State paper resurrects old CN&L Railroad

05/24/2011

In a curious corporate transaction that was apparently missed by railroad aficionados and everyone else except a few folks at The State newspaper, the old Columbia, Newberry and Laurens Railroad would seem to be back in service.

More than a quarter century after the historic line was formally merged into what became CSX Transportation, the CN&L has roared back to life, according to the Columbia publication.

A short story in Friday’s State reported that a 52-year-old bridge that “spans C.N. and L. Railroad” three miles northwest of Columbia topped this year’s list of South Carolina’s substandard bridges for the 10th time.

Given that the Columbia, Newberry and Laurens (which was likely never referred to in print during its heyday as the “C.N. and L. Railroad”) hasn’t existed as an independent line in nearly 90 years, perhaps it’s not surprising it can’t keep up with its infrastructure.

Actually, the CN&L enjoyed a solid run during its lifetime. Despite being nicknamed the “Crooked, Noisy and Late,” the carrier proved an important link between the Upstate and Midlands, running a 75-mile route beginning in 1891.

The Columbia, Newberry and Laurens’ first locomotive was built in the late 19th century and the CN&L ran daily passenger trains that originated from Union Station in Columbia and traveled up to Laurens. Steam-powered passenger service continued until 1952.

The CN&L played a pivotal role in the development of several communities along its line, including Irmo, Chapin, Little Mountain, Prosperity and Joanna.

Friday’s story isn’t the first time The State has resurrected the long-gone CN&L. Part of the problem rests with dated maps which show rail lines still bearing the old CN&L name.

The other issue would appear to be a general lack of institutional knowledge about the area among reporters and editors of The State.

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