Railroads in Pelzer
Greenville & Columbia Railroad (Columbia & Greenville Railroad) 1845 - 1903
The Greenville & Columbia Railroad (chartered 1845) was the first railroad to pass through the Wilson's Ferry area (The name changed to Pelzer in the 1880s). Completed in 1854, it was the first railroad to connect Greenville, SC and Columbia, SC. During the Civil War the railroad contributed to the war effort.
Around 1880, the name was changed to the Columbia & Greenville Railroad. Pelzer appeared as a small stop on the Columbia & Greenville in 1881. The depot was located near the intersection of US Hwy 81 and 20 and a spur from the depot to the Lower Mill's warehouses and boiler house was finished within the next few years. In 1893-1894 another spur was constructed to the Upper Mill.
The railroad was a lifeline for the mill. Without the railroad, Pelzer wouldn't become a thriving mill town in the 20th century. Raw cotton was imported from plantations around the South and the finished product was exported nationally and internationally.
Southern Railway (Norfolk Southern Railway) 1903 - 1982
Southern Railway acquired the Columbia & Greenville Railroad in 1903. The old Columbia & Greenville Railroad depot was replaced with a new Southern Railway depot which included a passenger station and freight house. When the Piedmont & Northern Electric Railway was completed through Pelzer in 1912, a junction was created with the Lower Mill spur. Two connections were made with the P & N with the Southern Railway spurs and parts of the right of way was shared to the mills. One was created at the junction of the P & N to service the Lower Mill and another by extending the existing Upper Mill spur to the P & N track.
In 1982, Southern Railway became the Norfolk Southern Railway by merging with Norfolk & Western Railway. Around the late 1980s, both the Lower and Upper Mill spurs were abandoned and the track was taken up years later.
Southern Railway Depot
Southern Railway's Pelzer and West Pelzer depot was located near the present-day CVS Pharmacy on the intersection of Hwy 145, 20 and 8. The depot has been demolished.
Piedmont & Northern Railway
Anderson Traction Company 1905 - 1910
The Anderson Traction Company, owned by James B. Duke of the Southern Power Company, was an electric interurban streetcar line between Anderson, SC and Belton, SC with connections to different cotton mill around Anderson. Operation started in 1905 and electricity was provided by the Anderson Water, Light & Power Company's Portman Shoals Hydroelectric Plant and municipal steam power plant. In 1906, additional electricity was provided by the Savannah River Power Company's Gregg Shoals Hydroelectric Plant.
Greenville, Spartanburg & Anderson Railway 1910 - 1914
In 1910, James B. Duke established the Greenville, Spartanburg & Anderson Railway which had plans to run an electric railroad from Anderson, SC to Spartanburg, SC via Belton and Greenville using the Anderson Traction Co. rails and right of way from Anderson to Greenville. The main source of electricity was provided by the Southern Power Company. In 1912, railroad construction reached Pelzer, where two connections were made with the Lower and Upper Mill spurs owed by Southern Railway. The Pelzer P & N depot was completed in 1912 in Piedmont & Northern style and architecture.
The idea of an electric railway linking cities and mill town in Piedmont Carolinas was proposed in 1909 by William States Lee of the Southern Power Company. Starting in 1910, multiple interurban lines were constructed throughout the piedmont Carolinas. The Piedmont Traction Company, also owned by James B. Duke, bought a variety of interurban railroads in North Carolina in cities such as Charlotte and Gastonia. In 1911, the Greenville, Spartanburg & Anderson Railway would start to build the South Carolina portion of the P & N, the two companies would merge after finishing the railroads in both North and South Carolina. An extension from Belton, SC to Greenwood, SC was completed in 1912 and final completion in 1914.
After completion of the Greenville, Spartanburg & Anderson Railway (the South Carolina division), the company merged into the Piedmont Traction Company (the North Carolina division) to form the Piedmont & Northern Railway.
Piedmont & Northern Railway (Electric) 1914 - 1954
The Piedmont & Northern Railway's main purpose was to serve Southern industries, mainly the textile industry. The Southern Power Company's transmission lines extended from hydroelectric power plants across Upstate South Carolina and North Carolina, powering cotton mills in many Piedmont Carolina cities.
With over 128 miles of P & N electrified rail, several of the Piedmont Carolina's major cities and mill towns served by the Southern Power Company were linked together. In the rural regions, the P & N paralleled the their most difficult competitor, Southern Railway, in sections of North and South Carolina. Over the next 40 years, the P & N Rwy battled with Southern Railway over various problems. Around cities, the P & N formed junctions and connections with several major railroad companies and interurban streetcar lines. Railroads such as the, Southern Railway, Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, Charleston & Western Carolina, etc, serviced the mills and were huge competition to the newly constructed P & N Rwy. To reduce competition and ensure cotton mill companies would transport their freight using the P & N Rwy, mill owners and their companies were asked to become directors and investors of the railroad company.
Electricity was provided by the Southern Power Co., energizing the electric railway lines at 1500 volts DC. Multiple substations were built along the railroad where 44kV was converted into 1.5kV through a 'rotary converter'. The 1.5kV lines ran above the rail on catenary support poles.
In 1916, a three mile branch to Belmont, NC was completed and in the 1920s - 1930s, Southern Railway legally blocked an extension to connect the Northern and Southern divisions between North and South Carolina along with a branch to Winston-Salem, NC. Starting in 1950, the P & N slowly went from electric to diesel locomotives completing 'dieselization' in 1954 when the catenary poles were removed and remaining electric locomotives sold or scrapped. The Lee Steam Station was completed downstream from the Lower Dam in 1951 with a non-electric branch from the P & N Rwy.
Piedmont & Northern Railway (Diesel) 1954 - 1969
Since the switch from an electric railroad to a diesel railroad, passenger service ended in 1951 along the P & N Rwy. The Duke Power Company's (Southern Power Co. renamed in 1927) Lake Norman in North Carolina was under construction in the early to mid 1960s. A branch from Mt. Holly, NC to the Lake Norman Power Plant was completed to transport coal.
In 1969, the Piedmont & Northern Railway was acquired by the Seaboard Coast Line.
Seaboard Coast Line (Seaboard System Railroad) 1969 - 1986
From 1969 to 1986, the former Piedmont & Northern Railway formed part of the Seaboard Coast Line's (later renamed the Seaboard System Railroad) railway system. Pelzer's old P & N depot became the SCL station. Since the 1970s, the Pelzer depot had an SCL sign on its exterior wall until around 1986 when the Seaboard System Railroad merged with CSX Transportation.
CSX Transportation 1986 - Present
The Seaboard System Railroad merged into CSX Transportation in 1986 giving CSX the old P & N Railway lines. From Greenwood to Honea Path, the track was abandoned and removed in the 1990s. The present CSX (ex P & N Rwy) railroad in Pelzer has serviced the Lee Steam Station since 1951.
Piedmont & Northern Depot
Pelzer's P & N depot was built in 1912 in tradition P & N Rwy architecture near the Lower Mill. P & N Rwy buildings used white and red brick walls with terra-cotta tile roofing. The depot served as a passenger and freight station until abandonment. Clemson University had interest in restoring the depot until the economy went under. After years of neglect the building burned down on January 26th 2011.
Jeffrey Kraemer. E-mail: email@example.com