By Robert Burgins, Jr.
Recently a noticeable site has been further added within the grounds of Bessemer. The Hall of History Musuem (1905 Alabama Ave. 35020) recently added the monumental millionth box car manufactured by hands of those who once worked at the renowned Pullman Standard plant.
A particular group, known as ‘the Wrecking Crew’ overtime handcrafted an amazing replica of the city of Bessemer’s central rail line within the walls of the monumental boxcar.
Acquired by the Bessemer History Museum, fittingly it (the boxcar) has become not just a once used man-made resource hauler, but a trip in time, as well as a museum in its own right.
Do you know the historic nature Bessemer has played within the rail system? Or that Bessemer’s Hall of History, itself was once an actual train depot? Or that some of the (still standing) surrounding buildings within the hall’s vicinity played an important role to Pullman Standard workers, traveling railmen and to the rail system specifically?
Well we talked to longtime Bessemer resident and History Hall volunteer Mr. William Eiland, who not only by a fantastic memory, but with specific detail took us back several decades to explain the history of these particular grounds of the city.
Pointing out long lasting cross tie indentations and where pumper car (hand car) locations were, Mr. Eiland literally took us through the picturesque scenery of a time long ago, yet worthy of memory; orally painting a picture that the mind could vividly follow.
We asked him about this particular project and he told us, “The Wrecking Crew were a group of elderly men who were experienced in model framing and once we acquired the box car, they came in and created this entire model train station and replica of the surrounding areas of Bessemer.”
From model gas stations, theaters, businesses and even houses (some even, as we call them, shotgun houses) along with bridges and waterways, the model directly captures an image of the olden days of Bessemer in an artistically unique fashion.
Mr. Eiland continued, “Now the Wrecking Crew made the model through researching old photographs of the city, and they did a magnificent job.” As we’d also agree, Mr. Eiland fired up the engines, as we stood in awe watching the train come alive, revealing on its course model buildings we’d yet to notice as well as businesses that once surrounded the areas in real life.
Extravagant, moving and reminiscent of the days our Grandmothers and Grandfathers spoke of, we literally took a walk down the streets and roads they’d once traveled.
For all lovers of history and knowledge of their current residence, this is a trip down memory lane many must see and visit in due time. We thank the Bessemer History Musuem for sharing such a treasure with us all, as we salute the legacy of many of our own who’ve worked the railways and Pullman Standard literally and their families.
For all inquiries and business hours to view such magnificence, call 205-426-1633 or websearch the Bessemer Hall of History Musuem.
In loving memory of Pullman Standard workmen: Junior C. Davis, Willie C. Williams & Willie Jones, Sr.
All aboard!! We’ll see you on the rails.