Birmingham Alabama and Environs

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

  1. U-3-b

    U-3-b Member Supporter

    You are inspiring me to go places in model railroading that I had not thought about going. Just incredible!
  2. kenmc

    kenmc KenMc Supporter

    Here is the east end of the Ninth Avenue Yard itself and the beginning of the Birmingham Belt industrial district. The trackage, like the BB prototype, is largely in-street running with industries on both sides of the streets. There was a wonderful October 1991 MR article on the Birmingham Belt and its Frisco-run operations, if you are interested in seeing how the prototype looked. A map from that article is on John Stewart's Birmingham Rails website.


    The next three shots show the beginning of the street trackage with the Cities Service Petroleum terminal and a little CS gasoline station that I have included for detailed interest. And finally there is an aerial view of the street trackage with industries. Starting on the left of the photo and going clockwise, we have the Farmers and Ginners Cotton Oil Co, the Linde Air Products Co, the Swift and Co meat distributorship, and the Virginia Bridge and Iron Co. I will show individual photos of these industries in their settings in subsequent postings.

    Ken McElreath

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  3. kenmc

    kenmc KenMc Supporter

    As we move down Ninth Avenue from the yard along the BB RR street trackage, here are the industries in order from west to east.

    Whitson Coal and Coke Co
    Five Star Produce Co
    Farmers and Ginners Cotton Oil Co (two photos, showing cotton oil holding tanks and loading, then the main processing plant with receiving dock)
    Linde Air Products Co
    Swift and Co Meat Distributor

    These are all switched by the Frisco's East Birmingham job, using the in-street runaround as necessary.

    Ken McElreath

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  4. klrwhizkid

    klrwhizkid Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporter

    Love that Coca - Cola sign! It's a nice piece that reminds me of my roots.
    Sirfoldalot likes this.
  5. yardmaster

    yardmaster Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporter

    Modeled by a native Cape Girardean and noted by a native Cape Girardean. Looks like an exact replica of the to me.

    Best Regards,
  6. Great work. Capturing the era and feel very nicely!
    Cynthia likes this.
  7. Cynthia

    Cynthia Member

    Ken, you are one of the best railroad modelers I have ever seen! Keep up the good work. How large is your layout? Do you have any videos of rail operations?

  8. gjslsffan

    gjslsffan Staff Member Staff Member

    Just incredible details, a great effort. I need to get details like that going on mine.
  9. kenmc

    kenmc KenMc Supporter

    Thank you, all of you, for your compliments and encouragements. I have enjoyed many years of learning from masters and trying to improve my own prototype observation and modeling skills. Some day I may explore how to do videos, but right now the modeling and taking still photos are at the limit of my abilities.

    To continue our tour of Birmingham industries along Ninth Avenue, the ones on the south side of the street (the Cities Service petroleum terminal and the Virginia Bridge & Iron Co) are switched by a Birmingham Southern RR local job on my layout. In reality the Birmingham Belt/Frisco and BSRR shared trackage and paralleled each other to the extent that it was hard to distinguish them sometimes. Also, in the prototype "Birmingham District," the railroads had an agreement that allowed a customer to specify which railroad switched his facility so as to avoid the short-haul charges that would ordinarily have been applied. This was quite unique in the railroading business, and it makes for interesting operations.

    Chris Abernathy, Keith Robinson and Ken Wulfurt should be interested in my version of the Virginia Bridge and Iron Co. The arrangement of the industry trackage for the VB&I Co Warrior River barge terminal is taken from the prototype Granite City Steel Co's barge steel loading dock along the Chain of Rocks Canal across from St. Louis Mo. It has the most fascinating wooden access trestle that goes out over the canal so as to allow the steel dock trackage to parallel the barges on the canal for easy loading. I have modeled that trestle (but as a switchback instead of direct) and I really like the result. You can see it in the aerial view of the street trackage above. The VB&I Co steel fabrication/welding building itself was inspired by the old Missouri Dry Dock Co welding shop at Cape Girardeau Mo, a long, low and thoroughly dirty affair. Put these elements together and give it the real name of a Birmingham industry and you have a most appealing model scene and operation.

    I'll add a couple of shots of the river barge switching towboat (I named it the "Little Warrior Princess") for grins as well. That set of bridges over the river carries the Frisco and Birmingham Southern joint lines that then separate and run parallel to each other to Bessemer. More on that next time.


