Long running South Carolina shortline railroad
L&C 2-8-0 #40
(Front) The Lancaster & Chester Railway, founded in 1896, was originally the Cheraw & Chester Railroad, chartered in 1873. The C&C, which never finished its route, was sold to Col. Leroy Springs (1861-1931) for $25,000 and renamed the Lancaster & Chester Railway. A narrow gauge line, running only 29 miles from Chester to Lancaster, it was later converted to standard gauge track in 1902 at a cost of $125,000./ (Reverse) The L&C carried freight and passengers 1896-1913 but only freight after a 1913 accident. Springsís son Elliott White Springs (1896-1959) succeeded him as President. He named 29 Vice Presidents, one for each mile of the road. This depot, built in 1951 and designed by Joe Croxton, included the L&C offices. From 1902 to 1994 Springs Mills was the L&Cís largest customer, hauling coal and cotton to its plants./ Erected by the Lancaster County Historical Commission, 2008
Location: 512 S. Main St., Lancaster
Marker ID: 29-29
For more than a century, the Lancaster and Chester Railway of South Carolina had hauled freight back and forth over its 29 mile route. Hurrianes, derailments, two world wars, and a great depression could not keep this little line down. It was forever profitable and busy. But as prolific as it was, it had never increased the miles of track it operated. Not until March 25, 2001, when the L&C accessed the former Southern SB line, having entered into a lease-purchase agreement with Norfolk Southern to operate the SB trackage in Lancaster County.
In 1873, the Cheraw and Chester Railroad Company was granted a charter by a Special Act of the South Carolina General Assembly "to construct a railroad from Cheraw, in Chesterfield County, to Chesterville, in Chester County, by such route as shall be found most suitable and advantageous."
In those days, railroads were often built in sections using different contractors and money sometimes ran out before the line was tied together. This happened to the Cheraw and Chester. In 1879, it made it the 22 miles from Chester County to the Catawba River but did not cross it. On the other end, rail was laid from Cheraw to Pageland before the capital was exhausted in that direction. It operated for three years in these sections before being split. The Chester section was leased to the Charlotte, Columbia and Augusta who built a wooden bridge across the Catawba and extended the track one mile beyond Lancaster in 1883. It was then leased to the Richmond and Danville, which in turn went into receivership. Meanwhile, the line from Cheraw to Pageland became the Chesterfield and Pageland but never extended any further.
The receivers for the Richmond and Danville operated the line from Lancaster to Lenoir as one railroad, but neglected to pay expenses. It soon returned the Cheraw and Chester to its stockholders. Two years later, in 1896, the railroad was sold by court order at an advertised auction for $25,000 to satisfy its debts. Its buyer, Colonel Leroy Springs, renamed the line the Lancaster and Chester Railway and organized a company to run it.
In addition to Leroy Springs, the incorporators of the new railroad were William Ganson, R.C. McManus, W.T. Gregory, L.C. Payseur, James M. Heath and W.H. Hardin. All of the men were from Lancaster save for Hardin who was from Chester. The capital stock of the company was $50,000. On June 22, 1896, Hardin, also Manager of the Chesterville and Lenior, was elected Manager and Auditor of the line.
Colonel Springs did not have any personal experience in the railroad business. His interest in purchasing the line may have stemmed in part from the fact that his father, Andrew Baxter Springs, had been one of the contractors and directors for the Charlotte, Columbia and Augusta, which helped form the towns of Rock Hill and Fort Mill, South Carolina. His grandfather, John Springs III, had been an early investor of the South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company, the nations first operating railroad, and had the privilege of having one of its early engines named after him in the days when engines were named instead of numbered. The Colonelís brother was President of the Atlantic, Tennessee and Ohio that proceeded from Charlotte to Taylorsville before it ran out of capital. When he would refer to the AT&O in front of fellow businessmen, Colonel Springs would claim to be President of the Lancaster, Klondike and Manila Western.
Although the railroad business as a whole was not prosperous, the newly created L&C did not have to look far for business. Colonel Springs had recently completed a textile mill in Lancaster to go with the mills he already owned in Chester, all of which supplied traffic to the railroad. Other businesses in both towns were also served by the L&C. The line connected with the Southern Railway at both ends; with Carolina & Northwestern (itself later part of Southern) at Chester; and with Seaboard Air Line at Fort Lawn.
In 1899, both the Catawba River Trestle and Lancaster Depot burned a few months apart from one another. The cost to replace both structures nearly equaled what Colonel Springs and his associates paid for the Railway three years earlier. However, this misfortune did allow the line an opportunity to upgrade by building a steel trestle to replace the original wooden one.
For the first six years of its existence, the Lancaster and Chester Railway had the distinct disadvantage of being a narrow gauge railroad. Thus, it was impossible to exchange cars with the main lines, which were standard gauge. Freight had to be unloaded from the main line cars in Lancaster or Chester and reloaded onto the smaller L&C cars and visa versa. Also, the L&C engines had to burn wood because the coal mines were on standard gauge lines and it was not economical to reload the coal onto smaller cars.
In 1902, Colonel Springs borrowed $125,000 from the Southern Railway to convert the L&C rails to standard gauge. The Railway also bought new coal burning locomotives as well as new rail cars. The East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad purchased the old rolling stock from the L&C. By 1913, the L&C owned three steam locomotives, nineteen box cars, two coal cars, two passenger cars and two combines. Capital stock had risen from $50,000 to $500,000.
Things were going well for the small railroad.
Oddly enough, then as now, odd numbered ran eastbound and even-numbered trains ran westbound, against traditional railroad operating procedure. The reason for this is because before Colonel Springs bought the railroad, trains ran through from points north of Chester. Thus, they started their runs as southbound trains which, like westbound trains, normally have odd-digit numbers. They kept their odd-numbers all the way to Lancaster on the Chester and Cheraw, even after they turned east at Chester.
