1807 – 1885

The testimonial reproduced herein was found in the
Charleston Chapter – National Railway Historical Society’s artifacts.
The question of how this testimonial came to be a part of the artifacts may never be answered.  The testimonial was
obviously composed by a member of Mr. Petach’s family and, it at one time, consisted of more than just the one page reproduced here.

             Julius Darby Petach was born in Charleston, SC, April 6th, 1807, and died January 3rd, 1885.At an early age he was apprenticed to Dotterer’s Machine Shops in Columbus Street and after serving his time five years, was made Master Machinist of the South Carolina Railroad Shops.  He superintended the building of the present Roundhouse and work shops of the company.  At the time of his death Mr. Petach was one of the oldest railroad men in the United States.

     The first locomotive ever built in this country and the second ever in use on an American Railway was called “The Best Friend.”  This locomotive was built at the “West Point Foundry Works” in New York in 1830, and was intended to be used on the South Carolina Railroad which was then in course of construction.  It arrived in Charleston, October 23rd, 1830.  Mr. Petach was a very skillful machinist even on November 2nd, 1830.  Mr. Petach was employed to put the machinery together which work he did very well and the locomotive was placed on the road on November 2nd, 1830.  Mr. Petach was a very skillful machinist even at this time, and at once saw that the wooden spokes of her drive wheels were not strong enough, especially when it came to rounding curves.  So he replaced them with wrought iron spokes.

       “The Best Friend” had only been running a few months when she was blown up.  After the explosion she was entirely rebuilt by Mr. Petach, and was then very appropriately christened “The Phoenix.”

Mr. Petach succeeded in making a number of improvements to locomotives which had they been patented would have yielded him a handsome fortune.  The most important of these was the shrinking of wrought iron tires on iron wheels and the placing of what are known as “the outside connections” on a locomotive.

After serving as Master Machinist for some time, Mr. Petach was promoted to the office of Superintendent of the South Carolina Railroad during the Presidency of Mr. H. W. Connor.

         During the Seminole War Mr. Petach was employed as an Engineer in Florida.   As a Master Machinist  he was known all over the State of South Carolina, as well as other portions of the United States.  He superintended the building of the New Bridge over the Ashley River, the placing of the machinery in the Confederate gunboat Chicora, during the late war, and the erection of the machinery in the cotton mill at Graniteville, SC.  Mr. Petach was not a locomotive driver as has been often said, but was a Master Machinist, and he was surely one of the oldest men in experience in his department at the time of his death.  Mr. Petach had always been a remarkably active man and enjoyed good health until about one year before his death when he contracted a severe cold which terminated into chronic bronchitis, from which he never recovered.