Signs, signs everywhere a sign – remembering Birmingham’s railroad history

“Signs, signs everywhere a sign…” ~ Five Man Electrical Band

James Lowery
James Lowery

If you have been traveling throughout Birmingham, you’ve probably seen a few of these signs designating past locations of the Birmingham Mineral Railroad.

“The railroad is still with us.  This is the undergirding history of Birmingham.” ~  James Lowery, Project Coordinator of the Historic Birmingham Mineral Railroad Signs Project.

Lowery and the Historic Birmingham Mineral Railroad Signs Project are creatively reminding and educating people about the important role railroads played in the history of Birmingham by strategically placing these “historic” signs along the routes they once existed.

Railroad line in Crestline
1954 Railroad line in English Village
English Village entrance today
English Village entrance today

For a century (1884-1988) the Birmingham Mineral Railroad (BMRR) twisted and turned its way around Birmingham and the surrounding cities.  A significant part of Birmingham’s iron history, the network of rail lines that constituted 253 miles of  BMRR mainline tracks and its 31 branches.

According to the Historic Birmingham Mineral Railroad Signs Project, the BMRR was a major railroad that transported raw materials from the mines and quarries to the furnaces, coke from the coke ovens to the furnaces, pig iron from the furnaces to the various other facilities and products from those facilities to major rail lines that connected to points across the Birmingham area and beyond.

Today, many of the routes of the railroad lines have been taken over by kudzu or become streets, roads, walkways, alleys and trails jogging their way through  Birmingham, all of Jefferson County and a total of six counties in Central Alabama. In fact, some of the active freight train tracks still use the original BMRR roadbed. Here are where all the signs have been installed.

If you want to save this precious part of Birmingham’s legacy and  help “restore” history, the Historic Birmingham Mineral Railroad Signs Project is looking for donations to place additional signs throughout the community.  They also need your support to increase and expand their educational efforts.  Visit the Birmingham Mineral Railroad Signs Project website.



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Pat Byington

Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.

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