Later that year, the Lancaster and Chester was persuaded to run a special passenger train to carry fans to a baseball series in Chester County between Chester and Dillon. There were as many passengers on this one train as the L&C ordinarily carried in an entire year. To make the most of the trip, several empty coal cars were attached in front of the passenger cars. When the train reached the Hooper Creek Trestle, one of the hopper cars derailed, taking the three coaches into the creek forty feet below. Every person aboard was badly shaken or injured and five lives were lost.
The seventy-one personal injury claims totaled more than $130,000, nearly causing the L&C to go bankrupt. Two weeks after the Hooper Creek derailment, a fire destroyed the Lancaster Depot, which also served as a warehouse for the mill, costing the Railway an additional $75,000. It took Colonel Springs two years to emerge from the Court House with his railroad intact. He then was able to borrow enough money to get the line operating again.
For a short time, it seemed the L&C was on its way to becoming solvent again.
Then, in 1916, a hurricane-generated flood washed away the three span Catawba River Trestle as well as the Cane Creek Trestle near the Lancaster Plant. For weeks, the L&C detoured over the Southern line to Catawba Junction and the Seaboard line to Fort Lawn to connect with its own line. A ferry was then built to take the place of the trestle but this proved to be both slow and expensive.
A new trestle would have cost $90,000, more than the railroad was worth before the old trestle was lost. The Southern Railway was not interested in taking the railroad back and building a new trestle. For a year, the option of abandoning operations and taking up the rails to sell for scrap was considered. A stroke of luck was needed to save the Railway.
Colonel Springs then heard of a main line trestle that was about to be abandoned by the railroad that owned it so they could replace it with a trestle that had double tracks. An added bonus was that the trestle also included a bridge for automobiles. Colonel Springs bought this trestle and then sold it to the county for what he had paid for it. He was left with only the expense of moving the trestle to the Catawba and attaching it to the stone piers of the old trestle that were spared by the flood. That the new trestle fit the piers of the old one was the stroke of luck that the L&C needed.
The Lancaster and Chester resumed operations just in time to be taken over by the government during World War I.
Colonel Springs passed away in April, 1931 leaving his empire to his only child, Elliott White Springs . Elliott Springs was born just weeks after his father purchased the L&C and had a genuine love for the Railway. Under his leadership, The L&C began to prosper in the latter part of that decade on the eve of the Second World War. In 1939, he brought the L&C national attention when he purchased the Loretto. The Loretto was a rail car that had originally been built for the former president of U.S. Steel, Charles M. Schwab. Springs carefully preserved the splendor of the forty-year old carís Victorian design--Cuban mahogany paneling, crystal chandelier, velvet draperies, marble bath and gold-plated beds. He had the Loretto remodeled for office use, then parked it on a siding near the White homestead in Fort Mill.
(Interestingly, the Loretto is alive and well in 2012. She is currently on display at the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer, NC.)
Springs had a flair for colorful advertising, anything to broaden the image of his company and the L&C. One of the things he remains best remembered for is the menu he wrote and printed for the L&C dining car. This menu included: Long Island Ugly Duckling stuffed with Turnip Greens and Pearl Onions, Cannibal Sandwich with real collar buttons, Pork Barrel stuffed with Republican, Drawn and Quartered Democrat Roasted in Own Jacket and Elliott Springs with Garlic and Chlorophyll. Also offered were an alligator pear for one dollar and a pair of alligators for two dollars. Dessert was watermelon Jane Russell, pitted grapes and potted dates. That the L&C did not actually own a dining car at the time did not matter.
Springs rarely did anything in a small way and usually had fun doing it. It was his idea to appoint 29 vice-presidents to the Railway, one for each mile of track. They included playwright Charles MacArthur, golfer Bobby Jones, artist James Montgomery Flagg, writer Lucius Bebe, radio man Lowell Thomas and his wartime friends Billy Bishop and Clayton Knight. Another one of these fictional vice-presidents was Hamond Fisher, who seldom drew a freight train in his Joe Palooka strip without labeling it Lancaster and Chester.
However, it was striptease artist Gypsy Rose Lee, named 'vice-president in charge of unveiling,' who got the most attention. Lee was brought to the attention of Springs by his friend, Agnew Bahnson of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She was a devoted fan of the rails who kept models of famous trains in her basement.
In addition to providing menus for dining cars that did not exist and the naming of the colorful vice-presidents, Springs listed a timetable for trains that likewise did not exist. They included The Shrinking Violet, The Black Label, The Purple Cow, The Red Rose, The White Horse and The Blue Blazes.
However, none of this is to say that Elliott Springs did not take his career as a railroader seriously. When the New York, New Haven and Hartford denied his request for a pass by writing that they were granted only to those lines that generated traffic for its route, he wrote back. "I note that the New Haven does not consider the L&C Railway of sufficient importance to honor its officials with an annual pass. I have personally routed some two hundred carloads over the New Haven in the past three or four months but you may rest assured that I will do otherwise in the future."
When Springs moved into his office at the new company headquarters in Fort Mill, he found himself with a four foot high and 120 foot long blank space on his walls. He proposed a mural of his railroad, the Lancaster and Chester, but several aerial photographers insisted this would be impossible. In spite of this, Springs sent well-known photographer Elliott Lyman Fisher up with company pilot Cecil Neal. They flew up and down the line until Fisher had photographed every foot of track--villages, mills, woodlands and fields. When several mountings of the prints failed to satisfy Springs, Fisher colored each slide by hand. One hundred and eighty lights illuminated the slides from the rear giving them a three dimensional effect. The mounting of the mural allowed Springs to inspect his railroad any time he wished.
In 1946, the L&C upgraded its fleet by buying six diesel locomotives from the U.S. Army. These 65-ton Whitcomb locomotives had seen service in Italy during the war and burned about the same amount of oil to run that the old steam engines used for lubrication. The purchase of these engines made the L&C the first fully diesel-operated railroad in the state, something that Springs liked to boast of. The steam engines formerly used by the railroad were either sold or put out to pasture. However, these diesels did not spend long on the line as they were replaced by three 70-ton six hundred horsepower GEs in late 1950.
