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Crossing on the Green Park: a nod to New Albany’s railroad history

Crossings sculpture, now installed in Crossing on the Green Park

New Albany’s new Crossing on the Green Park honors the city’s close association with railroads and those who’ve owned them.  The Union County Historical Society is developing the small, railroad-themed park at the intersection of  Faulkner Way (Highland St.) and Jefferson Ave.

The new park is already a place where one can see passing trains very close up.  The vantage point is from atop the locally infamous “Clerance,” a railroad bridge that carried trains over Main Street, in New Albany’s historic downtown, for over 100 years. Clerance was known to take revenge upon those who ignored his famously misspelled “LOW CLERANCE” warning. Largely because of that, he was replaced by the new Tanglefoot bridge overpass in 2015. The new bridge, unlike Clerance, allows Main St. traffic to pass unmolested beneath its higher arch.

Happily, Clerance was saved from the scrap heap when he was replaced by the modern bridge.  The city retired Clerance to a shady, park-like area near the current BNSF tracks. Later, he was spruced up with steps, safety railing and seating.

A recent addition to Crossing on the Green Park

The most recent addition to Crossing on the Green Park is “Crossings,” a sculpture whose first life consisted of being the important intersection between two railroads. Back in 1886, there was a railroad race between the Kansas City, Memphis & Birmingham Line and Col. William Clark Falkner’s North-South line, originally The Ripley Railroad. Whichever railroad got track laid to the intersection first was to win a future perpetually free of the significant expense of maintaining the intersection for the use of both railroads. North-South was the loser by about six months, and the burden of maintaining the intersection fell to them. For over 130 years, Ripley Railroad and its many successors have maintained the intersection themselves, or paid someone to do it for them.

From railroad crossing to work of art

Installing the 10,000 pound Crossings required heavy equipment and much caution.

When the old rail crossing was recently removed from the intersection near Railroad and Cleveland Streets, Mayor Kent asked if the city could have it.  The 10,000 pounds of iron soon belonged to New Albany. City officials, volunteers and members of the Historical Society worked together to prepare the sculpture-to-be for its new home in Crossing on the Green Park.

Zack Stewart working hard at Crossing on the Green Park.

Contractor Paul Smithey, whose company also replaced Clerance in May of 2015, provided much assistance, including all the welding required to stabilize “Crossings.” City workers and equipment moved the heavy sculpture and placed it in enough concrete to make the sculpture safe for the public to admire. Next, there will be a raised pad built to further stabilize Crossings, and to add to its sense of being a work of art in its new life as a sculpture.

For now, Crossing on the Green Park is a nice place to watch the trains, reflect upon New Albany’s railroad history, spend time with Clerance, have a picnic, etc. But there are additional ideas in the works for the park.

What the future may hold for Crossing on the Green

The Union County Historical Society is currently fleshing out more plans for the park, which is on land they purchased around 2009

There are restorations underway to salvage brick buildings on the property that once housed Tackett’s Bar-B-Q.  Tackett’s reigned supreme in the 1940s to 1960s among locals who loved their ‘cue. According to Union County Heritage Museum Director, Jill Smith, “It’s even possible that the future may see bar-b-cue being sold again from that same location.”

“The ‘cue’ has a long and colorful history in the area, beyond the Tackett Story,” Smith said. She noted the historical record of “Umm, barbicoa,” as uttered by Hernando de Soto, who’d first brought on-the-hoof pork to this region of the new world, when he tasted the Chickasaw-prepared pork.  ( Barbacoa: a wooden frame suspended over a wood fire, used for roasting meats.)

When you’re right, you’re right!

Those who value knowing about an area’s local history, and about the people who influenced its growth and development, are indebted to individuals and organizations who document and protect that history for all of us. Their instincts generally work out to the community’s benefit.

At the time of the Crossing on the Green Park’s land purchase, according to Smith, “the Historical Society had little real idea of what they wanted to do with the space, other than to protect and preserve its historical setting. They thought it might be ‘a good spot for something in the future’.”

It seems they were right.

 

Zack Stewart, former Northern District Transportation Commissioner, talks with former New Albany Mayor, Walter Johnson.

 

Be VERY careful!

 

More about Clerance and New Albany’s railroads:

Clerance is removed: http://nanewsweb.com/new-albany-says-good-bye-all-in-a-mornings-work/

Clerance gets a new home: http://nanewsweb.com/hello-again-clerance-old-friend/

New Albany is a railroad town: http://nanewsweb.com/new-albany-continues-homage-to-railroads-passed/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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