Historic Structures

Vicksburg and Brunswick Train Station, Eufaula Alabama

Date added: May 4, 2018 Categories: Alabama Train Station

Railroads were part and parcel of the nation's nineteenth century industrial infancy. Antebellum Alabama planters envisioned railways exporting the region's agricultural commodities and simplifying trading between parts of the state divided by mountain ranges and unnavigable river routes. But railways grew slowly until state and regional leaders aggressively pursued industrialization after the Civil War. In the south, as historians Tom Terrill and William Cooper described, railroads "formed the superstructure of the economy of the New South. They were the elemental precondition to better times."

A railway mania swept the South after the Civil War, infecting politicians, businessmen, and potential railway laborers. Despite the war-related destruction, and with the help of northern capitol and government subsidies, by 1880 railroad mileage in the South doubled that in 1860, reaching 19,430 miles. Mileage tripled between 1880 and 1900 as railroads scaled mountains, transcended rivers, and thus made more land exploitable for agriculture, cattle, and industry. Alabama, with Georgia, Arkansas, and Texas, led the region in state aid to railroads and in new construction from 1865 to 1875. More than 300 companies operated lines in the South by 1890, but only 60 companies operated and owned up to 100 miles of track. Small companies, operating short stretches of track, provided the bulk of the region's railway network.

The Vicksburg & Brunswick Railroad Company, organized in 1867, was typical of the small railway companies that built lines connecting trading and industrial towns throughout the South. The company originally envisaged connecting Eufaula to Meridian, Mississippi via Troy, Greenville, and Camden, Alabama, but the railroad never made it past Clayton, Alabama, that 21-mile section being completed in 1871. Southwest Railroad Company began leasing the line in 1872, but 1879 the company was in foreclosure, and Central Railroad & Banking Company of Georgia, Southwest's creditor, purchased the railroad for $80,000. The railroad reorganized in 1883 as the Eufaula and Clayton Railroad, a subsidiary of Central Railroad, and the new directors extended the railroad another 40 miles to Ozark, producing the Ozark and Eufaula Railroad. Central Railroad & Banking Company expanded quickly in the 1870s and 1880s, hoping to challenge Louisville & Nashville's monopoly over the state's mineral regions. Towards this end, the Savannah and Western (a Central Railroad & Banking Company subsidiary) consolidated the line connecting Ozark and Eufaula with Columbus & Western Railroad and East Alabama & Cincinnati Railroad in the mid-1880s.

The Vicksburg & Brunswick Railroad Company built the Eufaula depot in 1872 as a combination passenger and freight terminal. Such nineteenth-century railroad depots became town centers and local attractions in the South. Built with distinguished flair, usually with current Italianate influences (often including louvered roundels and decorative lintels and brackets), the depots celebrated the New South's desire for growth, industrialization, and urbanization. In 1875, a writer for Building News observed that depots had become "to the nineteenth what monasteries and cathedrals were to the 13th century. They are truly the only real representative building we possess .... Our metropolitan termini have been leaders of the art spirit of the time." The Vicksburg & Brunswick fit this pattern and included tall arched windows and decorative wooden brackets and brickwork. But in 1891 the poor condition of the Eufaula depot demanded a new facility and was leased for various purposes until 1948, when the Eufaula Hardware Company rented the building to use as a warehouse.

The building was later purchased by the Eufaula United Methodist Church.

The depot comprises 7500 square feet of enclosed space (not including basement). Windows are arched on the exterior and square and shuttered on the interior. Brick walls measure 12' thick. Roof trusses (comprising three 2 x 12' brick pilasters. A standing-seam metal roof was added in the twentieth century (original roof unknown). Lower portions of salmonbrick (underbaked) brickwork are patched with cement. Decorative wooden brackets in each pilaster add support for the roof overhang. Four front (east side) rooms (400 square feet each) served as offices and as a passenger waiting area. Three basement bearing walls run the length of the building at about 12 feet on centers, crossed above by 2.5 x 12' heart pine joists about 16' on center. Loading docks have since been removed.