Restoring the Last of
"The Poor & Needy" was an Upstate railroad which carried farmers, chicken wire, high schoolers, and many others from the many small communities between Greenwood and Spartanburg. These little red cars were a feature of the Upstate from the first decade of the 20th Century up until 1951. South Carolina's once glorious railway history faded away, and the Piedmont & Northern Railway was no exception. On H'alloween, the 31st of October 1951 interurban No 2102, one of more than 50 such cars owned by the P&N pulled out of Greenwood bound for Spartanburg, SC, 89 railroad miles away, one last time.
Fast forward 67 years and No 2102 is the only one of those cars to exist, and one of only 4 electric era P&N pieces of rolling stock in existence, 3 of which are preserved in Greenwood. However time had not been kind to 2102, and a full restoration was needed. However this restoration was not a case of fixing up the furniture and preserving the interior as was the case with our other cars, following that last trip, 2102 received a different fate then her fleetmates, rather than being cut up for scrap, she was turned into an instruction car. Instruction cars were generally modified passenger coaches which were used to train new employees. In the case of the 2102 no modifications were made, not at first at least. By 1954 it was clear that this was to be 2102's permanent life and was converted into an instruction car and used for training. 2102 had all 63 of her "walkover" reversible seats removed, a drop ceiling installed to cover the old clerestory roof and vents, and the ornamental cut glass toplight windows plated out. Following this work the main passenger area had darkening blinds installed for projection use desks placed inside. In the baggage compartment the driving controls were removed and a mockup control stand from the new American Locomotive Company ("ALCo") diesels installed. Today this type of work is done with computer simulator, but back then modified locomotives or coaches were used, and 2102 was perfect. 2102 could be pushed or pulled by a diesel and had plenty of room for trainees, whereas taking a "dead" engine only allowed 4 or 5, rather than 50, and the round baggage area windows offered a perfect view. In 1969 the Seaboard Coast Line took over the Piedmont & Northern, and the ancient 55 year old 2102 was retired. Thankfully she was once again spared the scrapyard and was donated to the newly founded Railroad Historical Center, founded by Mr L.B. Adams and Charles Herndon, Jr. Although 2102 was saved and her future secure, no restoration work was undertaken. The car was merely cleaned up and presented as she had been when last used in 1968/9.
By the 21st Century the car began to age and 2102 was in a rather poor state, as was a lot of the site. Eventually around 2010 the Railroad Historical Center under Executive
Director Stacey Thompson reached a
decision to restore the site. At that time some feared the collection might be split up and sold off to different museums around the Southeast, if restoration funds could not be raised. The rolling stock suffered from birds, broken windows, peeling lead paint, asbestos, and other age-related issues. Through a Heritage Corridor Grant the restoration began, commencing with the locomotive, then the office car, and finally the entire set, except for 2102. During this time Director Thompson left and Karen Jennings, our current Executive Director took over. The Railroad Center Subcommittee, headed by Lewis Dorrity was also established to oversee the restoration. By 2016 all the cars had been restored, except 2102 which still sat empty. The car was structurally repaired, cleaned up and had air conditioning installed, but no real restoration was undertaken. The outside was cosmetically restored at this time, with an interpretation of the P&N's maroon livery. Eventually the decision was made to eventually restore 2102 to circa 1920s-30s condition, as it was when in use as an interurban, not an instruction car. This would without a doubt be the most daunting restoration project at the site to date, as everything else involved restoring what was there, 2102 required parts to be obtained or made from scratch, and very few pictures exist. We have not a single interior photo of the 2102, we have a picture of a Piedmont & Northern interurban built to a different plan, and one of a car built to a nearly identical plan but sold to a different company. Thankfully Stacey Thompson had documented interviews with members of the community who remembered riding on the 2102 and its fleetmates as children and young adults, some of whom remembered rattan seats and others wood or plastic like leathery seats.
The process got its start on a late summer afternoon in 2017, when 2 visitors happened to mention a friend of theirs (who I happen to know through another car) who they sold their railroad to had 3 1920s era interurbans which he would be willing to part out. On an unrelated trip to Pennsylvania, Railroad Center Committee Chairman Lewis Dorrity checked the seats out, and found them to be in reasonable shape and that they were indeed the type of walkover reversible back seats used in the 2102. Then began the fundraising, and the seats finally arrived in South Carolina, after a long drive down from Pennsylvania by the dedicated members of the Stourbridge Line. Following some work, the seats arrived on site in kit form during the spring of 2018, marking a major accomplishment, but also marking the major work ahead. Upon inspection the seats ha layers and layers of paint on them (dark green, maroon, beige, black), initiating a debate on which one should chosen.
Based on the "railroad almond" walls, ultimately the 1940s tan/beige was chosen. Following this decision work within 2102 began, stripping up the flat linoleum floor added in 1953, replacing it with a polished concrete floor as seen in the car, ultimately to be covered with a wood grate down the aisle. With the interior readied, the members of the Railroad Historical Center and the Railroad Committee worked diligently to install all 63 seats, finishing the task in October of 2018. This marked a major milestone, the first time 2102 had looked like a real passenger vehicle in preservation, and years of dreaming and searching coming to fruition. However there is still much work to do, much of which depends on obtaining funding. The 2102 restoration borders on reconstruction, seeing how much must be obtained or refabricated. The seats were the largest item, seeing as we needed 63 matching period appropriate ones. In the future we hope to restore the cut glass top light windows, clerestory roof, roof bell, air horn, trolley poles, cowcatcher, headlight, control stand, blinds, and the ceiling lamps. However we need your help, so any donations are greatly appreciated as much of these will be potentially costly new construction, for example the ceiling lamps, hand made of brass, which could cost up to $5,000 each, and 2102 when in operation had 5 or 6. We are very fortunate that despite the cost companies still exist that can make things such as the original type of pinch tab window shades, General Electric motorman's control stand,round wheel trolley poles. All of this will hopefully one day be complete, along with the full size replica of the Southern Railway's station which sat in the middle of the Square in Greenwood from 1903 until 1952. We have accomplished a major milestone, but still have lots to go, and as always we love volunteers, and donations of any size are appreciated.
2102 after the last seats were installed, awaiting arm rests, with the dedicated volunteers.
2102 as in service, 1920s at left and 1930s-1940s at right.
The window shades were dark olive green.
Photo from the Smithsonian Archives
The original ceiling underneath, varnished wood and green.
The bare interior of 2102 which many visitors remember.