Birmingham Alabama and Environs

Discussion in 'General' started by kenmc, Apr 28, 2015.

  1. kenmc

    kenmc KenMc Supporter

    Our Birmingham Terminal Division layout includes the Frisco's Ninth Avenue Yard in Birmingham itself, along with the Frisco branch to Bessemer, and the industries along the way. I am also modeling the Birmingham Belt RR. I have extensively researched both and found wonderful modeling subjects that I have tried to include in the layout.

    Here are some photos of the Ninth Avenue Yard and the industries served by the Frisco in Birmingham and toward Bessemer. My friend Dick Schultz and I have been building the industries first and then adding the spurs to serve them, so some of these will not show the trackage and scenery complete yet. I just couldn't wait to share them with you all. They include the Whitson Coal and Coke Co, Swift and Co, Linde Air Products, Five Star Produce, Widgit Manufacturing, and Boren Explosives Co. Also, the old Frisco Freight house at Bessemer has been sold to the local Beer Distributor and is now used for that purpose. (In real life, this really happened to the old Frisco Freight house at the Ninth Avenue Yard, when the Frisco built a new Freight house downtown in the early 1910s.)

    One photo isn't an "industry" but I'm including it just for fun. It's the hangout where the workers at the Boren Explosives Company go after work to refresh themselves and enjoy camaraderie. It's called the "DynOmite Bar and Grill." You can thank Dick Schultz for that one.


    Attached Files:

    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 29, 2015
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  2. klrwhizkid

    klrwhizkid Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporter

    Ken, I really like your structures and their positioning. I noticed something special in the background of the fourth picture with the Linde Carbon Dioxide car in the foreground. Cool!
  3. William Jackson

    William Jackson Bill Jackson

    Looks like you got everybody working, Good, don't let them set around on you. Looks Good.
    mktjames likes this.
  4. yardmaster

    yardmaster Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporter

    That caught my eye, too. Evokes a lot of memories for this Cape-area transplant, and who has a sign just like it waiting for the right place on our layout.

    Did you scratchbuild the transformers and associated power pole assemblage in the 8th and 9th photos? It's a real gem as well.

    Best Regards,
  5. dricketts

    dricketts Member Supporter

    Wonderful work and subjects! It shows you did your research. :)
  6. kenmc

    kenmc KenMc Supporter


    Keith's photo of the Coca-cola sign from the Buckner-Ragsdale store wall in Cape Girardeau is a powerful scenery item; it always gets comments from visitors.

    The transformer platform and poles are the result of an old, old wooden kit that I bought at least 40 years ago. However, like many other of my models, the ones that are hand-built, although they are somewhat "primitive," they have a real charm compared to the ready-to-run stuff that predominates today. Same with my old Walthers wood-and-tinplate passenger cars. I love them.

    In fact, I just finished my latest Walthers kit, a PRR horse car. Now I have another scene for Camellia Park, of horses arriving for one of the races. Here it is.

    Ken McElreath

    P4250079.JPG P4250088.JPG P4250094.JPG
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  7. geep07

    geep07 Member

    Like the Falstaff trailer and delivery trucks. Did you make the decals?

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  8. Joe Lovett

    Joe Lovett Member

    Ken, your layout is a real inspiration! Would you please post a drawing of your layout and how tall is the power pole assembly?

  9. kenmc

    kenmc KenMc Supporter


    The Falstaff trailer was purchased from Show Me Models from Kansas City. They may still offer them on their website.

    I love the name and logo (but the beer was horrible.) It was part of my memories of growing up in Southeast Missouri.

    Ken McElreath
  10. kenmc

    kenmc KenMc Supporter


    Believe it or not, I don't have a drawing of the layout. Dick Schultz drew up some initial plans including continuous running when we were in that stage of thinking, but we trashed them totally and started from scratch after my wife Marsha insisted that we incorporate the depot that Dick had built as the centerpiece. From that point, "It just growed."

    Basically, the main part of the layout is a 40 foot long by 4 foot wide free standing peninsula from a wall, operating point to point (staging to staging), with a significant operating "stage" as the visible section. Then a portion of it goes along the wall to the town of Quinton on the Frisco mainline. You can see that by looking at the Quinton Alabama thread. The joint railroad-use double track mainline through the depot goes from Memphis (hidden storage on the west) to Atlanta (open "sorta-hidden" storage on the east end,) representing the Southern Railway's 27th Street Yard at Avondale, on the outskirts of Birmingham.

    The power pole assembly is about six inches tall.

    Ken McElreath
    Last edited by a moderator: May 25, 2015
  11. gjslsffan

    gjslsffan Staff Member Staff Member

    Just catching up wit this thread,
    Some really good work. I like the details as well, like the peeling paint on the DynOmite Bar. Lots of scratch built stuff too looks like. Please keep the pics coming.
  12. Jim James

    Jim James Staff Member Staff Member

    I have no idea how I missed this thread but I must say that your layout is fantastic. Very high degree of modeling inspiration.
  13. Joe Lovett

    Joe Lovett Member

    Thanks Ken. Every time I look at your photos I see something new. To echo Tom, may we see some more?

  14. kenmc

    kenmc KenMc Supporter

    Chris Abernathy had previously asked to see our plans and progress for modeling the Frisco's Ninth Avenue Yard in Birmingham. I will try to do so as the scene progresses. Attached hereto is the Sanborn map of the prototype yard for reference.

