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A native of Jacksonville, Florida, Marvin moved to Birmingham as a young teen and grew up around railroads.  After graduation from high school, he landed his first railroad job as a towerman-operator at Birmingham Terminal Station.  He later worked for Atlanta Terminal Station and Missouri Pacific Railroad before being called to active military duty, serving as an Army officer during the Vietnam Conflict.  Returning to Birmingham following discharge from the Army, Marvin majored in journalism at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, and wrote for the Birmingham Post-Herald  as the paper’s transportation editor.  He later earned his MA in Counseling at UAB, and was a professional counselor in private practice until his retirement in 2012.

While pursuing his profession, Marvin continued  to explore his interest in railroads as a writer,  photographer, and historian. In 2007 he co-authored and self-published  Birmingham Rails—The Last Golden Era with Lyle Key, a long-time railroad buddy and college fraternity brother.  The book was well received by both rail fans and the general public, and the limited edition sold out within ten months of publication.

Following publication of Birmingham Rails, Marvin helped  found and served as first president of the Mid-South Chapter of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society, headquartered in the historic  Southern Railway depot in Leeds, Alabama. Marvin remains active as the chapter’s newsletter editor, and is helping to develop the  depot’s Frank Ardrey exhibit dedicated to the work of Birmingham’s most noted rail photographer.

Over the years, Marvin extensively researched the history of Terminal Station and collected hundreds of photographs and historical documents detailing the station’s construction, operation, and unfortunate demise. Great Temple of Travel  is his tribute to one of the most acclaimed railroad stations ever built, and a personal testament to a life-long love for trains and the forgotten romance of rail travel. 

In this first book-length history of Birmingham's Terminal Station, rail historian Marvin Clemons has gathered extensive documentation and assembled scores of colorful photographs and illustrations commemorating the 50th anniversary of the fall of Birmingham's Terminal Station, once heralded the "great temple of travel."

Covering more than a century of history, from the arrival of Birmingham's first railroads in 1870, to the end of rail service in 1979, the book describes the circumstances leading to the formation of Birmingham Terminal Company and the construction of  Terminal Station.  Details of the building's classic design are given in the words of its noted architect, P. Thornton Mayre, and the station's construction is seen in rare early photographs and vintage post cards.

A photographic tour of Terminal Station's interior highlights the magnificent main waiting room, with its vaulted 100-foot high dome and soaring windows.  Photographs include multiple views of the waiting room and other facilities, including the ticket office, lunch counter, and soda shoppe.

Every great rail station is noted for its trains, and the book includes a chapter on the passenger trains of each of the station's five tenant railroads -- Southern, Seaboard, Central of Georgia, Frisco, and Illinois Central -- spanning six decades of operation.  Chapters includes a history of the evolution of each railroad's passenger service,  from steam-powered heavyweight trains to sleek diesel streamliners.  Featured are dozens of black & white and color photographs, many never before published, of many famous and lesser-known trains.  A selection of professionally colorized black & white photos show the variety of color schemes applied to steam and early diesel locomotives.

Recovering from the strain of record rail travel during World War II, in 1947 the station underwent a major refurbishment, as the railroads updated their schedules and accommodations in a vain attempt to stem competition from first automobiles, and then airlines.   This "last golden era" of rail passenger service is illustrated by sharp Kodachrome images of the final years of Terminal Station's trains and the colorful diesel engines that pulled them.

The last years of Terminal Station are documented in images of the few remaining trains, ending in poignant scenes of the nearly abandoned station.  The final chapter explores the circumstances leading to the decision to demolish the station, and a post-mortem lays to rest the many rumors as to the probable causes for the station's removal.  Nearly a half century later, the remorse felt by many at the loss of such a cherished part of Birmingham’s architectural and cultural heritage is still palpable. 

The book concludes on a positive note with a postlude devoted to Southern Railway's "Southern Crescent," Birmingham's last privately operated passenger train, until its surrender to Amtrak and the official end of the Birmingham Terminal Company.   In a touch of genuine irony, the return of Southern Railway's remaining passenger train to the Amtrak station, located at the site of the former Union Station,  brings the story of Birmingham's railroad passenger service full circle to its very beginning more than a century ago.

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