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Interior, Pullman Standard plant in Bessemer, 1940s

Interior, Pullman Standard plant in Bessemer, 1940s.

Bessemer Plant Made Pullman Standard’s One Millionth Rail Car


ullman Standard was a legendary rail car manufacturer and an industrial landmark in the Birmingham District for more than 50 years. The Bessemer plant shut down in the mid-1990s. Various other businesses have set up shop here in the last 20 years but the old plant site is mostly empty again.

In 1929 Pullman Standard, then one of the nation’s largest producers of railway cars, chose Bessemer as the location for its southern plant. The plant was located on the original sites of the Bessemer Furnaces, which were in operation from 1889 to the 1920s, and the Bessemer Rolling Mills, which were operational from 1887 to the 1920s. The Pullman Standard plant acquired machinery and materials from the old Chickasaw Shipbuilding Company, which had been built in conjunction with U.S. Steel’s wartime expansions at Fairfield, and formally opened on October 1, 1929. Some of the buildings and equipment were moved there where they formed part of the 16-building complex for the production of various types of freight cars including box, hopper, gondola and flat cars.

The facility became the most productive of its kind in the world producing cars that went into service all over the country. Pullman would become Bessemer’s largest employer.

By January 1930 the Bessemer plant had built and delivered 600 box cars to National Railways of Mexico. The Southern Railway was another major customer. Southern received the 100,000th box car produced at the Bessemer plant in December of 1951.

During WWII bomb casings were added to its product mix. This plant also shipped railcars to Europe for the war effort in kit form. Other Pullman plants around the country, including its facility in Illinois, made tanks and guns and ships. But by far the most important war materials that Pullman produced were the passenger, troop transport, and freight cars that moved troops, civilian war workers, and war materials in Allied countries around the world.

Pullman’s Bessemer plant is credited with producing Pullman’s one millionth freight car in 1979. It can be seen today across from the Bessemer Hall of History which is located in the old Southern station.

The plant was acquired by Wheelbrator-Frye in 1980. Its operations as Pullman Standard were closed in 1981. Trinity Industries, which purchased Pullman, is currently operating facilities at the former Pullman Standard plant. The company continues to make and modify rail cars, but its production is considerably reduced.

Summit Investment Management LLC of Denver has begun renovations on the existing buildings at Pullman, which is now an industrial park, and is currently cleaning up the brownfield site which is said to be minimal. Summit holds a ground lease from Trinity.

The hope is to give the old plant site new life in an 800,000 square foot facility ripe for some new heavy industry.

Some 3,500 workers lost their jobs when the plant closed.

Morrow Building now

Photo ca 1905.

Morrow Building 1905

How it looks today.


Birmingham Now And Then
Morrow Building, 20th Street, North


ome things change, some stay pretty much the same as is the case with the old Morrow Building at 109 20th Street, North. It looks much the way it did when built in 1898 with a few touches.

First named the Nabers, Morrow & Sinnige Building, this five-story brick and terra cotta commercial center hides in the shadow of the Brown-Marx Tower. It was built for the Nabers, Morrow & Sinnige wholesale druggists with doctors’ offices above.

The architect for the building was Harry Wheelock. The façade is divided into three horizontal layers, with broad spans at the street level topped by a cornice. The next three floors are marked by three tall arched openings, each split by a thin central cast-iron column.

In 1918 the street-level space was rented by Thompson’s Cafeteria, which was then a downtown institution.

In 1973, in concert with the Birmingham Green campaign to revitalize 20th Street, attorney B.A. Monaghan rehabilitated the building, preserving its original architectural character. Henry Sprott Long & Associates were the architects for the renovations.

The Nabers, Morrow & Sinnige Building was added to the National Register of Historic Places on October 22, 1980.

(Thanks to BhamWiki.com for information used in this article).



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