    Just west of the yard was a busy junction called "FY" (for Freight Yard) Junction. This is where the joint (Frisco, IC, SAL, plus parallel BS) main line coming down southbound from Billy Goat Hill split four ways. One way, the passenger line, jogged one block north and paralleled the SAL connecting line, then eastward along Tenth Avenue and curving into the Birmingham Terminal Station. This passenger route is shown in red on the attached modern planview photo.

    The middle line ran directly into Ninth Avenue Yard and also served many local industries. The third line continued south. This line was joint with the Birmingham Belt RR (owned and operated by the Frisco); also the Birmingham Southern. The fourth leg connected with the ACL (shown as AB&C) at Elyton Yard and enabled the IC RR to reach its own freight house downtown and connect with the Southern and L&N RR. Other roads connected with the Frisco at the east end of Ninth Avenue Yard.

    Crystal clear, right?

    Anyway, in the attached photo, the Frisco's morning passenger into Birmingham, the Sunnyland, is passing FY Tower in the background and curving northeastward to jog away from Ninth Avenue Yard in the foreground. Next to the gray FY Tower in the background are the adjoining tracks for the BS, BB and ACL connections. It makes for a very interesting complex of operations.

    Ken McElreath

    Birmingham Passenger Route.jpg Ninth Avenue Yard.jpg P4250105.JPG P4250106.JPG
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  15. yardmaster

    yardmaster Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporter

    Thanks a bunch, Ken. The aerial view and map, combined with the description, do help a lot to orient. Sounds like operators at FY Tower probably had to stay on their toes for the duration of their respective tricks!

    The PRR horse car/scene is pretty swell - talk about riding in style. I'll have to plead ignorance about horse cars and why they would be hauled in a passenger consist. My only guess is that I've always heard horses aren't as tolerant of being cooped up for a trip as, say, cattle or hogs?

    The Falstaff trailer also caught my eye. When I was a kid, the cooler we'd take on camping trips was a metal Falstaff-branded item that wasn't a featherweight. I wish my Dad had kept it. Otherwise, Falstaff Beer was long gone before I was of age. I've been told that I didn't miss out on much.
  16. kenmc

    kenmc KenMc Supporter


    These weren't just "horses;" they were HORSES. Thoroughbreds worth up to $100,000 each, they traveled with their trainers and grooms in the same train. The passengers in first class weren't treated as well.

    Watch the Kentucky Derby tomorrow and imagine these HORSES riding the rails in style, to races, for breeding and sales. PRR even named each one of their 50 horse cars for one of their customer farms. Mine is #5849, named for the "Glen Riddle Farm" in Maryland.

    The cars were also called "tunnel" cars because they could be loaded from one end through the completely opening end doors. This was for carrying theater scenery for traveling shows.

    Ken McElreath
  17. geep07

    geep07 Member

    Yeah, the beer was how you say Skunky! But there where a lot of the good ole boys drinking it back then. There was always a Bottle Cap game going on in the alley and being a kid I was the beer runner for them. I would have 2 shiny metal "Beer Buckets" and 2 quarters and told the bar keep to fill er up and bring it back without spilling a precious drop.

    Life was simple then.

    Thanks for the info.

  18. Friscotony

    Friscotony Member

    Growing up in Albuquerque and then moving to Wichita in 1964, The Falstaff brew brought about the most pleasant of week end ball games. We nick named the brew "Fallsflat". Need I say more

    Tony LaLumia
  19. yardmaster

    yardmaster Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporter

    Ah, those kind of horses! Those are the kinds that I never got to underwrite in my days of underwriting farms, etc. We didn't insure to limits that high or perils broad enough! I think I'll have to research the topic further; it sounds quite interesting. In any event, I can see where a stable owner wouldn't want that much value riding along in a run-of-the-mill stock car.

    The model of the car is swell, the modeled scene is intriguing and the story behind it all makes it that much better.

    Best Regards,
  20. kenmc

    kenmc KenMc Supporter

    OK, I have now completely finished the Birmingham Ninth Avenue Yard, plus the surrounding industries served by the Birmingham Belt RR. I'll try to post photos over the next few months of the yard itself, its facilities and operations as represented on our layout. Remember, the Ninth Avenue Yard was the original Memphis and Birmingham RR yard built in the 1880's, so it is very compact and primitive compared to the large East Thomas Yard, built north of Birmingham proper in 1909 to handle the bigger Frisco trains, engines and operations. Now, in 1950 Ninth Avenue is simply a downtown reliever and local switching yard. Transfer runs come over Billy Goat Hill from East Thomas with freight cars to be sorted, switched and interchanged at Ninth Avenue.

    The first photos I will post are of the roundhouse and old car shop, now (in 1950) used for company stores. Since I have never been able to find any photos of the actual Ninth Avenue facilities and engine house, other than the Sanborn maps above, I basically patterned the roundhouse after similar facilities in the South of that era, in this case the Seaboard Air Line's Birmingham roundhouse and the Southern Ry's Selma AL roundhouse. I expect the M&B RR roundhouse was similar in design. The last photo is taken from the other side of the yard at the top of Main Street on the layout. That's "FY" (Freight Yard) Junction and tower on the right in the background.

    The tender on ties is from recently-retired 0-6-0 #3545, which actually served Birmingham. I loved bashing this little gem from a big GN plastic tender. The "FRISCO" on the smokestack idea came from photos of Frisco steam engines at some terminal, which one I don't know. But I like the impact on the scene. Think of this eclectic scene as "pure Frisco."


    Ken McElreath

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