In 1951, Gypsy Rose Lee was on hand in Lancaster to 'unveil' the new Williamsburg-style depot. Her six-year old son, Erik, was also present and was photographed with his mother in the cab of one of the L&Cís locomotives. In addition, Springs gave the L&C its slogan, The Springmaid Line. He also outfitted a Rolls-Royce as a high rail inspection vehicle. In the late 50s, the Railway adopted a light blue, gray and white paint scheme to replace the dark blue and white scheme of earlier diesels.
Elliott Springs passed away in 1959 and his son in-law, H.W. Close, became president of Springs and the L&C. In 1961, a steel shop and engine house was built in Lancaster to replace the wood structure that was currently in use. In late 1965, the GE diesels were replaced by two new EMD SW900s. They were given the numbers 90 and 91 and are still in use by the railroad. These locomotives handled the traffic on the line -- much of the time making two freight runs a day -- until December, 1984, when an additional EMD SW900 was added to the fleet and given the number 92. In 1996, two EMD SW1500's, numbered 95 and 96, were added, followed by four EMD SW1200s in 1998, which were numbered 93, 94, 97 and 98. The line leased three GP38-2s from LLPX and an additional two others from Helms Leasing. The experiment must have proven successful as the railroad purchased the units from HLCX and then bought another one from Rail Trust, Inc. (RTEX)
The decision was also made at this time to sell off five of the end cabs. Railfans liked the little switchers because they offered a different look even from other shortlines in the area. Even some L&C crew members hated to see the old motors go, but eventually the decision was made to buy three GP38 models and lease four others from GMTX. The L&C was no longer a quaint little railroad moving forty and fifty foot box cars between textile miles. Now they were lugging heavy grain trains out of Chester for both Circle S Feed Mill on their original line as well as the ADM plant on the former Southern line.
But a bigger change was coming to the railroad. The textile mills that once lined the trackside were all closed now. The once expansive Lancaster Plant had been demolished brick by brick and trucked away. The Grace Complex on the banks of the Catawba River was shut down and the inbound coal loads to the water treatment plant via rail was gone. For most of the railroadís life, the corporate owner had also been its busiest customer. But in the course of a very short time, the company had shut its door and moved overseas.
Speculation began over who would eventually buy Colonel Springsí railroad.
Eventually, in late 2010 the railroad was sold to Gulf & Ohio Railways, ending more than a century of local ownership. The Gulf & Ohio was started by Pete Clausen in 1985 and had been buying shortlines, and often selling them later. By 2011, the G&O owned four lines including the Knoxville & Holston River, Yadkin Valley and Laurinburg & Southern along with the Lancaster and Chester. In a restructuring move, the L&C went from being a Railway to a Railroad. It was a new day for an old railroad.
Chester -- L&C/NS Interchange
Nearest Address Ė
103 Lancaster St
Chester, SC 29706
Back in the days when the L&C was a quaint little textile railroad, they ran from the shop in Lancaster to the interchange in Chester with the Southern ( later Norfolk Southern) then back to the shop in Lancaster. This made it hard to get a lot of good, crisp sunny angle shots. But with the many changes over the last fifteen years, they now run at least one train out of Chester every day. They park the power near Hinton Street behind Clack's convenience store and typically go on duty Monday through Friday at 8 a.m. The sun should be perfect most of the year as they switch cars and get ready to leave for a day of work. The train that will eventually go to Richburg is left here every work day, but the train to Kershaw might be here some days, too. Double the trains!
Thereís a lot of shots to be had depending on the work the crew is doing and the time of day as well. The best spot in the morning will be near the Hinton Street crossing while the better shot in the evening is near the Lancaster Street crossing. Look for a Norfolk Southern local to come down in the afternoons and sometimes meet the L&C train.
Chester Ė Wilson Street
From the interchange, the L&C briefly runs south and then takes a left hand turn to go eastward. The first customer is an old Omnova Plant. From Hinton Street, go east to Harris and take a right. Harris will lead you to Wilson Street and you will see the road crossing to your immediate right.
Omnova used to be much busier than it is now. The nearest crossing is Wilson Street and there should be enough room to pull off. Chances are the will work this plant in the afternoon on the way back into town. The shot is decent in the morning, but doesnít really rise above wedgie status. The afternoon shot of the train approaching Wilson heading westward is much better.
You have a choice to make here. You can follow the tracks more closely one way, but you may miss what I feel is a better shot. So I will take you to one of two great shots for east bound trains. Keep in mind that if the crew does not stop at Omnova, it may be hard to set up for either shot, so as soon as they start heading out of downtown, you may want to make sure you get to the Wilson Street crossing (safely) before they do.
Chester Ė Beltline Road Crossing
From the Wilson Street crossing, go down to the traffic light at the J.A. Cochran Hwy. and go straight. If you have a GPS, youíll see this is the best way to go. Otherwise, you may have doubts. You will already see a new McDonalds on Cochran . Be ready to take an immediate left behind the McDonalds onto Belt Road heading east. Belt will then turn north and in a moment you will see the L&C tracks again. Donít worry about this spot for photographs. Itís strictly head on shots. If you have beaten the train here, you are doing good. But donít race the train. Your shot is not worth risking your life or also making the onboard crew nervous.
Go to the stop sign and turn right onto Beltline Road. This road will cross the L&C in a moment and if you are ahead of the train, you may want to pull off to the right after you cross the tracks and wander into the grassy area between the road and tracks for a shot. This is a good photo, but there is another good shot just down the road and there is no way to shoot both of them on the same run.
Chester Ė Beltline Road/Bridge
The second shot is just down Beltline where the tracks and road converge and the tracks cross a small bridge. Either shot is worth getting, but the bridge shot works better with a wide angle lens.
