Birmingham Terminal Discription

Discussion in 'Birmingham Terminal' started by mike, Dec 16, 2001.

  1. mike

    mike Guest



    In 1887, after several attempts under various corporate names, The Kansas City, Memphis, and Birmingham Railroad (leased for 99 years by the Frisco, August 23, 1901, as part of the Kansas City, Fort Scott, and Memphis Railroad) entered Birmingham, Alabama, advertised as the only spot on the globe where coal, iron ore and limestone, the three essentials for manufacturing steel, are found in large quantities side by side. In 1888 a branch was extended from Pratt City to Bessemer and later the Birmingham Belt was purchased. The Birmingham Belt was a switching line that served various industries in Birmingham including the Frisco Freight House and Powell Street Team Tracks.

    The Kansas City, Memphis, and Birmingham Railroad gave Birmingham a direct link to the Midwest and in fact was the only direct link ever constructed between the two cities. According to "Alabama Railroads" by Wayne Cline, Kansas City, Memphis and Birmingham trains brought midwestern grain and packinghouse products to Birmingham and returned loaded with coal and coke. By 1900, coal and coke comprised over 50 percent of the traffic.

    Frisco's Passenger Trains initially used Birmingham's Union Passenger Station. However, about 1905, the need for new passenger facilities became apparent and the Frisco, along with several other railroad companies, formed the Birmingham Terminal Company to construct a new passenger station and related facilities. This corporation was incorporated June 28, 1905 under the laws of Alabama and was authorized to construct, maintain, and operate terminal railroad facilities in and about the City of Birmingham. On April 6, 1909, after several construction delays this new Passenger Terminal was opened. The new station was a magnificent domed structure of Byzantine-type architecture. This terminal was used by all of the railroads in Birmingham at the time except the Louisville and Nashville and the Atlantic Coast Line. Unfortunately, this imposing structure was demolished September 22, 1969. Some of the name Frisco Passenger Trains that served Birmingham included the Kansas City Florida Special, the Sunnyland, and early on, the Southeastern Limited. At various times several local passenger trains operated between Birmingham & Amory, and Birmingham & Memphis. By February, 1947, only two passenger trains served Birmingham, The Kansas City Florida Special (105/106) and the Sunnyland (107/108). The last Frisco Passenger Train operated December 8, 1967, and was the last passenger train operated on the entire Frisco.

    Birmingham developed into a major industrial point with principal products for the railroad including coal, coke, steel, iron, cast iron pipe, heavy machinery, textiles, cement and a wide diversity of crops and farm products. Not only was Birmingham a major industrial point, it was also the major interchange point for the Frisco in the Southeastern United States, being the interchange point for (ca. 1950s) the Atlantic Coast Line, Central of Georgia, Illinois Central, Louisville & Nashville, Gulf Mobile & Ohio, Seaboard, Southern and Birmingham Southern Railroads. Therefore, Birmingham was a major revenue point for the Frisco and was one of six major terminals on the Frisco.

    Although there were several yards in Birmingham the principal yard was the East Thomas Yard, which was owned and operated by the Frisco as a "Joint Terminal" with the Illinois Central and Central of Georgia on one side of the yard, and the Birmingham Belt and Frisco on the other side. The Illinois Central and Central of Georgia were tenants and the Birmingham Belt was a wholly owned subsidiary of the Frisco. The yard was divided into a Frisco side and an Illinois Central side, with the tower centrally located. Frisco crews performed all switching services utilizing switch engines of the Illinois Central and Frisco on a pro-rata basis. Frisco furnished all transportation supervision, however, the Illinois Central and Frisco had their own Engine Service Facilities (Roundhouse) and car repair facilities on their respective side of the yard and each road furnished yard clerks and maintained their respective portion of the yard.

    In the mid 1950s the Frisco purchased control of the Central of Georgia Railroad but was forced to relinquish control by the Supreme Court, placing their holdings in a voting trust until disposition. June 17, 1963 Frisco sold their interest in the Central of Georgia to the Southern Railroad but the Central of Georgia yard operations were moved from East Thomas Yard to the Southern Railroad yard about 1957.

    In 1955 there were 33 switch engine shifts in Birmingham. This was more than any other yard on the Frisco at that time including Tulsa (27), St. Louis (18), Kansas City (29) and Memphis (32). In 1968 there were 31 switch engine shifts on Sunday, 34 switch engine shifts on Monday, Tuesday, Friday, 35 switch engine shifts Wednesday, Thursday, 34 switch engine shifts on Friday and two Bessemer runs. At the time of merger with BN there were twelve average switch engines jobs daily.

    By the early 1970s, with the redevelopment of downtown Birmingham, the decline of the steel industry and movement of other industries to the outskirts of the city, the number of industries served by the Frisco was declining. According to the Frisco employee magazine "All Aboard" industries served in the mid seventies were down to 75. It was also becoming more and more expensive to serve the smaller industries that were left. Frisco hoped to counter this by developing an industrial park West (Railroad North) of East Thomas Yard. This land was obtained in a land swap with the city for some valuable downtown land that previously served as a yard. This new industrial park was known as Robert's Field Industrial Park. However, this industrial park never materialized to the extent hoped for due to geological problems and poor access.

    In the late sixties - early seventies, the Frisco made several changes in operating procedures at Birmingham. One of these changes resulted in run through operations with the SCL RR which allowed for connecting SCL trains to enter and leave East Thomas Yard. In effect one crew got off and the other crew got on, made the air test, and the train was on its way. Another change allowed reciprocal interchange with the Southern and L&N. This permitted each road to make deliveries to the other road's yard and return with a cut of cars. Previous to this each road made deliveries to the other road and returned empty. At this same time East Thomas Yard also received a face-lift. Switching leads were rearranged and relayed with heavier rail, new receiving and departure tracks constructed, a new run-around track constructed, existing buildings renovated and a new crew office/Terminal Superintendent Office constructed. In 1978 a new car repair shed was constructed. East Thomas was truly a modern well-run flat switching yard.

    At merger time with Burlington Northern, the Frisco interchanged with Birmingham Southern, Seaboard Coast Line, Illinois Central, Louisville and Nashville and Southern Railroads. There were a total of 47 industries served with the principal industries being Jim Walter Corporation, American Cast Iron Pipe, Consolidated Pipe, U.S. Pipe, Bruno's, Piggly Wiggly, National Piggyback, Western Carloading, Western Grain and Cosby Hodges. There were twelve average switch engines/day and the yard consisted of nine receiving and departure tracks with a car capacity of 841 cars and 38 classification tracks with car capacity of 1652 cars.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 15, 2005

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