Birmingham History - Oxmoor Depot

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#1
I posted this the other day on the end of one of the Birmingham threads but it has since disappeared, so I'm going to post it here. I think the photos may have been too large so I've resized them...

I found this 1903 T.C.I. & R.R. Co. benchmark disk a few weeks ago at the site of the Oxmoor Depot along the L&N (now CSX) main line south of Birmingham Alabama. This depot was directly across the tracks from the Oxmoor Furnaces on a retaining wall for a large water tank that was still visible in this 1941 aerial photo... bhamrails.info Oxmoor aerial, and is clearly described at the top of this 1926 map, where it notes "Brass Plate on retaining wall, EL 671.27 USGS"... bhamrails.info Oxmoor map

I have GPS coords for the mark but I want to verify them and will use them to overlay the 1926 map onto current images using Google Earth sometime soon.



 

UP2CSX

Fleeing from Al
#2
BH, yes, I remember us discussing it on that thread. It's still there. Are you not seeing it?

At any rate, I'm still at a loss to understand the purpose of that benchmark. I don't think the benchmark itself is from 1903, only that it used 1903 USGS datum for location. That would place the age at sometime between 1903 and 1926, since the benchmark is called out in your 1926 link. In my experience, it's rare to see a company benchmark unless there was some major construction or remapping of the line happening. Any idea if the the TC&I was doing something to the line during this period that would cause them to lay out a benchmark? Good find, whatever the case.
 
#3
Nope, it isn't showing on my posts or any search for oxmoor, birmingham, or anything related to the mines & Red Mountain.

I am by no means an expert on rail history or history of the area. I was actually looking for a 1947 USGS benchmark that was placed about 80-90 feet NE of this one, which was described in terms of the position of the depot building which has now been moved about 1/4 mile NE and is now a dentist office. I was lucky enough to stumble upon the bhamrails.info website and with a little help from John Stewart found the 1926 map deep in the site. I had visited the site previously looking for the 1947 benchmark and noticed the wall but didn't think much about it, then when I saw the wall and benchmark notation on the map I knew I had to go back and find it. You are probably right about the date. According to the map it appears the current CSX lines are probably in the same location as on the 1926 map, but all of the other lines to the south (sidings?) have been removed in the 1941 photo and there are now warehouse buildings where the furnace complex was. Nothing remains of the site except a historic marker, the main rail line (double rail) and that wall. Woods and heavy brush have overtaken everything NW of the rail on that map, and I believe the land is owned by USS Lands and is currently for sale as commercial property.

Anyone with any knowledge of the area please feel free to correct me, I'm just a newbie trying to piece things together from these various sources. I work on nearby Industrial Drive, so I'm eager to discuss Red Mountain Park with grandeman also! There are a few benchmarks up there that I would love to find... :D
 

UP2CSX

Fleeing from Al
#5
I'll be darned, I can't find that other thread now either. Must be a database indexing problem. I'm glad you reposted.

Seems like they must have set that benchmark for triangulation purposes, maybe when they were building the water tank. Did the tank have to be set on a slope? From what little I know about it, spending a summer working on a survey team, we'd set benchmarks for anything we'd be building on a slope. We'd use typical surveyor's stakes for the actual construction but then set permanent horizontal benchmarks to be used as reference points to make sure we were weren't getting excessive settling or even movement downhill. I suspect there where other benchmarks in the area but they are probably gone now, or really well hidden in all that brush.

I hope Eric (Grandeman) sees this thread and jumps in. He's now a park ranger for Red Mountain and probably knows more about the history of the area than any three guys around. :)
 

Alcomotive

Grandson of ALCO Bldr
#6
I wondered what happened to him! Havent seen him in a while here on this site and she sure is a history buff of that area! Hope he is doing well!
 
#7
I think you nailed it. The tank was on a small knob, probably not more than 12'-15' above the surrounding acre or two. The SW end of the retaining wall is only about 2' above the base of the tank, but is about 10' higher than track level. The NE end of the wall where the benchmark is placed is about 10' higher than the track and the surrounding land. I actually had to climb up on the far end of the wall and walk down it to reach the mark since that end of the wall is so high. I'm curious if the wall (mostly concrete with some large rocks embedded) was cut into a natural hill or if they built the wall and then piled up dirt & rocks to make a high point for the tank. We will probably never know.

So I think you are probably correct, it makes since that they would use the mark to build the tank level. It was made of brick according to the 1947 USGS description and sure enough I found a triangular section of double layer brick probably 3'x3'x5' with a curve consistent with a circular tank of that size. I think I took a photo of that tank piece also, but it is on my work computer so I'll have to post it next week.

I've seen Eric's other posts and I work just outside RMP so I'm sure I'll bump into him at some point. I've had my eye on their monthly tours but I haven't been able to make it to one yet, Sunday afternoons just aren't good for me.
 

grande man

Bonafied Grande Nut
#8
Hi folks.

The Oxmoor furnaces and their connection to Red Mountain's first commercial mine, Eureka 1 (1863), is a facinating study. The Eureka name most likely came later when the furnaces were rebuilt after the war in 1872. The red ore mines that supplied Oxmoor are now preserved as part of Red Mountain Park. The park also recently acquired the historic Oxmoor cemetery. :cool:

For anyone wondering about my old Eureka mines thread, I opted to remove it. If anyone is interested in why, shoot me a PM.

As for the Oxmoor furnaces and BenchmarkHunter's images, I thought it might be of interest to post a couple of files in this thread. Keep in mind that Oxmoor was originally funded by the Confederacy. It's last days were under TC&I (USS) ownership. The site operated until 1928. We (at Red Mountain Park) recently interviewed a lady who remembered seeing Oxmoor in blast as a child!

Please respect the copyrights associated with these images. They are intended for private study only, to promote historical preservation. With that in mind, I've included links to larger views as they are interesting to look at full size.

Oxmoor Furnaces, 1918
http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2793/4318665727_0101b10a05_o.jpg




1926 Map
http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4066/4318661103_000a8d373c_o.jpg

 
#9
Great picture! I have not seen that one before, but some similar ones from different angles. The map is the same one as on the bhamrails.info website, and it shows the TCI&RR benchmark.

The map was drawn (or updated) in 1926 and the furnace was shut down in 27 or 28. It also appears that the furnace complex was destroyed around the same time period, it is gone in the 1940's aerial photographs. I still think the TCI&RR benchmark was placed closer to 1903 than 1926 because why would a water tank be built at a facility that was shutting down? Or why would the area be surveyed when it was about to be shut down and cleared? It just doesn't make much sense for it to have been placed in the 20's but I guess it doesn't matter much, either way it is old.

I guess my real question comes back to when the Oxmoor depot was moved to it's current location, and if any dated photos of it exist. I guess I am going to have to spend some time at the archives!
 
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