The North Western, affectionately known as "None Worse", had its beginnings as two separate logging lines, had one section that almost became part of the main SAL "S-line" through South Carolina, and finally built an extension to Camden and had an operating agreement with the ACL.
The section from Wilson, SC, to Summerton and "Millard" was built as the Wilson & Summerton by Thomas Wilson, a lumber magnate, to bring lumber to his mill at what was then known as Wilson's Mill on the Central Railroad of SC (now the CSX line from Sumter to Lane, SC). The W & S was chartered in 1888 and was completed through Summerton to Millard on the Charleston, Sumter & Northern (CS&N) on the west side of Summerton. Towns on the line between Wilson's Mill and Summerton were Bloomville, Jordan, and Davis Station. The W & S used trackage rights from Millard on the CS&N down to Coskreys, now known as St. Paul. Service began on September 10, 1889.
The Charleston, Sumter & Northern was chartered to extend a line from Vance on the Eutawville RR on the S side of the Santee River, across the river through Millard to Sumter, Cheraw and eventually Monroe, NC. The line was already extended across the Santee in 1888, and in 1890 the CS&N built through Millard, Packsville (now Paxville), Silver, Tindall, Pocalla Springs and into Sumter. From Sumter the line was extended to Elliot where it connected with the Bishopville RR, to Lamar, Darlington, Mont Clare, Marlboro and into Bennetsville where it met the South Carolina Pacific, a Cape Fear & Yadkin Valley subsidiary. The last extension in 1892 took the line to Gibson, NC, where it connected with the Raleigh & Augusta Air Line with trackage rights into Hamlet. It became clear that the whole purpose of the CS&N was to become part of the SAL line south into North Florida, and the line became the focal point of interest for the SAL and ACL. It provided an alternate route S versus the ACL, and the ACL was worried about the competition. However, the SAL did not financially support the CS&N, and due to all the building, the CS&N entered receivership in 1892. Vandals (?) burned the bridge over the Santee River and apparently the SAL lost interest. Still worried about the potential competition, the ACL formed the Charleston & Northern in 1895 for the sole purpose of buying the line. This happened soon after, and then the ACL broke the line up and assigned parts to several member companies or sold the lines to others. The section from St. Paul to Sumter was sold to the W & S. The section from Sumter to Darlington was assigned to the Manchester & Augusta, and the section from Darlington to Bennettsville and Gibson was assigned to the Cheraw & Darlington.
In 1899, the W & S was renamed the North Western Railroad of SC. This name had actually been used by the ACL in 1889 when it planned to build from Sumter to Camden, but it had not acted on the plan. Thomas Wilson reached an agreement with the ACL, and with ACL backing extended the line to Camden. Construction started in 1900 and the line was opened in 1901. The line ran down what is now Guignard Street in Sumter, with a trestle over Shot Pouch Branch, to Dalzell, Providence Springs, Seal's Siding, Borden, Rembert, to North West Junction 3.2 miles from Camden. The NW used trackage rights over the South Carolina & Georgia (later Southern) into Camden. In 1913, the NW built a branch from Seal's Siding (which became Manville Junction) through Bradford Springs, Swimming Penns, and Carter's Crossing to Manville in Lee County, 9.5 miles. In 1927, the NW had 6 locomotives, 8 passenger cars, 26 freight cars and a roundhouse near Harvin Street in Sumter.
The worst wreck on the NW occurred on September 16, 1928 at Tindall when a flooded bridge gave way during a hurricane and two crewmen were killed. Because of lack of business mainly due to movement of the timber companies in the area, the Sumter to Camden portion was abandoned on August 3, 1935, and then remainder was abandoned on October 25, 1935. Spurs remained in service in Sumter, with a few still visible. It was reported in 1989 that the station in Dalzell was still being used as a warehouse, although it could not be located in July 2001. Most of the ROW between Sumter and Camden can still be made out in satellite photographs from the outskirts of Sumter to North West Junction. In some places, the former ROW is used as dirt roads. US 521 uses the former rail bed from Rembert to a point just S of North West Junction, where SC 261 intersects with US 521 (this section is almost entirely straight). At this point, the former raised bed ROW can be seen going off into the woods where the highway leaves the ROW.
Much of the information above comes from the book "Logging Railroads of South Carolina" by Thomas Fetters. Special thanks to "Mayor Bubba" McElveen of Sumter for other information on this and other lines in and around Sumter, SC.