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WINNSBORO – On Oct. 18, 19, 25 and 26, the sounds of a steam locomotive will once again echo over the hills and fields of Fairfield County.
The steam train will be operating over a section of the S.C. Railroad Museum's rail line, the former Rockton & Rion Railway, a 12-mile short line built in the late 19th century to haul granite from the Anderson and Rion quarries to the Southern Railway interchange at Rockton.
In the early 1970s, the railroad operations ceased and the track laid idle the next 10 years.
In 1984, Martin Marietta Aggregates donated the railroad to the S.C. Railroad Museum Inc.
In the mid-1980s, the museum began the restoration of the track and began offering train rides to visitors in the early 1990s on 1.2 miles of restored track. Today, the S.C. Railroad Museum operates demonstration trains from Rockton to the Rion Quarry railroad yard, a 10.2-mile round trip.
The museum is excited about bringing the Flagg Coal No. 75 to South Carolina. Built in 1930 by the Vulcan Iron Works, this 41-ton saddle tanker saw service in Pennsylvania and New York before its retirement in 1950.
From 1953 until 1991, No. 75 sat untouched in Sandy Pond, N.Y., until John and Byron Gramling bought it and moved it to their shop in Ashley, Ind. Over the next 10 years, this father son duo painstakingly restored the locomotive to operating condition.
Riding in one of the museum's coaches, visitors will experience the authentic feeling and sounds of the coal-fired steam locomotive. During the seven-mile one hour round trip from Rockton to Greenbrier, visitors will enjoy viewing the woods and fields of rural Fairfield County while museum interpreters narrate the history of the Rockton & Rion Railway, the complicated coordination required to operate a steam locomotive and the development of the S.C. Railroad Museum.
Trains will operate at 9:30 a.m., 11 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Oct. 18 and 25 and at 1 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Oct. 19 and 26.
Tickets are $15 each all ages. Advanced reservations can be made by using the advanced reservation form at the museum's Web site, www.scrm.org.
Tickets will also be sold on the day of the trips on a first-come, first-serve basis. Trips, dates and times sold out will be posted on the museum's Web site. For details, call (803) 635-4242 or visit the museum's Web site.
The S.C. Railroad Museum is a nonprofit corporation with both federal and state tax-exempt status.