By Gary Lloyd
TRUSSVILLE – Author Marvin Clemons is scheduled to give a presentation and sign copies of his book, “A Journey to the Great Temple of Travel: The Story of Birmingham Terminal Station,” on Sunday, Nov. 13 at the Trussville Public Library.
The event is scheduled for 2 p.m. The presentation, titled “Journey to the Great Temple of Travel,” is co-hosted by the library and Trussville Historical Society.
In 1905, at the peak of railroad expansion into Birmingham, five railroads collaborated on the construction of a new passenger station for the fast-growing “Magic City.” Stretching three city blocks and encompassing 10 acres, the new Terminal Station, with its 100-foot dome and twin towers, was hailed at its opening as “the great temple of travel,” and the finest railway station in the New South.
At its peak during World War II, the station handled 52 scheduled passenger trains, including some of the finest in the country. But following the war, as travelers abandoned trains for planes and automobiles, the once majestic station began to decline. Outdated and with most of its trains gone, in 1969 the station’s owners made the decision to demolish the fading structure for a proposed urban development project. Ironically, following the station’s removal the proposed project fell through, leaving nothing but vacant lot.
More than a half century later, the station’s destruction is still lamented as the greatest single loss to Birmingham’s architectural heritage. Clemons, during his junior year in high school, landed his first railroad job working weekends as a tower operator controlling train movements through the station.
Following graduation from Banks High School, Clemons transferred to Atlanta and worked as a towerman for Atlanta Terminal Station before being called to active military duty, serving as an Army officer during the Vietnam Conflict. Following discharge, he returned to Birmingham and earned his journalism degree at UAB. He then wrote for the Birmingham Post-Herald as the paper’s transportation editor, later returning to UAB to earn a master’s degree in counseling and entering private practice.
While pursuing his profession, Clemons 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 railroad executive. The limited edition was awarded the George Hilton Book Award by the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society.
As part of his research, Marvin collected hundreds of photographs and historical documents for the book’s chapter on Terminal Station, documenting the station’s 60-year history and its demolition in 1969, still considered by many as the single most significant loss to Birmingham’s architectural heritage.