• 61°

Saluda to celebrate anniversary of last run of ‘Carolina Special’ Dec. 5

After 53 years of running from Charleston to Asheville and beyond to the Midwest, the passenger train “Carolina Special” made its final run up the Saluda Grade 50 years ago on Dec. 5, 1968.  

To commemorate this occasion, the Saluda Historic Depot invites everyone to a drop-in reception at the depot from 6-7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 5. There will be special guests, speakers and refreshments.  

Special guests and speakers will be: 

Bill Schafer, a retiree from Norfolk-Southern and co-founder of the Southern Railroad Historical Association, will cover a brief history of the Carolina Special, and conclude with some personal memories of the train, especially on Dec. 5, 1968.

Schafer, 70, graduated from Davidson College in 1970, and began working for Southern Railway in 1971. He retired in 2011 as Norfolk Southern’ s Director-Strategic Planning in Norfolk, Virginia, after a career spanning over 40 years. 

Schafer has harbored a lifelong interest in railroads in general and railroad history in particular. While at college, he made numerous trips to western North Carolina to ride and photograph passenger trains, including the “Asheville Special” and the “Carolina Special.” He actually rode over Saluda Grade on the “Carolina Special” seven times over the years 1966-1968, and once more on a special train in 1972.  

He skipped a few classes to photograph the last “Carolina Special” climbing the grade on Dec. 5, 1968.  

In 1986, Schafer helped found the Southern Railway Historical Association, which preserves and disseminates information related to the Southern Railway, principally through its quarterly journal, TIES Magazine. He is also a member of the board of directors of the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum in Chattanooga, which restores, maintains, and operates historic Southern Railway equipment. 

Schafer and his wife, Linda, travel extensively, but call Virginia Beach, Virginia, home.

Schafer will bring some back issues of TIES Magazine for sale that feature Saluda and/or the “Carolina Special,” a small supply of SRHA’s 2019 all-color calendar; one of the months (December) features a photo of the steam-powered “Carolina Special” on Saluda Grade.  Some of the proceeds from these sales will be donated to the Saluda Historic Depot. 

Raymond “Bo” Brown, of Spartanburg, will return to the depot after presenting “How ‘The Southern’ Served the South” at Saluda Train Tales in 2017.  He will be on hand to answer questions about the history of Southern Railway Dining Car Service and will bring samples of dining service — including china patterns, silver hollowware, silver flatware, linens and menus — all things used in the dining car during their 84 years of Southern Railway passenger car service. 

Carolyn Weisbecker, daughter of Francis B. Fishburne, who commissioned the painting of the “Carolina Special” by the famous American artist Howard Fogg, will be a special guest. Howard Fogg was known to “single-handedly paint the trains of America into railroad history.” 

Weisbecker will tell the story behind the painting and will bring prints that will be for sale. Proceeds from the sale will go to the Saluda Historic Depot.  

Her father, Francis B. Fishburne was a great friend of Frank Clodfelter, the Southern engineer who ran the Carolina Special for many years. Her grandfather, also named Francis. B. Fishburne, was a conductor on the Columbia to Asheville run for 40 years. He passed away in 1939. 

A group of citizens formed a 501(c)3 nonprofit and purchased the Saluda Depot in June 2016, and has created a railroad and heritage museum to celebrate and memorialize the town’s railroad history and its beginnings.

-Submitted by 

Cathy Jackson