Chester Ė East Chester/Wye
The next location is down Beltline and for a bit, you may wonder where the railroad went. But itís still over to your left in some trees. In a moment, Beltline will turn to the north and youíll see some signs of life. The tracks will cross the road and suddenly youíve left some scenic farmland and entered one of the most industrial areas on this railroad.
When you come to the Beltline crossing, youíre actually in the middle of a wye. The east side of the wye connects to the right. If you take a left onto Ecology Lane, youíll find the west side of the wye. The crew will use both sides of the wye as needed throughout the day. This allows the possibility of getting both ends of the power at any given time. If youíre chasing the daily train out of Chester, you will be here a while. Just remember to be safe and keep in mind all of the car and 18 wheeler traffic that will be in this area.
The shots at the east side of the wye are decent especially if the train is coming out or shoving in on that side. The shots of the train coming from Chester on the main track are sub par, but if the sun is on the south side of the tracks, it is a little better than from the north side. Catching a train accessing the east leg of the wye from Richburg is a little better if you are that lucky.
There are numerous industries located in this section and it can get interesting to see where they access the plants from. I wonít mention every single one of them, just the ones that are more photogenic.
Chester Ė East Chester/GAF
If you keep going on Beltline toward the north, the tracks from the wye will eventually come back to your right. As the road turns to the left, one set of tracks crosses Beltline to access the GAF plant. This used to be a major shipper on the L&C using box cars from both Class 1s as well as Rail Box and L&C. However, they stopped shipping altogether on rail, though over the years I believe they have set off a few cars here now and then.
The more interesting spot is to your right where the railroad has constructed a small Storage in Transit yard complete with solar-powered switches. Due to the angle of the tracks from this spot, this makes a really interesting angle to shoot from and I have many times.
Some maps say the road changes names once it straightens out again to Meador Road. Iíve always known Beltline to go to Hwy. 9 so Iíll use Beltline. The L&C track is still going north at this point and there should be cars parked on the sidings for various industry. This used to be a long spur to a Springs plant on Hwy. 9 that is still standing. But in the 1980s, the L&C and Seaboard constructed a new interchange north of Hwy. 9 when the Seaboard pulled up the Catawba to Great Falls branch. Previously, interchange had taken place in Fort Lawn between the two roads.
As you get to the stop sign at the intersection with Old Richburg Road (Old Richburg Rd. traffic does not stop!) the L&C will cross immediately to your left, but a separate crossing will also be right in front of you to three separate industry. If the crew is going there, you may want to take a left onto Old Richburg, then another immediate left and pack out of the way to set up for shots of the train crossing Beltline.
There are many shots to be had through this area including closer to the Hwy. 9 crossing. I wonít mention all of them, but if you are chasing the the daily train, youíll have time to scout locations. One thing to note. Some maps may show a road across Hwy 9 that goes down to the CSX interchange. This road has been closed and it used only by railroad crews now. Until the early 90s, it was a through road back to Cedarhurst (across CSX) but not anymore. Stay away from it.
Chester Ė East Chester/Orrs Station Road
As you check out the area, you may want to double back to the GAF crossing and take Orrs Station Rd. Sun angles may be an issue down here, but as you travel south east on this road, youíll note the L&C tracks coming from your right across an open field with a tree-filled back drop. In certain times of the year or on cloudy days, this is a fine shot.
The Orrs Station Rd. crossing leaves a lot to be desired, but if you know a train is coming from Chester, a better spot would be down the road a bit. You may have to shoot around bushes and stuff, but itís a neat little country road shot in either direction.
We are now heading to Richburg and except for a few places, the railroad is going to be inaccessible from public property. From Orrs Station Rd., double back to the Beltline stop sign at the GAF plant and take a right. At the stop sign with old Richburg, take a right onto Old Richburg. You may again feel like youíre nowhere near the railroad, but you will come to it again soon enough. There is a crossing on Taylor Road which will come to your right, but I donít list this is a good spot to shoot. But if you keep on Old Richburg, you will see the tracks creep into view on your left. Due to the tracks being raised above the road and the sun angles most of the time, I donít consider this to be a good spot to shoot either.
Chester Ė Old Richburg Road
However, you will soon come to the crossing at Old Richburg Road. This is a decent shot of an east bound train, but the west bound shot is much better. The east bound shot is better from the east side of the tracks and will most be a head on shot. The west bound shot is better from the west side of the tracks and there is room to play around with here. You can stand on a nearby hill and shoot the train coming through the crossing for a really neat little shot.
Chester Ė Knox Station Road/Knox Farm
This is another case of deciding between spots if you are chasing a train. From the Old Richburg Road crossing, the next spot is literally just down the road. You wonít be able to beat the train from the OR crossing to the Knox Station crossing and itís not a great shot for east bounds anyway. For west bounds, there are some possibilities here and it is a recommended spot for those trains.
But Knox Farm may be a better spot for a train in either direction and it seems to be a popular spot for photographers who come here. You need a long lens as you need to park off of Old Richburg and walk up to a fence surrounding the (private) property of Knox Farms. The tracks go through the farm and itís neat to shoot the train with cows in the foreground. The best advice is to get here a few minutes before the train to figure out the best way to compose the shot. And if you see anyone working the farm, give them a friendly wave! Theyíre probably used to seeing railfans at their fence.
From Knox Farm, get back on Old Richburg Road. The next photo location is a few miles away in the small town of Richburg, first let me tell you about a few non-shooting locations. Lizzie Melton Road will be off to your left, but it crosses the L&C on a very ĺ wedgie type of generic shot and is not recommended. Youíll also come up on the ramp for I-77 in a bit, too. The L&C crosses under the interstate and I do not recommend risking it for the shot either. The north bound bridge would be used for west bound trains and the trees provide so much cover during a good part of the year that itís not worth it. The sound bound bridge provides a better view of east bound trains, but I also do not recommend this either for safety reasons.
