurate statements.

Shannon PritchardNo Gravatar says:
November 24th, 2012 at 10:48 am

It would be helpful if you had a rail map of the service area.

Scott JohnsonNo Gravatar says:
November 8th, 2012 at 10:16 am

Hello. My grandfather, Scott Johnson, Sr., would travel from Johnston to deer hunt there during the middle of the week. Always remember his stories of having such a great time, fellowship, and even getting a ‘doe’ on doe day. If you have any stories to share I’d be more than interested to hear them. Thanks, Scott Johnson, III

ErnieNo Gravatar says:
October 10th, 2012 at 2:14 pm

I must say Branchville is a place that holds many, many memories for me. My dad used to deer hunt at the old Rose Hill hunting club. He started taking me when I was 3 years old and at one time he was the president of the club. Even though I’ve never had the pleasure of going inside the rail station I have seen it many times. My dad passed away in 1998 and I have missed this town so much. My uncle and myself came down to visit on 10/6/2012 and we ate lunch at the Churn which has the best food in this state even after 27 years!!! While we were eating I swear I could hear my daddy laughing. I will be back to the best little town very soon. I would like to thank the town of Branchville and my daddy for memories that I will hold for the rest of my life. Thank you for all of your hospitality.

Harold JessenNo Gravatar says:
January 25th, 2011 at 7:36 pm

My father started to work for the Southern in 1946. He started out at Branchville. In the summer, my mother and her three children would come and stay in the old house on the corner of 78 and Main St.

SCIWAYNo Gravatar says:
August 17th, 2010 at 7:48 am

Hi Harry! There are several resources on SCIWAY’s Orangeburg County Genealogy page that may help you. Good luck!

Harry C. Metts, Jr.No Gravatar says:
August 16th, 2010 at 6:32 pm

Was hoping someone might know of the early settlers in the Branchville area. In particular Christopher Metz from the Netherlands. I am from SC and have many descendants from the Branchville area. Please comment if you have any information.

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