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Old 08-09-2009, 12:55 PM   #1
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Exploring Alabama
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Thumb Exploring Alabama's Old Terminal Location

Ride with me for a couple of minutes while we reflect on some Birmingham railroad history.

So much of the nation's spectacular architecture no longer exists.

It takes an incredible imagination to picture what once stood at this location.

It took two years to construct at a cost of $2 million. The station opened in April of 1909 to serve six of Birmingham's passenger railroads. Considered a masterpiece of Byzantine architecture, this structure encompassed two city blocks and was heralded as the finest railroad station in the south.

The station fell into disrepair during the Depression but once again became an important transportation hub for the area.

In 1943 the terminal went through a $500,000 renovation and served 54 trains a day.

As automobile ownership increased and air travel gained popularity, rail traveled suffered.

By 1960 only 26 trains a day went through Terminal Station. At the beginning of 1969 it was down to only seven trains.

It was then that the U.S. Social Security Administration announced plans to build a consolidated service center in downtown Birmingham. William Engel of Engel Realty approached Southern Railroad, then the sole owner of the station, with plans for a $10 million project on the land occupied by Terminal Station.

The plans called for the terminal to be torn down and a new, smaller station to be built along with the Social Security building, two additional office buildings, and a large motel. These plans were generally unknown to the public until shortly before Engel sought permission to demolish the station.

On June 30, 1969, the Alabama Public Service Commission approved demolition of the station, despite efforts by some groups, such as the Heart of Dixie Railroad Society and the Women's Committee of 100, to preserve it. The Public Service Commission stated that it only had authority to consider the necessity and convenience of the traveling public, which the station clearly no longer served.

Demolition began on September 22, although the main terminal was maintained until the new, smaller terminal building was built nearby. By December the station's land was completely cleared. The Social Security Administration building was ultimately built elsewhere, but the now cleared land solved another problem the city had had. The original plans for the Red Mountain Expressway involved the destruction of 100 to 150 of the Central City projects (later renamed as Metropolitan Gardens, now the site of the Park Place Hope VI project).

With the Terminal Station gone, the expressway could be routed slightly to the east, avoiding the projects.

This is the actual Terminal location today.

You can see the building remains just to the right of my bike.

It's sad to lose such beautiful buildings. Especially when we don't build structures like that any more.
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Old 08-09-2009, 01:42 PM   #2
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great report and imagination......

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Old 08-09-2009, 02:09 PM   #3
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This was a recurring theme in the 50's and 60's under the guise of urban renewal. If there hadn't been federal money available for this foolishness I wonder how much of this beautiful architecture would have been lost. Nice photographic overlay of what once was.

11 stations that were

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Old 08-09-2009, 02:15 PM   #4
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Great post, although sad too.

Thanks for sharing!
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Old 08-09-2009, 03:58 PM   #5
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The Mobile Bay Monthly does a Then & Now feature where they print a photograph of an historical building or landmark, and then a present day photo of the same location.
Then: this beautilful antebellum mansion...
Now: this lovely Taco Bell.

It's too bad we can't preserve more of this kind of architecture.

Very nice job.
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Old 08-09-2009, 05:32 PM   #6
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Great work with the overlay. I work downtown and travel through that tunnel several times a day. I knew the old terminal was located there but your overlay really put it in perspective.
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Old 08-09-2009, 05:35 PM   #7
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Thanks for another episode of your AL exploration rides!!
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Old 08-09-2009, 07:56 PM   #8
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The overlay really said it all. It's too bad that structures such as this can not be preserved. Structures like this should be on the National Historical Register. Thanks for taking the time to let us discover would have never known.

Fortunately we still have our Spanish Colonial style UP station here in's a pic.

By 1968, UP had but one passenger train left in Boise, the Portland Rose. UP offices in the depot remained however, and the station was not allowed to fall into decay. With the coming of Amtrak service, the depot stirred back to life. Morrison Knudsen purchased the depot in 1990 and in 1992 began a restoration project turning the station and its magnificent waiting room and other spaces into a museum featuring railroad & MK history.

MK needed to sell the station and Boise City purchased it. It now serves the public for wedding receptions, etc. and you can also go up to the top of the bell tower.

Sorry to hijack this, but you may have started something
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Old 08-09-2009, 08:25 PM   #9
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Short, but captivating.
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Old 08-09-2009, 11:03 PM   #10
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Great report, as usual.
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Old 08-10-2009, 05:52 AM   #11
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Nice work as per usual, DeBandi. These overlays you have been doing really do a great job of putting things into perspective. I wish I had the technical know-how to do one of Dawson Forest to go back and put into my report I did last year.

Alabama is a way-more-interesting place than people give it credit for.
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Old 08-10-2009, 11:30 AM   #12
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Thanks for posting those DeBandi, my dad really enjoyed them. I reckon he remembers going there when he was younger.
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Old 08-10-2009, 02:01 PM   #13
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Dang, looks like Birmingham, Alabama lost some of it's "Magic" when that architecture was razed.

Thanks for sharing DeBandi.
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Old 08-10-2009, 02:50 PM   #14
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Great story and great photos. I like you way of showing how it was...
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Old 08-10-2009, 04:08 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Goran69
Great story and great photos. I like you way of showing how it was...

good pics
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