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Railroad Park: The New Heart of Birmingham

Updated on June 8, 2014

Building a new community

Birmingham, Alabama has long needed a true public space downtown - space for people to meet and talk, celebrate and play, stroll and contemplate. Railroad Park is a new community heart for us. After many years of grieving for lost architectural splendor, we again have a vast work of art at the center of town.

On any sunny day, you can see picnickers and joggers on the broad meadows and wide paths. A few steps takes you out of the crowd onto shady winding trails beside a stony brook, or an herbal walk lined with rosemary bushes, or intimate nooks with benches and trees.

So many features blend together into a harmonious whole: the native plantings, the lake that feeds into a bio-filtration system, the playgrounds, the paths and walls made of repurposed wood and brick, the rain curtain and water lilies and little bridges and more delightful details than I can remember.

Railroad Park doesn't feel like Birmingham, that stuffy overgrown industrial town with a sad past and a doubtful future. The stodgy old buildings, seen across trees and water, are suddenly beautiful. The plaza holds a group of exercisers, the meadow hosts an impromptu ball game, children are shouting in the playground, folks are sitting on isolated benches or meeting on the walking trail...

It doesn't feel like Birmingham anymore. Or else Birmingham feels new.

[Photos by Valerie Proctor Davis and Charlotte R. Proctor]

Alabama Wildflowers - Native plants and grasses in Railroad Park

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Yesterday and Today - A new look for an old town

Birmingham Then and Now (Then & Now Thunder Bay)
Birmingham Then and Now (Then & Now Thunder Bay)

Explore the beauties of Birmingham's past and present.


Quiet Reflections

Some days we just sit on the stone wall by the lake, watching ripples in the water.

Scent of Water

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Friends and Fun

The green meadows fill with people for concerts and events.

Green Spaces

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Roar of Trains

Trains still run through downtown, just a few yards from the elevated walking path.


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Path to the Past

Sections of the paths are made of old railway ties and bricks recovered from the site.

Map and Directions

A markerRailroad Park -
1600 1st Avenue South, Birmingham, AL 35233
get directions

Find More About Birmingham

Have you visited Railroad Park?

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    • wildbluefrontier profile image

      Nathan M 3 years ago from Tucson

      Looks like a neat place to visit. i like that they put some of the old railroad ties and other items to use.

    • profile image

      Scott A McCray 4 years ago

      I've never been, but I'd like to visit after seeing your photos! Thumbs up on a very nice lens!

    • profile image

      ConvenientCalendar 4 years ago

      I have friends that have and enjoyed it!

    • MarcStorm LM profile image

      MarcStorm LM 4 years ago

      I really enjoyed your writing! It's nice to see that the world is starting to renew their cities...finally getting rid of eye sores and just cleaning everything up, with hopefully, keeping nature in mind. The world is working it's way towards the right path - it's slow going but I think future generations will hopefully get there...if the damage isn't too irreversible. Great lens! I really appreciate your writing style and the way it all flows beautifully!

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      I have taken grandchildren to RR Park many times, when it was newly opened and the native plantings were newly in the ground, and this spring with my daughter, where we found the switch grass fully thickened . The herb walkway has turned into a rosemary lane, as the vigorous, woody plant has subdued the more delicate thyme and oregano.

      It's a lovely place to relax, to enjoy their annual Symphony in the Park, with what seems like thousands of residents of Southside, city. Loft dwellers, and multitudes like us who drove in from surrounding neighborhoods. We are all comfortably seated on our towels or folding chairs in the grassy bowl facing the Symphony Orchestra and the setting sun. Our senses are filled with the smell of grass, the warmth is the summer sun and coolness of our iced tea tea and the sound of beautiful music.

      When the freight trains rumble by in the distance, and you notice bikers silhouetted on the raised trail... well, that's just the icing on the cake.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I have never been there, but I really enjoyed your pictures.