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Exploring old Alabama

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I headed out today to go see some of old Alabama. My first stop was going to be some old bridge pilons resting on the Cahaba River. These bridge pilons are just north of the remaining structures of tressel Woodstock and Blocton #8 which stand over 110' above the Cahaba River. The Woodstock and Blocton Tressel, which was built in the 1892, was unfortunately the site of a train wreck 4 years later in 1896.


Terrible Accident on the Louisville and Nashville.




The Wreck Was the Work of Human Fiends-Charred Corpses Packed in Between the Seats.

Memphis, Tenn., Dec. 27.-A special to the Commercial Appeal from Birmingham, Ala., says: Fiends in human form wrecked the Birmingham Mineral branch passenger train No. 40 at Cahaba river bridge twenty-seven miles from here, at 7:50 this morning and twenty lives were lost. That number of bodies have been recovered from the wreck and further search may swell the list of the dead. The wreck, it is regarded as almost certain, was accomplished by the removal of a rail in the middle span of the trestle. This derailed the train, which caused it to fall down the two spans and precipitated it into the river 110 feet below.

The wreck was the worst that has ever occurred in the state and the survivors are so few and so badyl [sic] hurt that they are unable to give any detailed description of how it all happened. It is not known and may never be ascertained just how many passengers were on the train. Most of them were miners and residents of mining towns in this district who had round-trip holiday tickets and were returning to their homes along the line of the Birmingham Mineral railroad.

Conductor A.P. CONNELL, who probably knew better than anybody else as to how many passengers were aboard, is dead. It is thought, however, that there were not exceeding twenty-five or thirty. But one passenger purchased a ticket at Birmingham. The ill-fated train was a local passenger which left here at 6.30 a. m. and was scheduled to make a circuit on the Birmingham Mineral branch, which is a branch line of the Louisville and Nashville, reaching all the important mining towns in the district. The train, consisting of an engine, a baggage car and two coaches, left here at 6.30 a. m. and went to Taccoa, on the main line of the Louisville and Nashville. There it switched off to the Birmingham Mineral track and went to Gurnee, from Gurnee to Blocton. The Mineral trains operate over the Southern railway's Blarfield, Blacton and Birmingham branch under a contract agreement. Six miles south of Gurnee is the Cahaba river, a shallow mountain stream, which has a depth at this time of only about three or four feet. This river is spanned by an iron bridge with wooden trestles on each side. Its entire length is 800 feet and the length of the main span, where the wreck occurred is 110 feet. The bridge was built only four years ago and was regarded as a very strong structure. The main span and the span just beyond, both made of iron, gave way and precipitated the entire train into the river. The engine landed on its side almost at right angles with the track. The cars piled up on each other through the main span. The entire wreck took fire soon afterwards and was rapidly burned to the water's edge. Nine persons alone escaped alive, all of whom went down and several of them will probably die.

More info here: http://www3.gendisasters.com/alabama/8277/birmingham-al-cahaba-river-bridge-train-wreck-dec-1896-cahaba

Unfortunately I did not get a chance to make it to the wreck site. My idiot self forgot to charge my phone, which I use for GPS in the woods, so I lost battery to navigate my way to the site from the old bridge pilons. I will make that trip this weekend I'm hoping, along with my nice camera as opposed to using my cell phones camera.

Loaded up and heading out...


Clear blue skies....even the moon.....


Before heading towards Gurnee, AL I wanted to snap a few pics from a local area near my house that has some old homes that have collapsed over the years. It appears a fire may have started in the area, resulting in the weakend structures. Who knows though. There used to be an old Pontiac wedged in between trees that had overgrown the area but it appears someone else found this spot and claimed their prize, as the car is no more.

Here are pics of one of the homes...



Here are some of the remnants from the home....




A little further down an old trail leads me to another home quietly resting in the woods...



