Monday, March 19, 2018

Birmingham's Great Temple of Travel

The Birmingham area will have at least one sad historical event to remember in 2019--the 50th anniversary of the demolition of Terminal Station, the "Great Temple of Travel" as author Marvin Clemons has described it. After two years of construction and expenditure of some two million dollars, the elaborate station opened in April 1909. Thus a major anniversary of its opening will take place next year also. Before demolition the station had its ups and downs; you can read an overview of that history on the BhamWiki site.  

Luckily for us, local railroad history author Marvin Clemons has written a wonderful account of Terminal Station just stuffed with details and photographs. This book is a natural compliment to his earlier, broader pictorial history, Birmingham Rails: The Last Golden Era from World War II to Amtrak. Both books are available here

Mr. Clemons has graciously provided me with the exterior and interior photographs of Terminal Station included below. They are just a taste of the treasures included in the book of the station itself inside and out and the many trains that passed through it. Both of his books will appeal to anyone with even a slight interest in railroads or Birmingham history. He is also available for talks on the Terminal Station as the flyer below describes.

I must confess I have more nostalgia than experience when it comes to railroads. I've never ridden on a train except those mighty ones at the zoo and such. I really need to change that someday.

I suppose I have a fondness for railroads and their history not only because of their importance to Alabama and the nation, but also my grandfather Amos J. Wright, Sr. He worked for several decades as a "switchman" for the L&N Railroad in Gadsden. I remember visiting my grandparents in the summer and on weekdays my grandmother would drive him to work and come back in the afternoon to pick him up, since they only had one car. Naturally I got to go along for the ride and see the station and the trains. 

One of his duties was to make sure all empty box cars were completely cleaned out. We have a collection in the family of empty artillery shells he found there over the years.

An overview of the state's railroad history can be found in Wayne Cline's 1997 book, Alabama Railroads.

Exterior in 1957

Interior in October 1968

Interior in 1969 

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