Former Birmingham Model Railroad

Located at Russet Cove Circle residence, 1993-2007

Alas, the first Birmingham model railroad is gone forever, but a new one rises in its place.  I hope you enjoy these items from the former railroad.

Birmingham Coal Train  is a movie of railroad action at a blast furnace on the former model railroad.  This is from Birmingham Rails Channel on You Tube.

Birmingham Area Model Train Show, Bessemer Civic Center, October 18, 2003.  Lots of local model RR activity and good folks.  Check it out.

Model railroading is fun.  That's the slogan of Model Railroader magazine, and it sums it all up pretty well.  Birmingham offers a lot to excite and challenge anyone interested in railroads of any size.  The large map that is included in this web site was a great way to begin to look for sites to model.  Field trips confirmed the areas chosen and additional information was gathered.

At my house, we carefully selected a basement with a house over it, and set out planning a railroad empire that would reflect some of the scenes around Birmingham.  Although the railroad is not complete by any means, and scenery is sorely lacking, the basic concept and thought have developed a series of locations on the model that reflect real life.

One of the areas modeled is the Sloss Furnace area.  The key features here are the long straight track of the main lines and the complex track of the crossing that is made by the L & N and the Southern main lines.  All of this is still in place and is still very busy.  Here are some scenes from the current status of the railroad empire, unfinished as it is.  The "stoves", the towers with the rounded tops, are made of shampoo bottles, and the "blast furnace" is a stadium cup and a cooking oil bottle.  The rest of the mock up is foam core.


Another area that is modeled is the Downtown Grade Separation area built about 1930 to separate rail and street traffic.  This project also changed the L&N Passenger Station dramatically - part of that station is used by Amtrak today.


One approach that I have taken is to make mock up buildings without much detail in order to take up space and provide a backdrop.  These are made from foam core board, such as the casting shed at Sloss Furnace and the overpass.  Other items such as mailing tube and cardboard from the backs of legal pads make pretty good building materials.


I did go to the trouble to build continuous (almost) backdrops with coved (curved) corners and painted them with sky colors, diluted and blended with a six inch brush.  These are made of Masonite, eighth inch thick and are coved to about 15 inches in the corners of the basement.


The overall format of the railroad is around the walls and through the walls.  There is a lift bridge over the stairway into the basement/garage.  The "through" the wall is a pair of tunnels through the stairwell wall.  One goes to the Sloss Furnace area and beyond.  The other goes to a 21' x 4.5' room under the front porch which is intended to contain a long "mountain" representing Red Mountain.  This will contain an iron mine on one end, and through a warp in the space time continuum a coal mine at the other end.  Under the mountain is a hidden staging yard and return loop.


At the other "end" of the railroad, there is a 16' x 1' shelf with another 16' x 1' fold down shelf that drops down to make room for my wife's mini van.  ROW negotiations reached an impasse and this was the best compromise I could reach.  The wall portion is set up to mimic the elevated downtown track, with retaining walls, and the L & N station platforms on top.  About half the length is intended to be fronted with building flats to hide the last half of the tracks, which can then form a dead end staging yard on an upper level.  Underneath this is a lower level dead end staging yard.

The railroad could use a labor force that is more dedicated than I am.  I would consider help from interested folks sharing the same interests in the steam era modeling of the Birmingham area.  I think more progress would be made if there was some peer pressure and a regular weekly work schedule.


As a last piece of information, I have provided a link to the plan of the layout and basement:  Track Plan

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