Birmingham Railway, Light & Power Company car barn & shops

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View of the car barn in 1904
View of the car shops in 1904
Plan of the 3rd Avenue Carbarn by Alvin Hudson

The Birmingham Railway, Light & Power Company car barn & shops was a massive maintenance and storage facility built in 1903 by the Birmingham Railway, Light & Power Company on Block 287 and the northern half of Block 286, on either side of 4th Avenue North between 10th and 11th Streets.

The new facility consolidating the separate shops of five older street railroad companies that had been merged into the company in the previous decades. It also served the immediate purpose of replacing the former Avenue F Car Barn at 2215 6th Avenue South (Avenue F), which had burned down on April 17, 1901.

The double-ended car barn, south of 4th Avenue and sometimes called the 3rd Avenue Car Barn, was 140 feet wide and extended the full width of the block between 10th and 11th Streets. It was open at both ends so that cars could enter from the west for service and proceed out through the eastern facade on any of 9 parallel tracks. The interior was clear from the compacted cinder floor to the bottom of the steel trusses 18 feet above supporting a composition and tar roof penetrated by skylights. The building could shelter as many as 100 cars at a time, and was also used for washing and for lubricating and maintaining the cars' wheel trucks. Eight of the tracks bridged over a 160-foot long service pit to allow for work on the undercarriages. The tracks nearest the outer walls were used for washing cars. A masonry fire wall divided the north and south sides of the barn, with sliding insulated fire doors which could be closed rapidly to prevent a fire from spreading from one side to the other.

The shop building, north of 4th Avenue, was 114 feet wide, with a 20-foot wide 2-story section facing the street. Its red brick facade with red mortar was divided into bays, each with two large arched windows over matching rectangular windows on the ground floor. It housed maintenance for the upper parts of the streetcars, including windows and equipment, and an armature works for rewinding the DC motor armatures. The master mechanic's shop and supply storage were housed there, along with paint and lacquer shops, as well as locker rooms and toilets. A carpenter, machinist, blacksmith, and printer each had their own shop areas. The boiler house for the shop building was centered outside the north wall. Sawdust was collected by blowers into a separate building. All equipment, including jib cranes, was electrically powered.

The car barn was almost constantly active, with the last car coming in each night at 2:10 AM and the first car leaving in the morning at 3:40 AM. Several night watchmen patrolled the facility, making regular calls to check in. Both buildings were equipped 10,000 gallon tanks feeding an extensive system of firehoses, and a special firefighting team was employed by the company with their own horse-drawn wagons, operating from a separate building across 10th Street.

During the 1920s, the car barn was extended for another block to the west on Block 297, with a solid wall facing 9th Street North. The northern half of that block was used for bus parking. Eventually another bus parking area was added to the north, on Block 286, formerly part of Smith's Park, completing the four-block facility. A few existing worker's houses on the northeast corner of that block were used during World War II as separate locker rooms for Black employees.