On Track in Rural Southwestern South Carolina
By Hope S. Philbrick
The Old 96 District may be “off the beaten path and proud of it,” as tourism marketing materials claim, but it also houses three sites that make this rural South Carolina region a must-stop for train enthusiasts.
The Railroad Historical Center in Greenwood showcases the town’s “strong railroad connection,” says Bethany Wade, programs director. “At one time, five different lines came through Main Street,” on tracks still used by CSX. The center has a collection of cars dating back to the 18th Century, including six cars (“regular passenger cars, three types of Pullman sleepers and an inner-urban electric”) and a Rockton-Rion Locomotive; renovations on the train cars began this year. Other exhibits showcase local railroad history and the Piedmont-Northern line. “Three of the four cars on display are Piedmont-Northern,” says Wade. Admission is free and the center is open Thursdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. from April through October.
Emerald Farm in Greenwood is a working farm, natural food store, goat soap factory and much more, including a train hobby shop. Whether you’re in the market to buy model train components to build or accessorize a board of your own or just want to peek at an impressive layout built by skilled enthusiasts, don’t miss the upstairs display. The former hay loft boasts two extensive working layouts, one in O gauge and one in HO scale. “The HO scale theme is vintage late ‘20s through mid-‘50s, the steam era and diesel transition,” says owner Kathryn Zahn. “The O gauge side’s theme is ‘anytime Americana.’” The train board décor is updated seasonally and consistently shows a sense of humor in its details. Emerald Farm also operates “The Emerald Express,” which runs on wheels around the farm passing authentic RR signs and much more for $2.75 per person per trip. Also on site, a vintage 1957 train engine and 1956 Santa Fe.
The McGowan-Barksdale-Bundy House (circa 1888) was the home of General Samuel McGowan until his death in 1898 and now serves as the Abbeville County Historical Society headquarters. Three servant cabins and a restored caboose from CSX Railroad are located on the grounds behind the four-story house. Tours offer insights into local, Revolutionary, Colonial period and Civil War history, previous home owners’ families and lifestyles throughout the home’s eras, Queen Anne architecture and more for $10 per person.
Where To Eat…
Kicker’s Restaurant in Greenwood serves eclectic fare with a spicy kick. A former soccer player, Chef/Owner Abdel Dimiati’s blends his native Zimbabwe and adopted Southern culinary traditions, using fresh ingredients purchased locally as much as possible—often from the nearby farmers’ market.
Park Row Market in Edgefield serves Southern comfort sandwiches and soups in a historic building that dates back to “at least 1852.” The former general store offers a comfortable environment with friendly servers and satisfying fare.
Village Grill in Abbeville serves can’t-miss deliciousness that consistently earns raves from locals and visitors alike. The focus is local and sustainable yet the creative fare is offered at prices so low they’re hard to believe. The atmosphere is casual, but the food is upscale. From sandwiches to pasta, grilled meats to seafood to daily specials, order whatever sounds appealing. It’s not like you can go wrong.
Where To Stay…
Fairfield Inn & Suites
527 Bypass 72 NW
Greenwood, SC 29649
This location of the national brand exceeds expectations with its friendly staff as well as convenient proximity to multiple shopping and dining venues.
200 W Pinckney St.
Abbeville, SC 29620
This privately-owned and operated bed and breakfast offers upscale accommodations and morning meals. It’s within walking distance of the historic square, which boasts the Abbeville Opera House and other venues. Read more.
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