The City of Birmingham was founded in 1871, one month after the completion of the last link in the North-South railroad connecting Montgomery to Birmingham through Brock’s Gap. The new city was the center of the developing Birmingham District that grew quickly as a collection of iron ore, coal, and limestone mines. Manufacturing plants were scattered throughout a five-county region constituting today’s Birmingham-Hoover metropolitan area. Attempts to bring the railroad up from the Cahaba River and across Shades Mountain began in the 1850s but were frustrated for many years by the difficult terrain. Brock’s Gap extracted a heavy toll both in terms of funds and human lives before the railbed was successfully completed.
A milelong railbed still exists as a forested road (follow it HERE) that is a potential greenway connection between Shades Mountain and the planned Cahaba Park on the Cahaba River near Helena. Unfortunately, the Brock’s Gap railbed stretches through an area near Interstate 459 that has been targeted for development. The railbed is threatened by a proposed interchange and future land uses.
The Brock’s Gap railbed is irreplaceable as a physical reminder of the success of our forbearers. They overcame difficult challenges developing the Birmingham District whose story begins with the railroads that run through the heart of the District to this day. Brock’s Gap is at the center of this history while also providing a unique public amenity. For more information, read THIS to follow the railbed as it currently exists and download and print this PDF to read about its creation and importance to the Birmingham District.