In 1827, South Carolina granted permission to the South Carolina Canal and Railroad to build a line.
In September 1829, the company hired Horatio Allen as its chief engineer and track work began on Jan. 14, 1830 – two years after the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. On Dec. 24, 1830, the railroad demonstrated the Best Friend of Charleston. The locomotive, designed by E.L. Miller and C.E. Detmold, was built at the West Point Foundry in New York City.
The day after the trial run, the Best Friend of Charleston was placed into regular duty by the railroad and would remain so until June 17, 1831, when tragedy struck and the engine’s boiler exploded. The explosion raised concerns about the safety of railroads – a topic still debated today. It was later revealed that a fireman “bothered by the hissing of escaping steam from the engine, tied down its exhaust valve.”
The fireman was killed.
Also in December 1831, the South Carolina Canal and Railroad became the first line to carry mail. The Best Friend in Charleston would become the first steam locomotive in regular service in the United States of America. It could reach speeds of 20 mph.