After exploring the area I decided to head towards Gurnee. I took a route that goes thru the Tacoa Minerals strip mines of Shelby County. Most locals refer to this area as "Coalmont" or "The Bowl", even though the "Bowl" section of the strip mines is small in comparison to the rest of the property. This was a public county road but now it is posted private property. I had no issues traveling straight thru though to Highway 10 which would connect me from Maylene to Gurnee.


A section of mining area. You can see where huge dragline excavators have left their mark.....


Once I ended the mining road I came to Hwy 10 and followed it to Slab Road. My original route had me taking Slab Road directly from the mining area but there where geological trucks surveying one of the gates so I had to go with plan B instead. Once on Slab Road you also enter the Cahaba Wildlife Management area, or CWA. You can canoe, hunt, fish in this area so long as you have a license. Stiff fines for loitering and littering in the CWA areas. Tread lightly. Slab Road is a mixed surface road from pavement, gravel, dirt, coal surfaces.

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You will know you're on the right path when you see this rock...



There was a sign at the entrance of Slab Road that read something like "Future site of Life River"....or something to that effect. Traveling down the old road I came upon a very nice canoe launch site which was part of whatever the "future sight of..." was all about. I will have to be sure and come here in the summer even though the Cahaba never really 'warms up' lol.

Here are some pics of the canoe launch...




Gravel lot as well for the canoe launch...


As I traveled along the Cahaba river banks I kept an eye out for man-made structures. Being winter season and everything dead, it was pretty easy to spot the old bridge pilons. A little past the pilons is a trail which turns back toward the pilons and runs parallel to Slab Road...


Follow that trail for a little ways takes you directly to the pilons. There was cut logs, concrete cinder blocks and a small fire pit. Appears people go there for fishing off the banks.

Here are some pics of the old bridge pilons...




They have of course been 'tagged'...


Where I had my bike in the woods I noticed it was next to a strange looking tree. I dubbed it "The Plumber's Tree". :bonk:...



Just a bit down the road is some remnants of I'm guessing another bridge or dam once upon a time...


Traveling to the end of Slab Road will grant you a beautiful pond feed by the Cahaba. Nice scenic photo op spot....


I then headed back home after finding out my cell phone was about to die on me. It sucked as it killed my trip short and I really wanted to visit the wreck site. But I'll make that trip very soon again. Hope you enjoyed the pics and brief history.

It was an awesome day to ride!!


Edited by haknslash

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Great ride report. Looking forward to part 2 of the ride report when you get your GPS going again.:smirk:

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Glad yall liked the scenery. Part II will be coming very soon with the actual wreck site.

I didn't know we had a Ride Report section. Can't find it either. I guess the pics/vids section would be the closest thing to it.

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After digging around a bit I found out what once stood here...


This used to be called The Marvel Slab Low Head Dam for it being a slab dam crossing in Marvel, AL. It is just down the Cahaba from what I'm sure many of you locals know as "The Slab" or "The Old Slab". It was constructed in the 1960's, abandoned in the 1980's, removal discussions began in the 1990's, removal began and finished in 2004. The slab dam had 46, 3ft diameter culverts. It was 210 ft long, 6 feet tall, 24 feet wide.

The difference between the Marvel Slab and The Old Slab is the dangerous conditions and environmental impact the Marvel Slab posed. Under flooding conditions it would create such a hydraulic of flow that even the most experienced kayaker's would avoid. It looked pretty serious judging by the pics. It also was a pain to boaters as it blocked access to the Cahaba and would have to launch on either side.

Here is an article about The "New" New Slab, aka The Marvel Slab http://www.cahabariver.net/nslab.htm

A nice PDF documenting the removal project of the dam http://www.cahabariver.net/documents/COE-TNC_Partnership-Marvel_Slab_Dam_Removal_11-17-2004.pdf

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Really enjoyed your ride report. While I enjoy video as well as photography, your pictures help tell your story well. Good job and thanks for sharing. :smirk:

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Really enjoyed your ride report. While I enjoy video as well as photography, your pictures help tell your story well. Good job and thanks for sharing. :thumbsup:

Thanks. Glad you enjoyed it. :thumbsup:

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