Friday, February 26, 2016

Swamp Rabbit Station

An empty boxcar sits on overgrown tracks in an industrial area of Berea, but there’s plenty of traffic passing by – only it’s of the two-wheel, self-powered variety. The railcar is part of Swamp Rabbit Station, a pocket park off the Greenville Health System Swamp Rabbit Trail - the multi-use pathway that has cemented Greenville’s reputation of an outdoorsy, bike-friendly town.

The boxcar sits not far from where the Swamp Rabbit Trail intersects Sulphur Springs Road. When Greenville County first purchased the old railroad it was sitting on a siding, and knowing it would be near-impossible to move once the tracks were removed it was moved closer to the road where it would be accessible for removal.

A museum in the Midwest expressed interest in the 70-year old boxcar, but as those plans never came to fruition the county moved in to bigger and better ideas. One idea was that the old rail car could be turned into a snack bar/coffee shop catering to those using the trail – check out this Swamp Rabbit Station video.

The business never materialized; instead, the train car was incorporated into a 2012 Leadership Greenville project of creating a pocket park with para-cyclist turnaround. Finished in 2014, the park features a water fountain, benches, bike repair station and landscaping. The boxcar was renovated to remove asbestos and abate lead, painted green, and the entrances were boarded up for safety.

Last year Motive Power & Equipment Solutions refurbished and donated a 1942 locomotive to the pocket park. The 150-hp, now-yellow locomotive had originally been manufactured for the U.S. Navy, and together with the green boxcar represent Berea High's school colors.

What’s next for the pocket park? The initial hope was to invigorate the surrounding Berea community, making the intersection a community gathering spot and on/off point for the trail. Although that plan might not be progressing as quickly as hoped, the park remains a convenient spot to meet friends on the trail, take a break from cycling, or just explore a piece of rail history. Although passing years have brought the shift  away from the days of rail transport shaping the growth of the region, the old boxcar sits in witness to the new transformation of the Upstate: into an outdoor enthusiast’s playground and a cycling mecca. 

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