The Garden Railroad, located adjacent to the College’s Alumni Amphitheater, is the only operating, small-gauge train garden on a college campus in the nation. The 300-foot, dog-bone-shaped track includes an O-gauge model train, landscaping designed by SCC’s horticulture students, a bridge, waterfall and replicas of prominent Spartanburg businesses and landmarks.
The Garden Railroad began as an idea born from now-retired SCC horticulture department head, Jimmy Painter and horticulture instructors who felt the project would offer SCC horticulture students a learning opportunity to design a unique miniature plantings garden combined with the focal point of a scale-model railroad that would embrace the historical roots of Spartanburg and the Upstate, and allow for the reproduction of local landmarks as the backdrop for the garden.
“When Jimmy first approached the SCC Foundation and asked for money to buy a toy train, there were raised eyebrows all around,” said Dr. Robert Mitchell, SCC Foundation board member. “But by the time he finished his presentation, we (the Foundation board) were all ready to buy a ticket on that train.”
The project also attracted the attention of area train enthusiasts and model railroaders. Members of the Piedmont Garden Railroaders Association provided expertise on railroad design and volunteered their time and talents in laying and installing the track and the train. Funding to begin the project was provided by the SCC Foundation.