Many Wiregrass Archives collections are rich resources for historical research. This post features one of our favorites, The Dixie Depot Records, RG 145.
In 1908, the Atlantic Coast Line / Seaboard Atlantic Line built its passenger and freight depot in Dothan, Alabama’s Dixie neighborhood a few blocks north of downtown. During its heyday first as the ACL/SAL depot then as the Southern Railway (CSX) depot, this was the headquarters for the yards from Waycross, Georgia, to Montgomery, Alabama. Copies of all contracts, compacts, and reports from other stations along the line ended up in the records collected at the Dixie Depot.
Most of those contracts are for rights of way and other small real estate transactions, but some are for private rental of sections of depot warehouses, like the 1943 contract for storage space in the Jakin, Georgia, depot, pictured here. Almost all contracts come with a blueprint on legal-sized paper (blueprinting was one of the only ways to make multiple copies before the advent of photocopying).
Depot blueprints are particularly interesting because they show the racial segregation of waiting rooms: “C.W.R.” in the upper left denotes that space is the “Colored Waiting Room,” and below it is the “W.W.R.,” the “White Waiting Room.”
In 2004, Dothan Landmarks Foundation (Landmark Park) prepared to return the abandoned depot (ca. 1985) back to the City of Dothan to become the HQ for the Wiregrass Transit Authority. The Wiregrass Archives pulled over 30 cubic feet of records – along with the evidence of insect and rodent infestation as well as coal dust – then cleaned and organized the collection into 4 subgroups containing 18 series, with an artifact and miscellaneous series:
Subgroup–Station Master 1926-1985 (Bulk 1954-1985); [350 Files]: The Station Master was the senior official in charge of the railroad station’s physical plant, office, and station employees. He was responsible for running the station safely and efficiently. One series consists of labor agreements, 1964-1978, including contracts between the unions and the SCL.
Subgroup– Property Protection 1946-1984, [94 Files] Railroad police ensured the safety of both passengers and freight and investigated any accident, injury or theft that occurred on railroad property. This division was really the railroad police.
Subgroup– Train Master 1955-1985, [84 Files & 7 Items]: Train masters were responsible for the trains that passed through terminals under their control and ensured that trains arrived and departed safely. Trainmasters kept close contact with personnel. The most interesting series in this subgroup is the Conductors’ Reports, 1981-1985.
Subgroup– Road Master 1954-1985, [202 Total Files (142 Files & 60 Oversized Files]: Road masters were responsible for an assigned territory of track and saw that it was kept up to established standards. They were responsible for maintenance personnel in the assigned territory.This subgroup contains 72 files of contracts, 1908 – 1964, a rich source of information about the towns along the line and the business of the railroad itself.
This collection is open for research. You can find an online finding aid for it here: http://www.troy.edu/wiregrassarchives/inventories/145.html
Wiregrass Archives staff members Tina Bernath and Diane Sowell created and displayed this poster about the Dixie Depot Collection at the Alabama Historical Association meeting in 2013 and the Society of Alabama Archivists meeting in 2015.