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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 Terminal Station, long heralded as Birmingham's "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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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
A native of Jacksonville, Florida, Marvin Clemons grew up in Birmingham, and as a young rail fan he became fascinated with Birmingham's colorful railroads. Following graduation from high school, in 1964 he landed his first railroad job as tower operator, controlling passenger train movements through Birmingham Terminal Station. He later worked for Atlanta Terminal Station and Missouri Pacific Railroad before being called to military duty in 1967, serving as an Army officer during the Vietnam Conflict.
Returning to Birmingham following military discharge, Marvin majored in mass communications at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, becoming the program's first graduate. He interned and then wrote for the Birmingham Post-Herald as assistant city editor and transportation editor.
Following a brief career in journalism and public affairs, in 1980 Marvin returned to UAB to earn a master's degree in counseling. He co-founded of one of Alabama's first private rehabilitation counseling firms, and was a board-certified 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 fellow rail fan and college fraternity brother. The book received positive reviews in both the national and local press, and the limited edition of 1,850 copies sold out within ten months of publication and remains out of print. In 2009, Birmingham Rails was honored by the Railroad & Locomotive Historical Society with the George W. Hilton Book Award, the highest recognition given to a book on American railroad history.
Following publication of Birmingham Rails, Marvin helped to found the Mid-South Chapter of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society, headquartered in the historic 1884 Southern Railway depot in Leeds, Alabama. He served as the chapter's first president and established the chapter's publication, The Mid-South Flyer, covering railroad history in the Mid-south region. Marvin is curator of the Frank F. Ardrey Exhibit at the Leeds depot, showcasing the work of Birmingham’s most noted railroad photographer.
Throughout his professional life, Marvin continued to acquire historical data and photographs on Birmingham's Terminal Station, which was demolished in 1969 for a failed commercial development. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the station's untimely removal, Marvin has authored and self-published the first book-length history of Terminal Station. Great Temple of Travel: A History of Birmingham Terminal Station is a tribute to one of Birmingham’s most venerated lost landmarks, and a personal testament to a life-long love for trains and the forgotten romance of rail travel.