    Ken McElreath

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    Last edited: Jul 20, 2016
  10. klrwhizkid

    klrwhizkid Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporter

    Ken, the mobile crane, the long machine Virginia Bridge & Iron Co. building and closeness to water (while a distant likeness) all make me think of earlier days at Missouri Dry Dock & Repair in Cape. The little towboat and its wake are very nice touches.
  11. yardmaster

    yardmaster Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporter

    A nice model of what I always thought was one of the more attractive lineside buildings in and around Cape. I'd often take S. Sprigg up past "Marquette Cement" and up through the Mo. Dry Dock area to get to/from classes at SEMO and my job at KZIM-AM. That whole area seemed to lose a lot of its character with the construction of the new bridge and the sprucing up of the old seminary. In the winter, I could even see the sawdust burner(?) remnants at what used to be M.E. Leming Lumber just to the south.

    Good memories, and a great model, Ken. Keep 'em coming.

    Best Regards,
  12. kenmc

    kenmc KenMc Supporter

    In case you're interested, here is a photo of the prototype Granite City Steel Co barge loading dock on the Chain of Rocks Canal, showing the short trestle over the canal to reach the dock. It even has a turnout on the trestle itself. There is a prototype for everything and anything.

    Ken McElreath

    Ozarktraveler and FriscoCharlie like this.
  13. TAG1014 (Tom Galbraith RIP 7/15/2020)

    TAG1014 (Tom Galbraith RIP 7/15/2020) Passed Away July 15, 2020 Supporter

    A little aside: Can someone give me the date of the RMC issue that featured the very nice article on Ken Mc's layout? So I can locate it in my "files."

    Thanks, Tom G.
  14. kenmc

    kenmc KenMc Supporter


    That article featured our previous layout in our former home. It was published in the November 2003 issue of RMC. John Stewart obtained permission from the magazine to host the article in its entirety on his Birmingham Rails website. Here is the link. John also linked to Mike Condren's site for photos of that layout on his website as well, or you can go directly to Mike's site.

    Ken McElreath
    Ozarktraveler likes this.
  15. kenmc

    kenmc KenMc Supporter

    After crossing the Warrior River drawbridge and truss bridge on joint trackage, the Frisco and Birmingham Southern RR split and run parallel (about 100 feet apart in the prototype) all the way to Bessemer. On our layout, the Frisco's Bessemer Branch serves the following industries: Boren Explosives Co, Widgit Manufacturing Co, and the team track at Bessemer. In addition, the old Frisco freight station at Bessemer has been closed and is now a local beer distributorship, primarily for Falstaff. Since I have already shown photos of the Boren Explosives Co and Widgit Manufacturing early on this thread, I'll just show the remainder of the branch in the following photos. We'll start by catching up with 4-6-0 #631 switching the team track at Bessemer and follow it back toward Birmingham and Ninth Avenue. You will see parts of the BSRR Fairfield yard and trackage in the background.

    Note the vertical wig-wag at the gravel road leading across the BSRR and to the Koppers Coal Tar processing plant. It's authentic Frisco. And of course, the duck in the water below the culvert.


    Ken McElreath
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    Last edited: Jul 21, 2016
  16. TAG1014 (Tom Galbraith RIP 7/15/2020)

    TAG1014 (Tom Galbraith RIP 7/15/2020) Passed Away July 15, 2020 Supporter

    Thanks Ken for the RMC info.

    Tom G.
  17. kenmc

    kenmc KenMc Supporter

    Since we're talking about "Birmingham and Environs," I will include a brief look at the Birmingham Southern RR, at least the portion that parallels the Frisco along the branch from Birmingham to Bessemer. Here are some shots of the BS engine house (a pretty faithful replica, I must say,) and the Fairfield Yard Office and yard trackage. That's the Frisco branch in the front of the photos. I am also including the last shot of the BS line over to the Vulcan Pipe and Foundry Co. By the way, the BS was one of the very first railroads in the country to go "all diesel," completing the conversion in 1937 with Alco HH900s and EMC NC-1 switchers. These were later converted to SW-8 types, shown double-headed switching the yard.

    Ken McElreath

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  18. kenmc

    kenmc KenMc Supporter

    Along the BS, the largest customer is the Woodward Iron Co, with its coking facility and associated Koppers Coal Tar processing plant. Here is a photo of the BS interchange and the Woodward railroad's crossing track to its own Mulga mine, several miles away. The Woodward plant facility is represented by semi-hidden storage trackage. Also see the Woodward's 0-6-0 switcher that switches out and picks up coal, iron ore and coke cars to/from the BS. Isn't it a cutie?

    Ken McElreath

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  19. yardmaster

    yardmaster Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporter

    I think I've seen a photo somewhere of the BS engine house, so I'd agree with your assessment of the model, Ken.

    The SL-SF Howe Truss XM (161852) looks pretty good. What is the model's origin?

    And finally, does the crossing gate operate? Even though I can't find any evidence for a crossing gate for the "interchange" wye at Olathe, I'm thinking of adding a gate but haven't thought through how I'd like to do it.

    Best Regards,
  20. geep07

    geep07 Member

    I really love the Falstaff delivery truck and trailer. Were these decaled by you ?


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