Richburg Ė Main Street
So keep going on Old Richburg Road until the stop sign with Hwy. 901/Main Street. Take a left and in a moment you will see the railroad crossing. The small town of Richburg offers some good photography spots of the L&C, but it can be tricky knowing where to go and when. There is a series of tracks that make up Richburg Yard, a spur to the ďnewĒ Thyssen Plant (which opened in 1999) and a series of industry to work on the other side of town.
But thereís also a park where the old Richburg Depot once stood for the kids to play. It also is home to the Edgemoor & Monetta 0-4-0 which is on static display beside the tracks. Now would also be a good time to mention that you are somewhat close to a busy interstate off ramp with Hwy. 9. If you need to gas up, refill a cooler or grab a quick bite to eat, this would be a good spot. There is the typical fast food places such as McDonaldís and an KFC/Taco Bell duo as well as my favorite, Bojangles. If the train is coming to work Richburg, it might be cool to grab a bite to eat then come back down to the park.
East bound trains will be heard well before they are seen as they climb Richburg Hill, one of the steepest railroad grades still active on the east coast. Youíll have plenty of time to decide if you want to shoot the train from the Main Street crossing or back up one block to the next road over, unnamed in Google Maps. Either shot is fine for east bound trains. Main Street is better for west bound traffic.
Now from here, east bound trains normally will either run through Richburg or go to the other end of the yard, but you need to know about the Thyssen Steel spur for future reference. From the Main Street crossing, go south on Main Street one block and take a left onto Lancaster Street. The spur to the Thyssen Krupp plant will cross Lancaster Street, descend down a fairly rough grade and cross Old Richburg into the facility. Itís not a great shot here, but itís neat to see how they get from their track down the plant.
You can go down to the end of Lancaster Street and see the east end of the yard. This road used to cross the tracks, but the crossing was taken out in the 90s. There may be a shot opportunity down here. But for now, do a U-turn and go back to Main Street and take a left. Go back to the intersection with Old Richburg Road and take another left. By now you will see the Thyssen Krupp Steel Services building. The track into the plant will be on the eastern side. This can be a good shot depending on sun angles. The track splits off onto the Thyssen Krupp property. One track goes inside the building.
Richburg Ė L&C Railway Distribution Park
From here, keep going east on Old Richburg and soon you will be at the intersection with SC 9. One track goes into what was the old Thyssen Krupp building. I do not believe the new owner uses rail at this time. As you turn right onto SC 9, you will cross the tracks at grade. This is a decent shot for west bound trains in the afternoon. But for now, I am taking you down to the entrance to the L&C Railway Distribution Park, complete with a sign with the Springmaid logo on it. Most trains typically stop and work the Richburg Yard and this is a good place to pull off the side of the road and watch the activity.
Take special note of the Klerkís Plastic spur. It comes off the main line, crosses the industrial road and meets up with the track beside the plant in the middle. This makes for an interesting spectacle as the crew drops a car off and picks up another. They splits the engines up as the spur can only hold one unit at a time. The load for the plant is on the east end of the train. They bring it onto the spur, then shove it to what amounts to the north end of the spur. If there is an empty to pick up, it has already been moved to the south end of the spur for the crew to couple onto so when they pull back onto the main line, the empty is on the west end of the train. You will want to be on the south side of the main line to get a good shot of this movement.
The Haddon House spur is used for storage cars now and not by Haddon House. I am hoping with an expansion in progress, that this might change soon, but we will have to wait and see. The Guardian spur is an active and daily customer, but it is hard to see activity for this side as the switch is for east bound trains. Itís advised to wait as they work Guardian for them to return to the Richburg Yard. All outbound traffic leaves from the two interchanges in Chester, so more times than not they will go back to the yard in Richburg unless they have left a train stretched out on the track in front of you.
Weíre now going back to SC 9 where we will take a right to go east. Out of Chester, the train can disappear for miles at a time. But for the trip to Lancaster, the Original 29 is going to be mostly in the open which will make it easier to chase and, of course, to photograph. As you leave Richburg, there will be a few crossings near Guardian, but these are not recommended and one is clearly marked private. The tracks will then leave our view but only briefly and come back out at the ATI Allvac plant.
Chester Ė ATI Allvac
There is no spur here, so itís recommended that you only pull into the road knowing a train is coming. East bound trains are better here and there is a tree line you can place the train in front of as well as the sign to the plant. There are more spots along SC ( as you go east, but your mileage will vary as to whether the shots are good or not. But some of the best spots to shoot the L&C are still ahead, too.
Chester Ė Mt. Arant Road
As you go down SC 9, eventually the tracks will veer off to the right behind a church. You can take a right onto Mt. Arant Road, but you need to know that it is now closed at the tracks. Some maps may chow it cross the tracks, then turn left, but this is out dated information. Depending on lighting, there can be a good shot of an east bound train if you frame it right with the church in the foreground, but the best shots are of west bounds over the empty field. Keep this field in mind. It is a good industrial spot and something may pop up here at some point.
Since Mt. Arant ends at the tracks, turn around and go back out to SC 9. The tracks will still be visible, but you would need a long lens to shoot from the highway and in the summer, chances are it will be too grown up for good shots anyway. But your next turn isnít too far away. Look for Morrison Road and take a left. You probably already saw the big feed mill sticking out above the trees. This will be some of the best industrial photo ops on the L&C. But first, be careful on Morrison. The last few times I have been down this way, the road has not kept well and there are big pot holes from all the grain trucks coming back and forth. Also, be on the look out for those grain trucks, too.
Chester Ė Circle S Feed Mill
Morrison takes a left right after crossing the tracks and by now the Circle S Feed Mill is visible as well as the three tracks into the plant. When they are getting grain trains, it can either be really busy here or really empty. The tracks could be crammed with crams or there could be none in sight. Afternoon is the best time for shooting the west end of the yard and trains will sometimes park there if the crews die on the law. Empty grain trains will be made up and will sometimes be stacked on the main line.
