I got a call from my friend Paul that he, Carin, and Greg were planning to take Stand Up Paddling lessons at Saluda Lake this past Saturday. I declined the lessons, but said that Laura and I would join them on kayaks. It turned out to be a great day of paddling, of both types.
I had been tracking down the Swamp Rabbit Railroad, the third to bear that name in South Carolina. This one ran from Blacksburg to Gaffney through Cherokee Falls. Now I was out trying to find physical evidence of the old railroad. I had explored from Blacksburg to Cherokee Falls along a route that briefly ran as a scenic railroad in the 1970s. Now it was time to cross the Broad River and see what I could find on the section from Coopersville to Gaffney.
I had been tracking down the history of the Swamp Rabbit Railroad that ran from Blacksburg to Gaffney by way of Cherokee Falls. So far I’d discovered the history of the railroad and its relatively short commercial life, and I had discovered how the railroad briefly found new life as a scenic railroad in the 1970s. It was time to get out into the field and do some ground-truthing. I wanted to see if there were any remnants of the old line.
As it turns out the Swamp Rabbit that ran on the Greenville and Northern track, and the Swamp Rabbit that ran through Cherokee County have histories that have become entwined. I actually found this link right under my own nose on this very website. William Cannon left a comment on my post about “What Happened to the Swamp Rabbit?” in which he mentioned his father, J. V. Cannon. Jean Vaughan Cannon turned out to be a fascinating individual with what can only be described as an obsession with trains. His obsession gave new life to both the Greenville Swamp Rabbit and the Cherokee Swamp Rabbit.
That’s right, there’s not one, not two, but three railroads in South Carolina that bore the name “The Swamp Rabbit.” There’s the one that follows former Greenville and Northern Railroad, now the very popular Swamp Rabbit Trail. There’s the one in the lower part of the state that crosses Barnwell, Aiken, and Lexington Counties. I explored and wrote about that one last week. Then, there is the Swamp Rabbit that crosses part of Cherokee County from Blacksburg through Cherokee Falls and then on to Gaffney. I explored this third Swamp Rabbit today, and discovered that it has some unexpected ties to our own Swamp Rabbit Railroad here in Greenville.
Sunday morning Laura and I sent down to the Lake Conestee Nature Park. We had seen some heron chicks at the rookery, and wanted to see how they were coming along. Turns out there were several about ready to fledge.
I was on a quest to find traces of the old Swamp Rabbit Railroad. This isn’t the one that runs through Northern Greenville with which most are familiar, but was a train that ran across Barnwell, Aiken, and Lexington Counties. So far I already traveled the original route from Blackville to Sievern. Now I was going to deeper into the swamps of the Edisto, and losing my way in the process.
I was on a quest to find traces of the “other” Swamp Rabbit Railroad, a passenger service on the Blackville, Alston & Newberry (BA&N) line that ran from Blackville in Barnwell County to Seivern in Lexington County. So far the task had been easy. There were clear tracks and right-of-ways between and through the towns of Blackville, Springfield, Salley, Perry, and Wagener. The last four towns came into existence because of the BA&N, and these towns celebrated their railroad heritage. The Swamp Rabbit was about to get more elusive, though, as its route traversed the environment for which it was named – the swamps of the Edisto River.
I had been on an excursion to track down the Swamp Rabbit Railroad – not the well-known one in Greenville County, but a lesser-known railroad that ran from Blackville in Barnwell County to the ghost town of Sievern in Lexington County. I was following a map developed by Mitch Bailey of Lexington, with data points form the map loaded into my GPS. So far I’d traced the railroad from Blackville to Springfield, but I still had a ways to go.