Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Caboose on Pennsylvania Railroad

Acrylic on gessoed hardboard, 8 x 10''
Painting # 207, 2012

The only toy that I've kept from my own childhood is an electric toy train set, comprised of a steam engine, three wagons and a caboose. This Mantua train set was given to me by my next door neighbour when I was about 12 years old. It belonged to her youngest son who was more than 10 years my senior. At the time, he had moved out of the homestead and his mother came upon it while cleaning out the remaining of his stuff. I would estimate that it is close to 50 years old. 

When I started to read about the Pennsylvania Railroad Company on Wikipedia, the genesis for the composition came to me.  The Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) was founded in 1846. It's headquarters was located in Philadelphia, PaThe PRR was the largest railroad by traffic and revenue in the U.S. for the first half of the twentieth century and was at one time the largest publicly traded corporation in the world. At its peak it controlled about 10,000 miles (16,000 km) of rail line. At one point the budget for the PRR was larger than that of the U.S. government and at its peak it employed about 250,000 workers. In 1968, it would merge with it's rival, the New York Central Lines to form the Penn Central Transportation CompanyThe Interstate Commerce Commission required that the ailing New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad be added in 1969. A series of events including inflation, poor management, abnormally harsh weather conditions and the withdrawal of a government-guaranteed 200-million-dollar operating loan forced the Penn Central to file for bankruptcy protection on June 21, 1970. The Penn Central rail lines were split between Amtrak and Conrail in the 1970s. After the breakup of Conrail in 1999, the portion which had been PRR territory largely became part of the Norfolk Southern Railway.

This painting chronicles in a whimsical way, the Pennsylvania Railroad Company during it's 122 years of operation from 1846 to 1968. I've been collecting stamps since my early teens. I've always viewed them as miniature artworks, so as the previous painting, I'm incorporating a very appropriate stamp in the composition. This first-day cover does not exist in real life. I took bits and pieces from of other medias to fabricate an imaginary first-day cover marking the last day (January 31, 1968) the company operated before merging with it’s rival, the New York  Central  Lines.This US stamp was actually issued at 32¢ on May 28, 1998, to celebrate the ''Electric Toy Train''. From a timeline of the US Postal Services, the cost for mailing a first-class letter in 1968 was 6¢, so I changed the amount accordingly for the painting.  

1998 US- 32¢ stamp celebrating the 
''Electric Toy Train'' used in the painting

I chose Atlantic City, NJ for the postmark, since the PPR once served the city and it is the setting for the Monopoly game on which the composition in anchored on.  The lone caboose serves as a sign of the times. Until the 1980’s, laws in the US and Canada required that all freight trains had a caboose and a full crew for safety. Technology eventually advanced such and in effort to save money and reduce crew members, it was stated that the caboose was unnecessary and their use has since declined and they are seldom seen on trains, except on locals and small railroads.

The Pennsylvania Railroad Museum which is located east of Philadelphia, outside of Strasbourg Pa in Amish country. In relation with my previous painting, Lucky Lindy flies the Airmail, that museum is currently restoring ''The Lindbergh engine'', PRR #460. During his first stop in Washington, DC on June 11, 1927, after returning from Europe and his transatlantic flight, Charles Lindbergh was promoted to colonel and awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by President Calvin Coolidge. Two rival newsreel companies, who were each vying to be the first to have their films of the ceremony shown in New York theatres before Lindbergh's visit to the Big Apple two days later, chartered a train and an aircraft, respectively, from Washington to New York City. No. 460 headed up the charter train, pulling only its tender, a baggage car and a passenger car. The train departed Washington at 1:14 PM and arrived at the Manhattan Transfer, outside of New York City, 2 hours and 56 minutes later. Even though the aircraft arrived in New York first, the film brought by No. 460 was in theatres hours before the other, thanks to a film processing lab on board the baggage car.

This completes the trio of paintings for 
the ''Planes, Trains and Automobiles'' Invitational group show 
at the Elliott Fouts Gallery, Sacramento, CA, March 3- April 5, 2012.

Elliott Fouts Gallery
4749 J. Street Sacramento, California, USA , 95819