On December 21, 1836, the Louisville, Cincinnati & Charleston Railroad was chartered to construct a railroad from an intersection with the Charleston & Hamburgh Railroad to some point on the Ohio River, near the city of Cincinnati. Failing to obtain a continuous charter through all states on the planned line, along with other causes, the original plan was abandoned. It was originally planned to go from Charleston to Columbia, then to the French Broad River of North Carolina and Tennessee, to Knoxville, then through Kentucky to Newport, and on to the Ohio River, opposite Cincinnati.
The former governor of South Carolina, Robert Y. Hayne
, was the first president of the Louisville, Cincinnati & Charleston Railroad. On December 28, 1837, the company purchased the Charleston & Hamburgh Railroad, and it reduced the line's running time from twelve hours to ten hours, as well as eliminating stationary steam engines at all inclined planes by going to a counterbalanced steam locomotive system.
In 1838, the Louisville, Cincinnati & Charleston Railroad started construction on the Branchville & Columbia Railroad, and seventeen miles were opened in 1840. The line reached Columbia in 1842. The first train reached Columbia on June 20, 1842 and the first freight train arrived ten days later on July 1st. The first locomotive was named the Robert Y. Hayne
after the company's first president, however, he had passed away in 1839 and never saw the line completed.
The Louisville, Cincinnati & Charleston Railroad puchased the stock, road, and corporate privileges of the South Carolina Canal & Railroad Company for $2,400,000, and in 1844 the two charters were united by an act of the South Carolina General Assembly under one corporation, known as the South Carolina Railroad Company.