Close Encounters of the Third Kind
L & N Railroad Depot
301 McMeans Avenue, Bay Minette, AL 36507
Hours: Monday-Friday 9:00am -4:00pm.
July 7, 1976……..
Little Ol’ Bay Minette, a quiet sleepy town nestled in North Baldwin County was transformed by movie magic and forever changed the history of our quaint Alabama town.
Director Steven Spielberg and his film crew turned our little railroad depot into the imaginary site of a train station located in Gillette, Wyoming for the film. Rumor has it, he was looking for a train station with gingerbread trim around the building’s eaves and our L & N Railroad station fit the bill.
Most townsfolk called it “organized chaos” those hot summer days but the allure of Hollywood in our town didn’t keep people away. Folks came from far and wide to get a glimpse of Hollywood magic. At the time it was the first movie ever made in south Alabama.
The scene filmed at the depot is known as the “Evacuation” scene from the film and lasted 10 days. Over 2,000 extras, many local’s cars and a lot of local cattle were used. The “extras” (aka. Towns People) were required to wear jeans, long sleeves and jackets even though it was the heat of summer. For continuity, the dress code had to reflect seasonal Wyoming weather. One extra noted that the license plates on the cars were made from cardboard to accurately reflect location of the scene as well.
Even though the filming here was brief, if you ask any one who was here those days, they’ll tell you that while extras were financially compensated for their appearances some felt that being on set and becoming a part of the town’s history was better than any financial reward.
After being abandoned by the L& N Railway company, the building was given to the City of Bay Minette. In 1984 a fundraiser was held and our proud residents saved the iconic building by relocating the structure from the railway track along Railroad street, where the film was made and placed it at 301 McMeans Avenue on Highway 59, where it still stands today. It currently serves as home to the North Baldwin Chamber of Commerce.
The public is welcome to visit the station and take tours daily.
(Photos courtesy of AL Com)
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