Greenville railroad history: the Charleston & Western Carolina

When you think of an abandoned railroad in Greenville County, the first and probably only one that might come to mind is the Greenville & Northern railroad, better known as the Swamp Rabbit. Another abandoned railroad used to run into downtown Greenville for many years, the Charleston & Western Carolina.

The predecessor to the Charleston & Western Carolina (or the C&WC), the Greenville & Laurens, built a railroad into Greenville in 1884. A 1888 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of Greenville shows where the freight depot was located in 1888, between Broad and Court Streets:

Terminus in 1888

By 1913, a new freight depot and a passenger depot had been built near Falls Street and McBee Street, where the Suntrust Building is now:


Passenger service was ended by the mid 1950s, and in 1973, the successor to the Charleston & Western Carolina, Seabord Coast Line Railroad Company (now CSX), sold off its downtown Greenville properties, including the depots, warehouse, and the railroad track.

According to Greenville County GIS, the line from downtown Greenville to Pleasantburg Drive is abandoned while the line from Pleasantburg Drive down to a railroad junction just past ICAR is owned by the GCEDC, as shown on this map:

View Former Charleston & Western Carolina lines in a larger map

The Greenville section of the Charleston & Western Carolina Railway Sketchbook provides an excellent detailed history of the Charleston & Western Carolina railroad in Greenville and exactly where railroad features were located with modern maps and photos. Update: This site is offline and the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine only archived the home page.

I wanted to see for myself what was left of the railroad, so I headed out with my trusty camera to photograph what I could find. I'll post some here, but the rest are also available from my photo album.

My first photo was of the trestle at Woodruff Road.


This trestle replaced the old steel truss trestle when the road was widened a few years ago. The railroad track is inactive but in good shape at this spot.

Near where N. Pleasantburg Drive (S.C. 291) intersects with Laurens Road (U.S. 276) is where GCEDC's ownership ends and the remainder into Greenville is abandoned.

The track isn't in good shape here, and I don't know what plans, if any, the GCEDC has for their end-of-the-line.


Headed towards downtown Greenville, the abandoned right-of-way are still detectable. The ruins of a trestle in Richland Creek, for example, off of Richland Way.


Underneath the bridge at McDaniel Avenue and Ridgeland Drive, some soot spewed by the old trains is still there. Neat!



A short distance from here, signs of the abandoned railroad became impossible to find due to the changes since abandonment of this railroad, and for the better.

One last photo. The Suntrust building is where the Charleston & Western Carolina passenger and freight depots once stood:

The locations of these photos are marked with placemarks in the Charleston & Western Carolina route map embedded earlier, and the photo album of these photos will also show the location of where each photo was taken.

Next time: my attempt to trace the route of the Swamp Rabbit railroad from Travelers Rest to River Falls.

Update Jan 2016: A photo of the Charleston and Western Carolina Railway trestle over Richland Way in Cleveland Park, posted by Joe Epps (thanks!) to the Facebook group Greenville South Carolina and the Upstate History. It looks like the source is a scan from a yearbook (the previous page is partially visible). The group is closed, so I'll share it here:


Comments

  1. This stretch of track has intrigued me, and this information is fantastic. Where the track crosses Airport Road through that industrial area it's overgrown and doesn't even look passable. Yet there is the nice, relatively new trestle over Woodruff Road, just down from there on the same line.

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  2. I've always known that was an old railroad trestle in Richland Creek, but the area behind it is so hilly. I have no idea how a train could climb that steep grade. Perhaps it wasn't as hilly then???

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    Replies
    1. Sorry for the delay in answering, but I had no photos of the trestle to show the path of the railway through here until now. I added a photo of the trestle as an update. Thank you Joe Epps for finding and sharing that photo.

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  3. Was there a Greenville and Charleston RR? I have a postcard marked "Green & Charleston" from 1911

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    Replies
    1. I looked over Carolana's historical list of railroads in South Carolina and didn't find a name that matched:
      http://www.carolana.com/SC/Transportation/railroads/sc_railroads.htm

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