Montgomery Union Station and Trainshed

Also known as: Louisville & Nashville Railroad:Montgomery Union Station and
Water St., Montgomery, Alabama


Louisville & Nashville Railroad, Union Station Train Shed


Photo from the Historic American Engineering Record

View photos at Library of Congress



The Union Station Trainshed in Montgomery, Alabama is a rare survival of a once common building type. It was the outgrowth of a desire by railroad companies to improve passenger comfort, which then became a matter of engineering pride. Prior to the construction of Union Station, in 1897-8, Montgomery had been served by a small, two-story, frame structure constructed in 1860. Forty-four passenger trains were stopping in the city daily by 1894. The new station was planned to accommodate this growing load. While the volume of passengers was not as heavy as on major northern rail lines, it had become a point of public pride to upgrade station facilities. Most of the larger stations along the L&N mainlines, starting with the flagship station in Louisville, KY, were replaced with architecturally distinguished stations, including trainsheds, during the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Although constructed in 1897-8, the structure of the Montgomery trainshed is of an earlier type. The gable roof form is more similar to sheds constructed in the 1870's. The competition between companies for national prestige led to vying for the longest span trainshed. New engineering techniques had resulted in arched balloon sheds in the 1890's, largely replacing gable construction. The main reason for the use of an older construction method at Montgomery is that the Montgomery shed crosses only four sets of track. A larger shed would have been useless for the volume of traffic at the station. Also, as at the Louisville trainshed, it is possible that some salvage parts from iron bridges were used in the Montgomery structure. This is undocumented, but the use of the Phoenix column and of metal eyebars as tension members is typical of iron bridge construction from 1868 to 1885. ... The Union Station was designed by Benjamin Bosworth Smith, a Montgomery architect. The trainshed was produced out of the office of Robert Montfort, Chief Engineer of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad. The Montgomery trainshed was built as this style of terminal design was already in decline. The corrosion of the steel and iron structural members by the enclosed locomotive gasses caused rapid deterioration of these large structures. Leakage was a problem, as was the danger of injury from falling glass. Shortly after the turn of the century, umbrella platforms between tracks had largely replaced trainsheds for passenger accommodation. -- Historic American Engineering Record (HAER AL-1)

National Register information 

Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on July 24, 1973
Reference number
Architectural styles
Other architectural type; Victorian: Romanesque; Pratt truss
Areas of significance
Commerce; Engineering; Transportation; Architecture
Levels of significance
National; State
Evaluation criteria
A - Event; C - Design/Construction
Property type
Historic function
Current function
Period of significance
Significant years
1897; 1898
Number of properties
Contributing buildings: 1
Contributing structures: 1

Update Log 

  • March 16, 2012: New photos from WillyT