Walking Where Ore Trains Ran
Red Mountain is a unique piece of geology. It is full of iron ore. This sign was erected in 1949 by iron industry patriarch Erskine Ramsey. The seam at this location, 18th Street at Red Mountain, is over 10 feet thick.
Consider that in the 1870's when the Birmingham District really began to develop, there was only one way to haul heavy materials -- by railroad. During the Civil War, the iron produced in the early furnaces at Oxmoor and Irondale (McIllwain) was carried over the ridges and valleys by ox cart to Montevallo, the railhead of the Selma, Rome and Dalton RR, then on to the armories at Selma, Alabama.
Thus, it became clear that in order to develop, the Birmingham District must have rail. This included lines to serve the mines, many of which were located near the top of Red Mountain, the location of the red ore outcrop.
The L&N RR built the Birmingham Mineral Branch which actually ran along the side of Red Mountain, well above the valley where the furnaces were located. This line ran for miles along the side of the mountain, from Bessemer to Trussville, until the 1930's. Then it began to be dismantled segment by segment.