Living Here Guide

Columbia trains might thwart traffic, but they spur commerce

Matt Walsh

Downtown Columbia area commuters would do well to keep an eye out for trains.

While various train crossings are sprinkled across the region, one of the greatest concentration of tracks can be found in the area between the University of South Carolina campus and Williams Brice Stadium and surrounding areas including Olympia Mills.

That concentration, combined with various seasonal events like USC football games and the South Carolina State Fair, can require a bit of patience due the inevitable backup due to a train stop.

Columbia is a hub for both Norfolk Southern and CSX Transportation, two of the four major railroad companies in the United States. That makes for regular train stops, particularly in the above-mentioned areas.

Some of the most troublesome back-ups are generally closer to the switching yards – where trains are more prone to slow down, stop and back up while they switch out freight cars. Norfolk Southern’s local switching yard is off Shop Road near Owens Field in Columbia. CSX’s yard is off State Street in Cayce.

There are no restrictions on how many trains run through an area each day and companies are not required to publish a schedule.

The state and many cities, including Columbia and Cayce, limit the time – locally, to five minutes – that trains legally can block an intersection once they come to a complete stop. But the penalties are quite low.

But commuters who expect an excessive stop can call the number posted at the rail crossing to alert officials of a delay.

Bertram Rantin