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Heart of Dixie Ralroad Museum Calera & Shelby Railroad Trip 4/18/2021

by Chris Guenzler

Elizabeth and I got up and went to Cracker Barrel restaurant where I had French Toast and bacon while Elizabeth enjoyed sausage, eggs, harsh browns and toast with orange juice. We finished the story from the day before, then checked out and drove to the Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum where we met David Brewer, the Executive Director. After exchanging business cards, he told us to have a good look around the grounds.

The Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum History

Half a century ago a group of Birmingham area railfans organized a chapter of the National Railroad Historical Society called the Heart of Dixie Railroad Club. Their goal was to preserve the sights, sounds, and artifacts of railroading for future generations. Fifty years later the Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum is still carrying out that mission at its museum location in Calera, Alabama. In November of 1962, an exciting event for railroad enthusiasts was taking place in Birmingham. The Louisville & Nashville Railroad had restored the famed Civil War locomotive The General to operation and was touring the L&N system with the engine as a public relations tool. The General’s visit to the Magic City brought together area railfans, and the idea of forming a Birmingham chapter of the National Railroad Historical Society was born. The first meeting was held in November at the Transportation Building on 1st Avenue North with thirty members present. Over the next several months members began the work of organizing their new chapter, which would be called The Heart of Dixie Railroad Club. An application for a charter was submitted to the NRHS and officers were selected. Members quickly got to work organizing meetings and railroad-themed outings. In addition to special events, the Club enjoyed regular monthly meetings where the members could get together to discuss chapter business and enjoy a railroad-themed presentation. Many of the early meetings were held in the Alabama Power Company’s headquarters auditorium, or in the assembly room of the Transportation Building, or at Handley Memorial Presbyterian Church, which was pastored by the father of David P. Morgan, the well-known editor of Trains Magazine. Chapter officers for the first year were Elliot Eggleston, President, Don Christie, Vice- President, and Charlie Hudson, Secretary & Treasurer.

The Original Railroad Park The Heart of Dixie Railroad Club quickly went to work to assemble a collection of railroad equipment for preservation and display. The first item received was wooden caboose No. 5368 donated by the Seaboard Air Line Railway. The first steam locomotive was 2-8-0 No. 38, donated by the Woodward Iron Company. The Chapter had to quickly get to work securing a location to store the cars and locomotives they were to acquire. The Heart of Dixie was fortunate when the St. Louis San Francisco Railway allowed the Club to lease for $7.50 per month an unused team track located behind the Frisco freight house at Powell Avenue and 18th Street South. You may now know this location as now "Railroad Park". The club was able to restore several pieces of equipment in order to participate in the Southern Railway steam program. Heart of Dixie equipment was pulled behind locomotives such as Southern 4501, Southenr 630, Norfolk & Western 1218, Norfolk & Westerm 611 and several other mainline steam locomotives. The main source of revenue for museum restorations were from operating steam excursions throughout Alabama.

A Good Move

Birmingham was a good home for the Heart of Dixie Railroad Club though its location in the center of the city became problematic. Vandalism was taking a toll on the club's collection. Several pieces of equipment were destroyed by fire and vandalism. The club decided it was time to find a new location that the museum would own and could build facilities to host a museum. The club decided to make Calera, Alabama its home and incorporated into the Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum, Inc. The museum purchased a 10 mile stretch of the former Alabama Mineral Railroad's roadbed (which was part of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad or L&N.) from Calera, Alabama to Shelby, Alabama. Shelby, Alabama is the site of the Shelby Iron Works that operated during the War Between The States. At the time of purchase, there was only one mile of track still existing between Calera and Hwy 301 in Shelby County. The museum has since laid another 5 miles of track to hwy 86 in Shelby County known as Springs Junction. The museum acquired and moved two historic depots to Calera. The Wilton Depot from Wilton, Alabama now serves as the museum's depot museum. The Woodlawn Freight Depot from the Birmingham area of Woodlawn, Alabama was relocated to the museum and now houses the Boone Library. Improvements over the years also include yard tracks to house the museum's rolling stock. A shop building for maintenance and restoration work. A visitor's center to house the museum offices, gift shop, and restrooms. The former Birmingham Zoo park train was relocated to the museum for a 1/2 mile ride through the woods. With the new site and infrastructure in place, restorations of museum rolling stock are taking higher priority. In 2011 the museum painted and restored the Chicago & Northwestern Bilevel coach. In 2013, work began restoring the Long Island Commuter Coach with full restoration completed in 2013. We have many more projects to come!

See You At The Museum!

We Invite you to come visit us at the Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum to see our hard work! Take a ride on the Calera & Shelby Railroad! Our museum trains are operated by 100% volunteer effort. Many of our exhibits, displays, and restorations in our depot museum are completed with volunteer effort. If you would like to help further the museum's work, please consider donating to the museum or volunteering to help out!

