Aiken Train Depot
I’ve always been a fan of train locomotives and the railroad. I’ve traveled on a variety of trains, no Amtrak, but on some special excursions from kiddie trains to old time trains powered by locomotives. I decided to indulge my interest in railroads by stopping at train depots and taking pictures of them and learning more of the railroad industry in South Carolina. At the website below one can see how the industry grew throughout the years starting in the 1830’s when the Charleston to Hamburg line started. There’s also a list of all the Railroad lines, passenger and freight, that existed in the state from the Air Line Railroad to the Wilson to Summerton Railroad. There’s more too so check it out.
Two other good website not to miss are:
http://scdepots.com/ and http://www.sciway.net/sc-photos/tag/trains-depots/
The former lists the train depots by county. Click on a county name and find all the depots by county. The latter, Sciway, has always good information but its list is not as intensive as scdepots.
The South Carolina Railroad Museum in Winnsboro has a website: http://www.scrm.org/ Check it out to see when the train trip is scheduled to run. And, of course, don’t miss The Best Friend of Charleston Museum (http://bestfriendofcharleston.org/) which features a replica of the first train in South Carolina.
Rails-to-Trails are hike and bike paths built on former rail routes. They are relatively flat making a good surface for walking. Some are paved, some not. Some are quite long, good for riding bikes. One can rent bicycles along certain rails-to-trails paths, which is good if you don’t have a bicycle. Like me. I might have to invest in one.
Rails-to-trails came about after the consolidation of rail lines. In the 1960’s uneconomical branch lines got closed. It didn’t take long for the first hike/bike path to be created, the Elroy-Sparta State Trail in Wisconsin. The longest, when finished, is going to be 321 miles. That’s the Cowboy Trail in Nebraska.
The longest in South Carolina is the Swamp Fox passage of the Palmetto trail at 42 miles.
All in all there’s over 750 miles of abandoned railway in our state. To find some of them, click on the link below. It’s not inclusive as it misses some shorter trails like the section of the Palmetto Trail at Peak. Here one crosses the Broad River via a train trestle. Just for that alone makes it a go-to place. Then there are rail-to-trail paths through towns like Ninety Six and Williston and many more. The one in Williston was once part of the historic Charleston to Hamburg line.
I made my way to Greenwood intrigued by the trails-to-rails path near downtown. Being more familiar with the towns of the lowcountry, I found Greenwood quite different with its wide main street and multi-story buildings.
It was chartered in 1857, but was first a small village that sprouted up around the summer home of John McGehee, Jr. His wife gave their summer home the name ‘Greenwood’ and the name later transferred to the village.
The railroad came through in 1852. To consolidate the commercial area, city leaders moved the ‘downtown’ area to the area around the depot. The wide main street where the railroad line ran through is called the ‘widest Main street in the world’. Now the railroad tracks are gone, but not its heritage. The Railroad Historical Center is located on South Main Street. When I visited they were refurbishing one of the locomotives. The Railroad and Mill Village Heritage Trail is located near the museum.
I toured downtown and its historic structures, starting at the visiting center near the old cinema. I’d hoped to find a pamphlet with a walking tour, but they didn’t have one, which was disappointing because there was one building on Main Street near the courthouse, that I wanted to know more about. Had it been a been a mill building?
The library is nice. I stopped to get directions to the rails-to-trails path. As I drove over, I passed the old Greenwood High school with its Georgian Revival architecture. It’s on South Main Street and you can’t miss seeing it. Built in the 1920’s it is now apartments. What a great way to let it live on.
One place I wanted to visit, but didn’t since I thought it was on US178, was Dr. Benjamin E. Mays Historic Site. Here you can get a feel of how African-American sharecroppers lived and be amazed how one boy came from this background to be become a doctor, president of Morehouse college and a Civil Rights leader. While I did miss this, I did see his birthplace. The house has been moved to the historic site.
How to get there:
Greenwood is located in Greenwood county along US25/US178/US221 and SC34
Lake Greenwood S.P.
Park Seed Company Gardens