The east side of the plant is best for morning shots and this is where they keep the old L&C SW900 #91. Mornings are great to shoot it if it is not parked behind a parked rail car. Also, loaded grain trains will come through the yard and then duck into and out of the plant. If they do this in the morning, you have a prime photo op as well.
Now when youíre ready to leave, reverse your direction on Morrison and head back out to SC 9. Take a right and prepare to drive for a few miles until your next prime location. In a few spots, you will see the tracks to your right, but I donít consider these great shooting or spotting locations, so weííll head on down to the small town of Fort Lawn.
Fort Lawn is an interesting small town and a brief history lesson is in order. The town was named because in the early days of the railroad, the train crew would announce they were stopping for a water break for the steam engines. A family lived near here with the last name of Fort and had a big yard or lawn. So at some point, the railroad crew began calling it Fort Lawn and the name stuck.
As you do down SC 9, youíll note the road takes a gentle turn toward the left, or northwest. At the town limits to Fort Lawn, Hightower Rd. will be to your right. East bound shots will be best here, but still not that great considering what the rest of Fort Lawn has to offer, and I donít recommend west bound shots. The tracks will meet up with SC 9 on your right. Before the highway got four laned, the tracks werenít nearly this close. Keep a look out for Main Street to your right. There is a church here and you can normally park in their parking lot. Again, east bound trains are the best here.
Fort Lawn Ė Main Street
Another short history lesson. Fort Lawn used to be home of two railroads and, in fact, the met near the church. The Seaboard Air Line ran a branch of their main line in Catawba down to another small town called Great Falls. The SAL ran under SC 9, the L&C and Main Street. Interchange with the L&C was made here as well. But in the 80s, CSX and L&C built a new interchange in East Chester near the wye and the Great Falls branch was abandoned and taken up. You have to look hard around here to tell where the line ran as a lot of the road bed was filled in.
From the church parking lot, go down Main Street. Sure, there are other spots to shoot the train in Fort Lawn from trackside, but I want to take you up on SC 21. To do that, go slowly through Fort Lawn until you come out on SC 21. The best parking is on the other side of the road, so you may need to take a right, then do a quick U-turn if you feel it is safe to do so then park just shy of the road side barrier.
Fort Lawn Ė Wagon Wheel
The L&C crosses under SC 21 and both west bound and east bound shots are among the best on the line. Be careful though. Depending on where you stand, there is not a lot of room on the bridge. Iíve shot from here plenty of times and know that others have as well. Be careful and you should be fine. A couple of things to look for. If you shoot an east bound, try to work the Wagon Wheel sign into your shot and if possible the hotel across SC 9. This details ĎplaceĒ the shot better and is an added bonus.
Meanwhile, if you have enough time to sit down for a meal, the Wagon Wheel is a great place to eat some home style cooking for lunch. The dinner menu is also nice and the New York Strips are highly recommended. The salad bar is also nice. To get back to SC 9, you can go across SC 21 and cut through the Wagon Wheel parking lot. Cross the tracks and take a right. The tracks will be within sight for the next few minutes and you will note some good photo ops with the curvature of the tracks.
Fort Lawn Ė Springs Warehouses
By the way, Fort Lawn also used to be a major part of the Springs textile empire. The warehouses, which is still here, would get literally dozens of box cars on all sides (and even inside) the warehouses to be sent to all points throughout North America. Little by little, Springs, owner of the railroad at that time, began using trucks more and more. The tracks around the warehouses were mostly torn out, though a few small segments are still there and can be seen from the road. There are also some tracks in the woods, literally, with small trees growing between them. Left behind are two L&C 40 foot box cars bought in the 1940s. Museum pieces looking for a museum. Two others survive at the South Carolina Railroad Museum in Winnsboro while the rest were scrapped in the 1990s.
As we leave Fort Lawn, there is one more spot that is worth mentioning, the old Springs Leroy Plant. Itís a better shot for trains going to Lancaster, but is worth it each other. The plant is private property, so I would recommend staying near the tracks, get your shots safely and then be on your way. When youíre done, go back out to SC 9 and take a right.
Chester/Lancaster Ė Catawba River Bridge/SC 9 Boat Landing
In less than a mile, you will cross the Catawba River and to your right, you will see a neat bridge that carries the L&C across the waterway. You will also see a dilemma. The bridge is narrow, just the two lanes with no room to even think about standing, much less pulling off to the side. Some shooters have been known to time out a train and hope there is no traffic behind them. But this is a 55 mile per hour speed limit, so there is not recommended at all. But there is still a way to shoot a train on the bridge.
Cross the bridge and look for the first road to the left. There should actually be a sign pointing you to the boat landing. The road is really a dirt driveway, so take it slow. Park under the bridge and then look for a trail leading toward the trestle.
A FEW THINGS YOU MUST HAVE Ė
Blue jeans. There will be weeds and bushes with stickly things on them.
Old shoes or boots that you donít mind getting muddy. The riverís edge tends to be a bit muddy even when it has not rained in a while
The trail is most often used for fishermen, so donít be surprised to run up on someone as you make your way toward the trestle. Just past the fishing spot, youíll come up to an opening that over loks the trestle. Bring a faily wide angle lens. Light is best in the afternoon.
Lancaster Ė Grace Avenue
Now if youíve caught a train crossing the Catawba, you wonít have a chance to shoot at the next location unless they make a stop. Regardless, get in your car and retrace your steps to SC 9. Take a left and in less than a mile, take a right onto Grave Avenue. Youíll already see the railroad crossing. To your right used to be the Grace Water Treatment plant for Springs. It was in a complex with the Grace Bleachery and both were customers of the railroad. As with the warehouses in Fort Lawn, Springs stopped using their own railroad to haul textiles, but the railroad brought cuts of coal cars to the water treatment plant right up until they shut it down in 2007. Now the railroad uses the tracks for storage as well as transloading. You wonít see much of this from public property, but if they make a stop here, this is the reason.
