Not in the clamor of the crowded street, not in the shouts and plaudits of the throng, but in ourselves, are triumph and defeat.--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

REDIRECT ALERT! (Scroll down past this mess if you're trying to read an archived post. Thanks. No, really, thanks.)

Due to my inability to control my temper and complacently accept continued silliness with not-quite-as-reliable-as-it-ought-to-be Blogger/Blogspot, your beloved Possumblog will now waddle across the Information Dirt Road and park its prehensile tail at http://possumblog.mu.nu.

This site will remain in place as a backup in case Munuvia gets hit by a bus or something, but I don't think they have as much trouble with this as some places do. ::cough::blogspot::cough:: So click here and adjust your links. I apologize for the inconvenience, but it's one of those things.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Historic railroad shop to be demolished

The Associated Press

PRICHARD, Ala. (AP) — Behind a thatch of pine trees in a corner of the Whistler community, workers are slowly dismantling a piece of Alabama's transportation history.

The site holds the remains of the old Mobile and Ohio Machine Shop, built before the Civil War in a community where railroad legend Casey Jones lived.

Once a gleam in the eyes of Prichard city leaders wanting to turn it into a focal point for a tourist attraction, the mostly dismantled structure now sits quietly amid the rustle of pine needles in the wind and the rush of nearby street traffic.

Prichard had been studying ways to turn the long-abandoned building into a historic site and tourist attraction, but now the property's owner, Jack Stallworth, is demolishing it.

"I hated to have to tear it down, but it was in such disrepair that they (city officials) were getting on my neck and wanted me to clean it up," said Stallworth, who has owned the property since 1946. He said a tornado in 1950 lifted up the west half of the building and flattened trucks that were stored inside.

"It had some extremely unusual architectural features," he said, noting that the structure was held up by five 12-inch-by-12-inch pine posts.

Large beams of old lumber, shaped with fitted joints, show the craftsmanship of whoever built it before the Civil War.

Several hundred thousand light-peach-colored bricks, which are larger than standard bricks, sit salvaged near the remains of the building. There were five bricked self-supporting arches that used to stand on the spot in Whistler near the corner of Main and Wasson streets, Stallworth said. Now vines grow to the top of a two-storied corner of the former building. [...]

But since a state environmental report showed in 2001 that the top foot of soil on the property was contaminated with lead, plans to turn the area into a Casey Jones Museum and theme park were abandoned. Prichard officials said the cash-strapped city didn't have enough money to cover the $130,000 estimated cost just to rectify the lead situation. [...]

"During the Civil War, Union troops destroyed most of the railroad stations in the South. Somehow, the M&O Railroad structure, which was built in 1851, escaped destruction and is one of only three still standing today," said former U.S. Rep. Sonny Callahan, R-Mobile, according to remarks made on Oct. 14, 1993, in the House of Representatives in defense of creating the museum.

Callahan noted that "Casey Jones, the famous railroad engineer, lived in what is now the Whistler Historic District of Prichard and was baptized at St. Bridget's Catholic Church on Main Street."

Jones was killed in a train wreck in Mississippi in 1900.[...]

The machine shop's home for more than 150 years, Whistler is the oldest part of Prichard and was a thriving community before the city incorporated in 1925. About 100 residential structures date back to the 1800s. Many of the streets there still exist in the pattern in which they were laid out when the community was founded.

Casey Jones is one of those folks that everyone claims. There's a Casey Jones Museum in Jackson, Tennessee, in Vaughan, Mississippi, and in Water Valley, Mississippi, and there's the Casey Jones Railroad Trail that begins in Kentucky. The long version of the account of his fateful last ride can be read here.

It's a shame the shop couldn't be saved, but it is a sad fact that not every historic structure can be saved, especially when they are in poorer towns or in more remote locations. Although I haven't been able to find anything online, hopefully someone has documented the building in photos and drawings.

Oh, and by the way, Austin Shaw is Miss Casey Jones, 2004-05.

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