"America's Railways" is going to be an image that portrays my facination with trains and train travel. The line between reality and fantasy is very thin when a child watches a model train roll around the track. This painting will hopefully erase that thin line.

The scene I am building above will show a station wagon stopping at a street railroad crossing, the driver knowing and anticipating the arrival of the train. He will be holding his son (who will be wearing the engineer's hat and bandana) on the hood of the car so that he can wave at the engineer as he passes by on the tracks. On the wall behind the train are postcards and a "Ride America's Railways" ad that the boy has pinned up on a wall in his bedroom, along with his prized engineer's hat and bandana.

This project began by locating various model train parts. I refurbished a section of tracks...

...Built a crossing gate from scratch (cardboard and an old paint brush handle).

I found an old ad in a magazine that had a nice illustration of a family on a train trip. I printed out some copy that I will paint into the illustration, making it a 'train ad'.

One of the postcards on the wall is addressed to 'Bobby Taylor', the boy on the hood of the car.

Another postcard that I will paint some wording into to make it more interesting and helpful in telling the 'story'.

Here's the finished crossing sign and gate. I will have to size it down in the painting since it is too large for the scale of the other objects. I didn't have the patience to make it any smaller when I constructed it.

Here's a view of the crossing gate in it's approximate location. Notice the 'Sante Fe' logo behind the caboose. I will paint that into the ad on the wall, making it a 'Sante Fe' railway travel promotion ad.

My station wagon is a scale model of a 1954 Studebaker Conestoga. I will be painting it to look real, not like a toy so that it will be the proper scale for the 'father and son'.

I love the 'funkiness' of these old tin cars. This truck (if there is room in the design) will probably go behind the station wagon, also waiting for the train to pass...

Here is another view of the 'Hafner' train engine. On the other side (the side that will be visible in the painting), there is a large wind-up key. This train is not electric, but a mechanical one with a clockwork motor.

I am still arranging all the objects and awaiting a 'Southern Pacific' patch, which will be sewn onto the front of the 'engineer's hat'. I'm also still looking for the right 'father and son' to pose in this painting.

I stretch each canvas myself, using extra heavy duty stretcher bars and the finest linen canvas. Ordinarily the wedges in the corner are used to stretch raw canvas before it is primed. I use them because the double-primed linen is very ridgid and difficult to strech compared to cotton canvas.

Here's a view of my palette. There is a sheet of 1/4" plate glass on top of the wood surface. The coffee can holds a jar with my turpentine in it. The overspill goes to the bottom of the can. I keep the cardboard cover on it to keep the fumes to a minimum.

With my props set up to my right, I begin the painting.

I spent a few days drawing in all the objects on the canvas. This particular painting will be 40" x50".

The 'engineer's hat' is blocked in.

Here's a look back at my 'set-up'. Notice the left corner of the photo...it shows the small space heater I use to warm up my painting area. This has been a pretty cold winter so far (for California).

The bandana is now blocked in.

Here you can see how I use my second easel to bring the magazine ad closer to my canvas so I can see it to paint.

Notice how I have made the view out the railcar window different than the original ad. It now shows the ocean, indicating that this train's route is along the coast...

The 'Santa Fe' ad has its first coat of paint.

Today I worked out the shadow patterns on the wall and painted the Union Pacific Railroad patch.

Here's a close-up of the patch area...

And a close-up of one of the postcards.

The entire backdrop/wall with all its memorabilia are blocked in. The foreground is next...still need to find the 'father and son' models!!

The locomotive has its first coat of oil...

as well as the 'coal car'...

the 'gondola car' and last but not least...

the caboose!

Here are my two models. My neighbors Adam and his son Max. They worked out great. Too bad the sun wouldn't cooperate today. I'll have to add the 'sunshine' and shadows to both of them when I paint them in place.

I had to scrape some paint off behind the boy's head and arm so that it wouldn't show an overlap line. I've begun to work on their skin tones.

The ground and cast shadows have been blocked in as well as the railroad crossing sign. Just need to paint the tracks and the train will 'sit down' in the painting...

Here's Adam and Max.

Here's a shot of the car... Although I used a scale model in the 'set up' for the painting, I also used photos of Mike Van Veghten's Studebaker Conestoga and Mike has emailed me with other technical info to help with the authenticity of the station wagon.

And the truck sitting behind them...

And now a photo of the whole painting, completely 'blocked in'. Now it's a matter of applying 'straight from the tube' consistency paint over the entire painting, adjusting the proper hue, value and detail.

Here's a close-up of the hat with its final paint applied. Notice the reddish and yellowish tints of color in the shadow areas, showing the reflective light from the red bandana and the train below.

Bandana is done...

I have just painted the 'correct' value (darkness) on the cast shadows on the back wall. Notice how it makes the train ad pop out visually. It tells me that I have to darken the train ad (the areas on it that are in the shadow) considerably to get it to 'sit down'. Those values looked good in the beginning of the painting because I only had the white of the canvas for comparison. Notice (in the ad) the bench that the woman on the left is sitting on. I have darkened it considerably. The white border around the illustration will visually get lighter as it gets surrounded by darker values.

I've 'grayed down' the white paper border of the ad that lies in the shadows. I now have to 'match' the value of the type "Amer" with the value of the white border. This makes the lettering blend in with the illustration, telling me that the hues that surround the lettering will have to darken to make the type show up.

Notice now how the type "Amer" shows up. I have painted all the area on the ad shades darker to make the type read as white lettering that has a shadow on it. The cast shadow line is now more defined. Also note the lower left corner of the ad. The sun passes through it, so I've painted it lighter and warmer, giving it a translucent glow.

The ad is finished as well as the Union Pacific patch and SP card.

Here's a detail from the ad.

And a close-up of the Southern Pacific card.

Close-up of one of the finished postcards.

The other postcard.

A real close-up to show the attention to detail.

The entire background is finished! Now, on to the forground objects...

Detail of the finished engine.

Finished caboose.

Entire train and background are finished. Just the two figures, station wagon, toy truck and pavement left to paint.

Father and son are finished.

The truck is finished...

As well as the car. The pavement with its lines are painted and...

"America's Railways" is finished. This was the most time intesive painting I have ever worked on. Each piece of the painting was a small painting in itself, requiring close study in order to render each in its own special way. I hope you enjoyed following it's progress.