The best spot for east bound trains is on top of a little hill right beside Grave Ave. Just pull off to the side of the road and climb the slight embankment. West bound trains are better from the driveway leading to the old Springs Customer Service facility. Please note the No Trespassing signs. The west bound shots are decent, but itís up to you if you want to use the ďask for forgivenessĒ policy later or not. There are better shots of the railroad to be had at other locations.
Lancaster Ė Air-Rail Industrial Park
Now Google Maps is showing that Nebo Road, which you will see on the east side of Grace, follows the tracks and eventually crosses them. They did in the past, but not anymore. So double back to SC 9 and take a right. In less than half a mile, Nebo comes up to a stop sign on the right. As I right this, they are just getting started on the Air-Rail Industrial Park, but this road should remain public as there is a church located back there. Take a right and follow the road to the tracks. Depending on how tall the bushes are, this could be a decent shot or at least a head on shot from trackside of trains heading toward Chester. In time, if the industrial park grows as they hope it will, this might be a good spot to watch switching operations.
Lancaster Ė Bowers Fibers
Back on Hwy. 9, youíll note a road leading to Bowers Fibers. This is a private road to the facility and when it is closed, they lock the gate. Again, using the Ask For Permission or Ask For Forgiveness method, if you know there is a train coming from Grace, there is a real nice shot from a hill overlooking the tracks coming down a grade on a curve. Again, donít camp out here and if youíre asked to leave, leave. West Bound shots are not worth it. When Springs was still running, the railroad would bring one box car from the Lancaster Plant here full of cardboard to be recycled.
Back on 9, there will be an exit leading off to the right that you will want to take that leads to Meeting Street. When I redo the L&Cís Kershaw District write-up, youíll come back out on this road. In fact, in a short time, it will be hard to do one tour of the line without stumbling over the other line, but for now we are sticking with the Original 29. We are looking for West Manor now and you will take a right immediately after the Open Door Fellowship Church.
Lancaster Ė West Manor Road
The grade crossing is behind the church and shots are good for both east and west bound trains. Youíll note a road that goes down roughly beside the tracks called Peach Farm Road, but it dead ends soon after and offers no real views of the tracks. So turn around and go back to Meeting Street and take a right to head toward town. Youíll pass a few roads to the right, but we are looking for Memorial Park Road. Some maps may show Old Landsford veering off to the right and going to Memorial Park Road. The road is actually closed, but has some interesting aspects to it. At a later date, I may add some history here, but for now, weíre going straight.
Lancaster Ė Memorial Park Road
Meeting Street will turn into a four lane road in a moment and we will take the first road to the right, Memorial Park Road. As you round the curve, you will see the grade crossing up ahead. The shots arenít that pleasing here and you need to be across the tracks before the train stops you if you and it are heading toward Lancaster. So take the first road to the left, Deaton Drive. There will be a few twists and turns for a moment or two, but remember the tracks are to your north. Follow Deaton around a curve to the right until a stop sign. Take a left onto Jenna Lane, followed quickly by another left at another stop sign. You are now on West Brooklyn, but it takes a quick right hand turn and becomes Old Woodlawn Ave. By now you will see the tracks through some houses and if you will keep going to the next stop sign, youíll start seeing better opportunities for shots.
Lancaster Ė Williams Estate Road/Springdale Rd. Bridge
Take a left off of Old Woodlawn onto Williams Estate Road and pull over to the left hand side of the road. This is an excellent spot for shooting trains coming in either direction, but the trains from the west are best. Get there a few minutes before a train and figure out the best ways to shoot the train coming down a grade on a curve. Really excellent possibilities here. Thereís another good spot just up the hill on Williams Estate. The road rises to meet Springdale Rd. which the tracks cross under a bridge. The shots of a train in either direction are excellent. Bring a 70 to 200 mm lens for the best shots of trains heading into town.
Lancaster -- Old Lancaster Plant
Take a right onto Springdale and go to the light and take a left onto Brooklyn Avenue. As you get closer to the bottom of the hill, make sure you are doing the speed limit, 25 miles per hour, as this once was a speed trap and might still be thought of as one. As you come up on the overgrown parking lot to the left, this was once the site of the largest cotton mill in the world under one roof. (One of them anyway as there seem to have been more than one.) It was the Springs Lancaster Plant and as you can see it is now gone. The photos along the old site arenít that great and I would not want to run the risk of a flat tire anyway, so weíre going to ignore that whole area and proceed further east. Youíll also note this isnít the best area to be in. The area around the mill was going down while the mill was still operating. It hasnít got any better since they tore the mill down. Donít hang around too long. Donít stray from your car too far. Use common sense.
Lancaster Ė L&C Shop Area
Find 15th Street and take a left. The railroad will cross the street on a hill, so go slowly. I donít recommend taking shots at this location for the reasons mentioned in the above paragraph as well as the photo lines arenít that great. Take an immediate right onto Skipper Road. Itís a narrow road and it will be slow going, but the railroad runs behind the houses on the left and a spur runs into the shop area from this spot, so youíll want to see it. Thereís not a great opportunity for photography here, but itís neat to see what is lying around outside the shop. Take the left onto Old Skipper Avenue and youíre now in the Builders Supply parking lot. There is a spur in front of you behind the fence and to the right is more shop area. You can shoot over or through the fence depending on what is parked where. Light is better the later in the day it is.
Lancaster Ė L&C Business Office
As you pass Builders Supply, youíll come across the L&Cís Kershaw line. To the left it runs out toward Riverside Road and to the right connects with the Original 29 and keeps going to the ADM plant in Kershaw. Weíll get there soon enough, but for now go to the stop sign and take a right onto Elm Street. (Yes, Elm Street, but thereís no nightmare here.) Go through the first light and then turn right onto Main Street. Youíll cross the Kershaw District again and will see the L&C business office on the right. The Kershaw trains will use the track through the fence to get onto the old Southern line. You can find a place out of the way to park as there are shots to be had from both directions here. Keep in mind that a crew member will walk ahead of the train with a stop sign and typically cars wonít give a lot of room for the train. But itís a neat scene to shoot given the right lighting circumstances.
