This post continues our concentration on railroads and the collections concerning them at the Wiregrass Archives. The Tom Solomon Photograph Collection, RG 146, is one of our favorites.
To call Tom Solomon a “well-known artist and train enthusiast” as his 1988 obituary did is an understatement. Twenty-eight years after his passing, those who knew him and his work in the Wiregrass still talk about him, and there is an ongoing discussion about this missing paintings.
Solomon was a draftsman by trade, working for the Atlantic Coast Line and the Florida East Coast Railway. But he was a painter and photographer whose collection at the Wiregrass Archives (all photos, even of his paintings) was the basis for Railroading in and Around Dothan and the Wiregrass Region (Arcadia Press, 2004).
Solomon’s photographs record depots up and down the ACL line. They capture vignettes of economic and social life of the Wiregrass, like this 1963 image of the massive stack of agricultural freight awaiting transshipment from Iron City, GA.
And this March 15, 1942, photo of Grimes, AL, residents posing before their tiny depot. Ms. Julia Smith, Library Director at Troy State University Dothan until she retired in 2005, identified these folks as Chelle Vann Horne, Presley Dasinger, and Kathleen Brookins Smith (her mother). It’s unclear whether all of the Solomon photos are original (some go back to the early 20th century) of if there are many copy negatives. But no matter.
This black-and-white photo of his painting of the “Jody” taking on water at Capps Station is certainly original.
He even captured the slow fade of the railroad system as in this 1960s shot of a four-car train on a milk run. The conductor captures the mail hoop from the stationmaster. In earlier days, trains passed stations with enough speed that hand-to-hand transfers were dangerous. Station workers hung the mail ring from a steel pivot arm turned toward the track so the passing train’s own ring-catching arm could grab it.
In all, the Solomon collection contains 257 scanned images of all things train-related: depots, people, engines, more engines, wrecks, bridges, and general scenes, all black-and-white (with one exception). These are available for viewing and use by anyone by visiting the archives of following this link to our online finding aid: http://www.troy.edu/wiregrassarchives/inventories/146.html.