Created By: Brandon Inabinet
Historically known as the Greenville and Northern railway, the Swamp Rabbit Trail is one of the most prominent transformations on the perimiter of Furman University's Campus, and signify the recent economic and tourist boom of Greenville and Travelers Rest, SC.
Like the university, early in its history, the early rail line struggled.
Two companies merged, Carolina, Knoxville & Western Railway company (CK&W), to combine capital needed to begin construction for the railroad. The company went bankrupt in 1891, the same year that people started calling the line the "Swamp Rabbit." Ownership of the railroad transferred again in 1920 when it became a subsidary under the Greenville & Northern Railway. The Great Depression presented challenges for the railroad, but by the 1940s, the line was a recognized as, "...one of the South's quiantest and friendliest short-lines."
Talk about making the line something greater was common, including a line that connected Greenville to southern citiies to its north, like Winston-Salem. Famously, James B. Duke was part of these conversations, as he invested in mills around Greenville and wanted to see the textile and bleaching mills better connected to North Carolina. That connection led to Duke also backing the university financially, actually discussing the idea for the first time with Furman's President, Bennette Geer on a train!
By the time the university was moving in the late 1950s, though, the train line had seen better days, and by the 1970s, trains rarely passed. Two decades later in 1999, citizens of Greenville became involved in the process to dispose the remains from the railroad. The Greenville City Council proposed a new idea for the soon-to-be-abandoned railroad. The Greenville County Economic Development Corporation (GCEDC) purchased the railroad from RailTex for $1.3 million.
With the help of the Greenville Hospital System (GHS) and Parks and Recreation Department, the trail is what you see today. The project ended up completely transforming the area, making sleepy southern towns and dead intersections along the way into hubs of breweries, creperies, crossfit gyms, and boutiques. Be sure to grab a bike (free for students from the Physical Activieties Center) and try it out!
This point of interest is part of the tour: Hidden Histories of Furman University: Lake Walk