HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – You might start to see more businesses take up shop along the railroads in Horry, Marion and Columbus Counties. The old Carolina Southern Railroad is now called Carolina Lines, and the new railway makes its first run Thursday.
Two South Carolinians had the vision to turn the railroad into an integral part of the communities it runs through. Tabor City's Dennis Worley and Myrtle Beach's Doug Wendel sought to buy the railroad from its previous owner when it sat idle after deemed unsafe by the Federal regulatory agency for railroad transportation. The railway shut down in 2011.
Bill Henderson, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for RJ Corman Railroad, said Worley and Wendel realized the rail's critical role in local economies and decided to act. A lawsuit was filed against the owner of the railroad, forcing the owner to make the repairs to put the train in working order, or sell. The owner sold the Carolina Southern Railroad for $13.9 million. RJ Corman, a Kentucky company, bought the railroad on August 17, 2015 and began repairs immediately.
The railway stretches 90 miles throughout Marion, Horry and Columbus counties. Henderson said the railroad was in bad shape, but Worley, Wendell and other community and state leaders presented the railway with the possibility of being a premiere short-line railway. The hook for RJ Corman was the possibility of new jobs and expansion. The newly-named Carolina Lines will be able to ship anywhere in the country, because the line connects to a CSX station in Mullins, SC.
Michael Simmons, the director of transportation for the Canfor Lumber Company, says the railway is going to provide places as far as Canada and the American Southwest with South and North Carolina lumber for the first time. The company has a lumber mill in Conway, which currently employs 159 people, will now ship their goods internationally. The Conway mill was forced to use trucking for transportation when the railway closed in 2011. Now, they will use both train and truck. Simmons said every four truck loads is equal to one train car. Over time, the railway could lead to hundreds of job openings as manufacturing businesses grow or take up shop to be near the rail line.
RJ Corman isn't finished with the rail renovations. Doug Wendel said officials and the company are looking to get the federal Tiger Grant. The grant is worth millions and can pay for more rail upgrades to the train can travel at speeds up to twenty-five miles per hour. Right now, the train can only travel up to ten miles per hour. If it reaches twenty-five, business can expand to top manufacturers, Wendel said.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony for South Carolina is in Loris, SC at 10:30 a.m. downtown at 'the clock.'
Tune in to WMBF News beginning at 4 p.m. today for a complete report on Wednesday's ribbon-cutting.
Henderson said "[the train] will travel to Nickels, to Fairbluff, to Chadbourne, at Chadbourne then south to Tabor City, to Conway, and then down to the Intracoastal Waterway."