Southern Railway Company
Train service first reached Calhoun, South Carolina (later Clemson) on September 28, 1873 after the Atlanta & Richmond Air Line Railway spent three years constructing a five-foot gauge line between Atlanta and Charlotte. The line went into foreclosure in 1877 and was sold, becoming part of the Richmond & Danville Railroad, known as the Piedmont Air Line Route. Controlled by the Clyde family steamship operators, their railroad holdings went insolvent in the financial crisis of 1893 and the Southern Railway System was created in 1894 as the financial offices of John Pierpoint Morgan in New York City consolidated many insolvent southern lines, with the track though Calhoun, founded in 1892, becoming part of the Washington, D.C.-Atlanta mainline.
The line through Calhoun was rebuilt and realigned in 1915-1916, and the concrete box underpass on the old Six Mile Highway, now Highway 133, lasted until 1976 when it was replaced with the current railroad bridge during a road-widening project. On June 25, 2009, there was a public meeting at the Clemson Chamber of Commerce to discuss replacing the 1976 structure to accommodate increasing traffic needs at the only spot where the rail line is crossed in the City of Clemson.
Although the Southern had a fleet of handsome steam locomotives in the 1920s and 1930s, they were aging as World War II approached, and Depression conditions had prevented replacing older power. Therefore, the Southern Railway was one of the earlier railroads to embrace diesel technology, and they began ordering the new engines prior to the onset of the war. The last regular steam operation by the Southern came on June 17, 1953 when Heavy Mikado No. 6330 dropped its fires in Chattanooga after a freight run.
The Southern would continue to offer passenger service through Clemson until February 1, 1979, when the National Rail Passenger Corporation, popularly known as Amtrak, assumed responsibility for the Southern Crescent, one of only two privately operated passenger trains in the country (The other was the Rio Grande Zephyr, operated by the Denver & Rio Grande Western, between Denver, Colorado and Oakland, California). The Southern Railway System would continue to operate freight trains through Clemson until it was merged out of existence with the creation of Norfolk Southern on June 1, 1982, as the Southern linked up with the Norfolk & Western Railway.
- A freight train derailed while crossing the Seneca River trestle (now spanning Lake Hartwell) in the mid-1960s and cars were strewn along the south embankment and several went into the lake. The boxcars filled with cotton waste are still down there. They were judged too heavy to lift and not worth the trouble.
- Most of the 136-pound (per yard) rail on the mainline through Clemson was rolled in Tennessee in 1968.
- The signal masts at MP 514.3, about a half mile south of the Clemson depot, indicate track alignments and occupancy for a block of track approximately 12 miles long. The three most common aspects are 1.) yellow over red - neutral - nothing coming or going; 2.) green over red - track aligned for southbound traffic; and 3.) red over red - traffic in the block towards Seneca - just after a southbound passes, or a northbound approaching.