Quarry history lessons

Published 2:52 pm Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Vincent residents curious about limestone quarries as neighbors could take a tour of Central Alabama’s limestone quarries trail. Most of it is right here in Shelby County. A quick look around would answer many questions about living alongside a quarry.

Begin the tour just east of Montevallo on Alabama Highway 25. Drive west past the limestone operations.

You can’t miss the piles of spoil and the puffs of smoke from the chimneys. Head back on 25 toward Calera. Pause or drive slowly (but watch out for the rock- hauling trucks; a sight-seer could get overrun).

Check out the chimneys and the landscape, as well as the finish on the cars parked along the way.

Go on to Calera, then take U.S. 31 north toward Birmingham. You are right in the midst of the best part of the trail. All along the way you pass quarries and crusher plants and cement plants. Watch out for the tankers carrying cement and 22- wheel dump truck trailer rigs carrying various sizes of crushed stone.

One of the trail highlights comes at Saginaw. Take a quick side trip on Shelby County 26 toward Columbiana. That will take you past the new and expanded quarry of the old Longview Lime operations.

Go slow and you can see. The company has put up fencing and a big berm along the road with shrubs and trees to hide the works. Then you cross a bridge over the quarry’s sunken road for the rock haulers, and that gives a quick view to the left of the vast old hole in the ground, evidently with pumps still running, and a very informative look at the current digging operations.

Back on U.S. 31, turn toward Birmingham. In another mile or so, you’ll come to the manufacturing end of the limestone operation at the edge of the quarry. There is a good view of the kilns and furnaces for making cement, and the loading areas and the puffing smoke stacks and the lime dust on the trees and cars.

Stay on U.S. 31 for a while. Traffic gets a bit congested, but in a growing part of Alabaster, there is another quarry plant puffing out grey lime dust.

You can end your old- fashioned Sunday drive experience by retracing the route there and heading on home. But if you make the trip, you will know better what quarries are like. And you might stop along the way and ask some folks what sort of neighbors quarries make.