Our Visit

Elizabeth and I then walked the ground taking pictures as we went.

Birmingham Southern HH900 82 built in 1937.

Alabama Power Company fireless 4-4-0 40 built in 1953.

Missouri Pacific Planetarium Dome Coach 892 built in 1948.

Museum scene. We walked across the street to Clark Yard.

Alabama By-Products and Coke Company 0-6-0 4046 built in 1944 for the United States Army Transportation Corps.

Louisville and Nashville wooden camp car 42476 built in 1921.

Southern Railway bay window caboose X461.

Louisville and Nashville caboose 6907 built in 1952 for the Monon Railroad as C-361.

Pullman 10-section, one-drawing room, two-compartment car 4527 "Shrewsbury" built in 1915. It became Tourist Car 5139 in 1951 and was sold to Southern Railway. In 1953, it was converted to Mail Express Car 4527 then finally to a baggage car. Donation to the museum was in the 1960's.

Cast iron trucks with integrated pedastels.

Truck with bolt on pedastels.

Two axle cast steel roller bearing truck.

The Louisville and Nashville Woodlawn depot built 1887 which houses the Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum.

Woodward Iron Company 2-8-0 38 built in 1924 as Battson-Hatten Lumber Company 12.

Trinity Industries scale test box car.

Wheel sets.

Metra bi-level commuter coach 7715 originally Chicago and North Western 64, built in 1960.

East Alabama (formerly Louisville and Nashville) flat car 21417 built in 1956.

Memphis Union Station SW-1 10 built in 1942 which became Republic Steel 904.

Euclid 35 ton centre cab switcher 2430 built in 1953.

Mary-Lee Railroad S-8 37 built in 1953.

Alabama Dry Dock and Shipbuilding Company center cab switcher 520-020.

Jefferson Warrior Railroad steel caboose with side door 99X.

Jim Walter Resources steel caboose 100X.

Chattahoochee Valley Railroad box car 9007.

Chattahoochee Valley Railroad box car 9003.

Southern Railway double-door box car 40240.

Amtrak material handling car 1400.

The Calera and Shelby Railroad's station from Winton built in the 1890's.

Southern Railway derrick car.

Louisville and Nashville flat car 41326.

Norfolk and Western hopper car 27894.

Southern Railway hopper car 7956.

Southern Railway bay window caboose X-458.

Southern Railway baggage car 329.

Department of Defense flat car 38623.

Department of Defense flat car 8485.

Department of Defense flat car 38101.

Southern Railway 150 ton derrick and boom car D5989 built in 1926.

Louisville and Nashville baggage car 1551 built 1949.

United States Air Force troop car G-51 converted to a guard car in 1964.

Southern Railway baggage car 329.

Louisville and Nashville Railway Post Office car 1120.

The Alabama Club was built as the Pullman car Mount Gibbs built in 1926.

Empire Coke electric locomotive 2 built in 1912.

Empire Coke electric locomotive 1 built in 1912.

Heart of Dixie baggage car 102.

United States Army FM H12-44 1850.

Burro Model 15 Crane.

150 Ton Derrick & Boom car built in 1926 by Industrial Works as Southern Railway Wrecker D5989.

Southern Railway Sleeper "The Lake Ainslie" built by the Pullman Company in December 1923.


Track Maintenance wood flats and crane.

Whitcomb 25-toner 2 built by Whitcomb Locomotive Company of Rochelle, Illinois in December 1951 for the United States Air Force.

Track equipment.

Southern Railway Railway Post Office car 30 built in 1928.

Union Pacific speeder A4 2060.

An unknown Southern Railway car.

Unknown switcher.

Box car body.

United States Army flat car 38558.


Unknown baggage car.

Track equipment.

Museum scene.

United States Army guard car G-64.

Burlington Northern caboose 10522.

Chicago, Burlington and Quincy coach 4741 "Silver Maple" built in 1947.

Santa Fe coach 2823 built in 1953. After Amtrak service, it ran on the Montana Daylight train. This car was in the consist of the Montana Daylight that my mother Nancy and I rode in August 2003.

Calera and Shelby SW8 2019 built for the United States Army in 1951.

Calera and Shelby power car HEP-54.

Chicago and North Western bi-level commuter coach 7710 built in 1960.

Long Island Railroad coach 2972 built in 1955.

St. Louis-San Francisco heavyweight coach 1062 built in 1910.

Calera and Shelby open car 1221, formerly United States Army flat car 35211 built in 1940.

Calera and Shelby open car 1222, formerly United States Army flat car 35300 built in 1942.

Southern Railway caboose X201 built in 1971. This was the consist of the train Elizabeth and I rode twenty-five minutes after these photographs were taken.

Santa Fe El Capitan coach 2931 built in 1950.

Signals and crossing wig-wig display.

Museum scene. Now it was time to ride the train but it will be in the next part of this story.

Click here for Part 2 of this story!