Live Steam

Model Steam Trains-47
Sandy River Narrow Gauge Engine

Last week fellow singer and explorer Tommy Thompson had been invited to tag along with one of his friends, Steve Baker, as they visited Jim Pitts, retired chaplain of Furman University and expert on live steam model railroading. I knew Jim from when I was a student at Furman, and we’ve have kept up with each other through Laura in the many years since then. Tommy invited me to come with them as a tag-along tag along. I jumped at the chance.

We started with breakfast at the Travelers Rest Inn, then headed on up to Jim Pitts’ house in Travelers Rest. Steve was running a bit late, so Jim invited us in and gave us a tour of his extensive collection. The first room we entered had shelves lining the walls and cases with multiple types of model engines. Jim gave us a running description of each.

Steve arrive in time to join us for coffee and doughnuts, after which Jim took us out to see the rest of his collection. We thought we had already seen it, but there was a separate garage out back with even more trains. Continue reading “Live Steam”

Even More Echo Valley

By some strange coincidence Houston and Lynda were working on family photos when I posted my piece about Echo Valley.  The weird thing was, they were processing photos from 1968, and had just come to our great mountain adventure when we visited the park.  These photos were taken by my father. Last night they gave … Continue reading Even More Echo Valley

Memories of Echo Valley

Echo Valley from the Ridge

In the northern part of Greenville County the Middle Saluda River flows across a long flat valley. Where Highways 276 and 11 come together, and where the Saluda crosses this road, one finds the community of Cleveland, South Carolina. The valley now hosts a post office, convenience store, and a couple of other businesses, but at one time an exciting amusement park occupied this same spot.

It was the late 1960’s and I was seven or eight years old. Dad and Mom loaded five of us (my two oldest siblings were in college) into the Chrysler and we headed toward the Great Smokey Mountains. It was a fantastic trip up through the mountains of North Carolina, with stops at Pisgah National Forest, Maggie Valley, and eventually Gatlinburg, Tennessee. That was the trip that we visited Echo Valley, a Western-styled theme park along the banks of the Saluda River in Cleveland, South Carolina.

Echo Valley Ticket

During this time Western theme parks were all the rage in North Carolina. There was Ghost Town in the Sky in Maggie Valley, Frontierland in Cherokee, and Tweetsie Railroad in Boone. Most of these featured a Wild West town with regular shoot-outs and the endless conflicts between cowboys and Indians. There were also carnival rides and can-can dancers to round out the bill. Echo Valley followed this same pattern, and was developed to capture some of that Wild West market for Greenville audiences.

The late Melvin Jarrard was postmaster of the Cleveland post office and a local businessman. In his autobiography The Mountaineer of Cleveland, South Carolina, Jarrad describes how Harry Stuart brought the idea of Echo Valley to the area, and how that idea had originated with Ghost Town in the Sky. Continue reading “Memories of Echo Valley”

Chasing the Swamp Rabbit

Railroad Car B&W

I had tons of work I needed to do around the house – cut grass, vacuum the floors, and blow the pollen off the decks and driveway. Instead, I loaded up my bike and drove up to the northern end of the Swamp Rabbit Trail in Travelers Rest.

The Swamp Rabbit Trail is part of the rails to trails movement, and is named for the former Greenville and Northern Railway that used to run from downtown Greenville to River Falls in the Jones Gap area. The railway got its nickname from the various wetlands it passed through. The plan is to pave the railway from Greenville to Travelers Rest, and to eventually run trams on the path on a regular schedule.

I parked at the Travelers Rest trailhead and headed south. At this point the trail is grassy and a bit bumpy. It passes through the middle of Travelers Rest, past TR Methodist, where Laura and I got married, and through the middle of a parking lot for several businesses. From there, the trail took a route more separate from the populated areas.

Continue reading “Chasing the Swamp Rabbit”