This publicity photograph features Southern Railway’s replica of the pioneer locomotive "Best Friend of Charleston" at Charleston, South Carolina, about 1928. It was built for the centennial of the South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company, which made the first run of the "Best Friend" on Christmas Day, 1830. Significantly, this inaugural run initiated scheduled railroad passenger service in the United States.
The Best Friend of Charleston was among the first commercial railroad locomotives built domestically in America. Only six months after its historic run, the locomotive was destroyed by a boiler explosion later attributed to the ignorance of the locomotive fireman who disabled the safety valve to prevent it from hissing.
This photo was retouched to clean up the locomotive and cars although the background was largely left alone. Heavy-handed retouching was typical for publicity photographs in the first half of the twentieth century and deemed necessary to compensate for the coarse quality of halftone reproduction used in newsprint.
Since December 1, 2007, the Best Friend has been displayed by Southern Railway’s successor Norfolk Southern at its David R. Goode office building in midtown Atlanta. This office is named for the former NS chairman and chief executive officer.