A Grovetown man who has shared the cherished items of his life's work with the city's museum will now help the city preserve its cherished history.
Clay Hardy, a retired conductor for the Georgia Railroad Co. and Grovetown resident for more than 40 years, was appointed to the board of directors of the Grovetown Museum in September. Before he became a trustee, Hardy had already made a significant contribution to the city's historical collections.
Last year, Hardy donated his conductor's uniform, passenger tickets, hand lanterns, a match striker from the smoking section of a passenger rail car, switch keys, safety manuals and other treasured pieces from his 37-year career on the railroad.
Hardy said when he visited the museum last year, he enjoyed its collection of railroad memorabilia and felt his collection could further the city's exhibit.
"I said, 'I've got a whole bunch of stuff at home that's just in the way collecting dust and it would mean more to me to display it than try to sell it,'" Hardy said.
In his career, he was a witness and participant in regional railroad history. Though he spent most of his career on freight trains, Hardy said he was the conductor on the final regularly scheduled passenger train between Augusta and Atlanta, which passed through Grovetown in 1968.
Hardy said he took a job with Georgia Railroad in 1955 after a stint in the military.
"I never liked to work inside a building," he said. "I was an outside person all my life."
The work was difficult and safety measures weren't as stringent then as they are now, he said. Before portable radios, workers used lanterns and hand signals to communicate with one another from the tops of moving rail cars, a practice not allowed today for safety reasons.
He had a few close calls. While working on a freight train departing from Decatur, Ga., he said, he stepped from one car to the next moments before the car he had been standing on derailed and flipped.
"If I had still been on that car I would have been thrown against (a) building," he said.
Though he and his crew members worked holidays and braved the elements on every run, he said he enjoyed the bond that grew among his friends on the trains.
"You get a closeness with a small group of men working together day after day," Hardy said. "But everyone looked after one another.''
These days, Hardy is planning to look after his city's rich history as a member of the city's museum board, an appointment he said he's excited to begin.
"Everything seems to be looking up and everyone seems to be enthusiastic about getting started,'' he said, referring to projects such as identifying properties and houses for their historic significance.
The museum board also has discussed rebuilding the old Grovetown Depot.
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