MYSTERY PHOTO:   Twin towers

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Last issue’s mystery

The Jan. 29 mystery, shown at right, was a picture from 1979 of the railroad station in Branchville, S.C. What’s interesting about it is how two sets of tracks split with the station in the middle. Hats off to those who correctly identified the image: George Graf of Palmyra, Va., Tom Tindall and Mary Honey Coan, both of Edisto Island; Paul Hedden of James Island; and Mary Bush Bryan of Hampton, S.C. (If there were others, we apologize for not identifying you, but some of our inbound emails over the last week didn’t get to us.)

Tindall shared this information, part of which came from the state Department of Archives and History: “The photo is of the Southern Railways depot, located in Branchville, S.C., and holds a significant position in the railroad history of the United States. The depot played an important role in both the development of commerce and transportation in South Carolina during the 19th century. The primary purpose of the railroad was to bring more trade to the seaport of Charleston. From 1820 to 1830, Charleston had experienced an economic decline, and a means to secure trade from the upper Savannah was desperately needed. Establishment of the railroad made shipping more efficient for inland towns to send their cotton and farm products to market.

“Branchville is one of the state’s older established communities. The first settlement was at the branch of an old Indian trail which, leading from Charleston, split at a venerable old oak tree, now gone. One branch of the trail led to the west, joining other trails at what was then called Fort Monroe, now the present day North Augusta. The other veered to the north, following the North Edisto River toward what is now Orangeburg, and continuing to the town of Granby, now known as Cayce. In 1832, the railroad line from Charleston to Branchville was completed. It was opened to Hamburg in 1833 and became the longest line then in existence as well as being almost twice as long as any in the United States. In 1840, the line was extended to Orangeburg, thus establishing Branchville as the oldest railroad junction in the United States.”

Graf provided more information based on reading several blogs: “The Southern (Railroad Company) donated this station to the town, and its adjoining dining room were fully restored. In one section of the station, there is a railroad museum and in the back section there is a very good restaurant called “The Eatery at The Depot.” On the set of tracks to the left (former Charleston-Augusta line), there is a Southern caboose that has been left by the railroad. The only track to the right that remains is the one closest to the platform. This is Norfolk Southern’s “S.C. line” between Charleston and Columbia.”

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