Another shot is one block over on Catawba Street. With a long lens, you can get the office in the background and eliminate most of the traffic obstacles of trains leaving Lancaster for Kershaw. Iíve shot in both locations and Catawba Street is my favorite of the two. In the old days, the L&C used to interchange with Southern and later NS at this spot. As the old Southern SB line was cut back in segments from Sumter to Kershaw, all interchange between the two railroads took place in Chester. Now with the L&C owning the SB in Lancaster, this is the only connection between their two lines.
So now you have followed the L&C from MM 1 in Chester until the end of the original line at MM 29 in Lancaster. But if youíre following a train for ADM, you still have a little way to go. So letís not waste timeÖ
In the previous railfanning essay, we went from Chester to Lancaster, but that's just a little more than half of the railroads miles. We still have the Kershaw District to go, so let's not waste time.
Lancaster Ė L&C Business Office
The Kershaw trains will use the track through the fence to get onto the old Southern line. You can find a place out of the way to park as there are shots to be had from both directions here. Keep in mind that a crew member will walk ahead of the train with a stop sign and typically cars wonít give a lot of room for the train. But itís a neat scene to shoot given the right lighting circumstances.
Another shot is one block over on Market Street. With a long lens, you can get the office in the background and eliminate most of the traffic obstacles of trains leaving Lancaster for Kershaw. Iíve shot in both locations and Market Street is my favorite of the two. In the old days, the L&C used to interchange with Southern and later NS at this spot. As the old Southern SB line was cut back in segments from Sumter to Kershaw, all interchange between the two railroads took place in Chester. Now with the L&C owning the SB in Lancaster, this is the only connection between their two lines.
Trains are sometimes left here overnight. It's where the crew originates even when the train is left elsewhere. The trainmaster will take them to where it was left. The crew of Train 14 goes on duty at 6 a.m., so this location is best for days when the crew keeps going when they get here in the afternoon.
A quick observation. The Kershaw District goes in two directions from where the lines connects. So if they're heading to the old AmeriSteel plant on Riverside, they'll leave Lancaster with only gondolas and a boxcar from time to time. If they have tank cars and hopper cars, they're heading toward Pleasant Hill and Kershaw.
Lancaster - Kershaw - Camden Hwy. Bridge
Right now, we are following a train to Kershaw and will come back up to follow the line northwest later on. For the sake of this guide, we are going to assume you are on Catawba Street. There is a road crossing back in another neighborhood that is not much better than the area around the mill. So we are going to ignore it and head out south on Market.
Market Street turns into Business 521, or Kershaw-Camden Highway, and shortly thereafter, you will catch up with the tracks again where the railroad crossing the highway. Shots are better of trains coming back to Lancaster instead of leaving, but depending on light, good shots can be had in both directions.
Lancaster - Stevens Hill Road
From the bridge, there is another neat shot close by, but I don't believe you can shoot a train at the bridge and get to this location. So if the light isn't great at the bridge, you may want to come here instead or save it for your next chase.
Keep going under the bridge and in about a mile, there is a road to the right just in front of the Carolina Christian Academy. The road appears unnamed, but it soon comes out to Old Camden Road. Take a right here and you'll come to a road named Stevens Hill Road. Take a left and come to a stop at the railroad tracks. Visibility to the right is practically zero, so they'll be blowing like crazy here.
Cross the road if it is safe. The road takes an immediate left right after the tracks and goes down a dip. As you crest the hill, find a spot to turn around and you should see a great shot before your eyes. Of course, if you're chasing from Kershaw, stop of the other side of the dip. This is a neat little spot that not a lot of other folks seem to shoot at. It's one of my favorite spots on the Kershaw District.
Double back out the same way you came in but you can go straight behind the academy and come out on SC 521. Doing this will enable you to cut out a stop sign. Take a right onto 521 and from here, you will see the railroad for practically the next eight or nine miles unlike the Original 29 which snakes through trees and wooded area a fair bit of the time.
At a later date, I will come back and point out some of the better shots and then take you up to Riverside Road to AmeriSteel.
Here is a rough guideline of the current schedule for the L&C if you wish to catch them. This is from my observations along with the word of trusted sources, ex-railroad men and other photographers.
LC 10 -- An extra train that typically works nights. I've seen them use the power from LC 14, but I *think* they can use any trains power depending on the work that needs to be done.
LC 12 -- Originates and terminates at the wye in East Chester. Works the industries on and around the wye and aslso Omnova in Chester. They can also go to the NS interchange downtown. Power is parked on the Coatext spur when not in use, easily visible from a public road. Crew sems to go on duty at 6 a.m.
LC 14 -- Crew goes on duty in Lancaster at the L&C depot, but sometimes is trucked to where the power was left the night before. Typically crew starts work at the new facility in Pleasant Hill.M in Kershaw. Once or twice a week, they will also work the old AmeriStell on Riverside Road in Lancaster. This is the daily train that is hardest to pinpoint. They typically meet LC 16 in Richburg, but sometimes the timing is off and 16 has already departed for Chester.
LC 16 -- Originates in downtown Chester and will work westward to Richburg, but will sometimes go as far as Circle S or Fort Mill, depending on where they are meeting LC 14. Power is parked in downtown Chester when not in use and is easily seen from Hinton Street. Crew goes on duty at either 6 am or 7 am.
LC Extra -- Grain trains come often for Circle S and rarely for ADM, but if they come on a weekend, a crew will be dispatched to Chester to pick it up. Grain can be handled on weekdays too by LC 16.
12, 14, 16 are typically M-F.