Tag Archives: Texas State Railroad

What Is It?

There is one question that tends to push a lot of artists over the edge.   It’s usually a “really?” moment for artists.  When an artist hears “What is it?” it usually sends a chill down their spine.  It’s not a bad question; it’s one I’ve had to ask when visiting some of the more contemporary art museums.  But, when you see it from the artist’s point of view it is a daunting question full of frustrating answers.

You as an artist have had this vision in your head, you’ve managed to photograph it, draw it, or paint it out of your mind and put the subject into the real world.  It took days of processing, scraping and looking at various colors, shapes, focus and detail until your eyes want to bleed, but finally it is perfect according to your vision.

That is when you meet your own personal art critic, the very person you want your art to communicate with and it fails.  They can’t see your masterpiece.  They don’t share your wonder or vision.  They don’t “get it.”

Frustrating?  You bet.  That is why I present today’s work What is it? .   Now, I know I’m spoiling a lot of fun for art critics by beating them to the punch but the truth is; I don’t know.

Yes, I made this photographic work of art.  I like the colors, the lines and the feeling of placement. The texture of the roofs and how they contrast each other alone is worthy of a work of art.  But it’s not why I took the picture.

Nor is the difficulty and challenge of the shot.  It was an overcast day when I visited the Texas State Railroad.  I think this shot is one of my greater technical accomplishments because I managed to get the picture while the train was moving.  Tripods do not work on a moving train so every shot was a gamble of camera settings, light exposure, and shutter speed and the mistress of all outdoor photographers; luck.   Challenging as those conditions were, it’s not why I took this shot.  I took the picture because of curiosity.

I’ve no idea what these little houses are about.  Each of the little houses have a separate color, with different types of roofs.  The doors and windows are not uniformly on the same side, and neither are the hinges and doorknobs.  Even the shutters are different.  Yet, they obviously are uniform in size and built for the same purpose.

Seeing the old farmhouse, you sometimes see old outhouses, or storage sheds, but 6?  Who has 6 outhouses?

So, what do you think they are?  Leave a comment and let me know.

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What Lays Down that Dirt Road?

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep.

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,” – Robert Frost


Thus wrote Robert Frost in the last stanza of Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.   It is not unusual for one artist using a medium such as painting or photography to use another medium such as poetry or sculpture to inspire a work of art.  This happened when I saw this unknown country road in the piney woods of East Texas.


Country Road is an artistic work of mystery.   It develops a sense of interest in what lays down that dirt road.  The woods have both a dark foreboding feel to them and an almost inviting quality that inspires interest and investigation.


Do we rise to the challenge and satiate our curiosity?  Can we alter our preconceived notions of what may lay down this enchanting dirt path?  The constant themes of duality push us on.


A farm may exist on the other end of this forest or even a lost foreboding decaying confederate cemetery. Anything is possible in these areas of Texas.


You might guess a small town carved out of the green woods and growing underbrush impressing any “city folk” with its lack of size?  People who live in metropolitan areas are so often thoroughly shocked on how small towns or villages are so, well small.


The road with brownish red dirt and the tire tracks caused by many pick-up trucks become a human element.  Yet, this road contrasts completely with the dark natural forest in its greens and wooden greys.  The forest, or the natural world, indeed challenges the human element of the clay road.  The trees and vines push on the sides of the road and nature even encroaches in the middle of the path.  A tuft of green grass barely visible and only where the tire tracks have not pounded the Texas soil into the hard clay.  This action suggests that nature refuses to yield to humankind.

This photographic work is a captured slice of a summer afternoon.  It remains a permanent comment on the duality and conflict of man vs. nature, mystery vs. knowledge, and how something so dark appears lovely to us with untold of miles to go in our journey thru photographic art.  Country Road asks the question. What lays down that dirt road?

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An Iron Plate on an Iron Horse.

Photocopy of an engraving–ca, 1850-1859 Danforth, Cooke, & Co’s. Locomotive & Machine Works: Paterson, New Jersey

Stories exist behind every picture.  Sometimes these stories are mere fantasies and artistic escapes, but other times, the stories ring true with a unique view of the historical past.  This work of the front plate of Engine 316 of the Texas State Railroad is a charming example of that form of historically significant art.


The chipped paint and the dirty appearance of the lettering and numbers show the age and wear that this locomotive has experienced.  This image elevates the industrial beauty of the iron horses of the great steam locomotive period.   The plate itself, especially shot in a tight close-up, provides a sense of permanence of the industrial revolution and the role that steam engines played in it.


Perhaps we can alter our perceptions of the time period more by looking into the history of the Cooke Works that produced this star of the yesteryear.   The Cooke Locomotive and Machine works factory, erected in the early 19th century in Patterson, NJ, started to manufacture steam engines as early as the 1850’s.


The company also had the names of Danforth, Cooke, & Company, Cooke Locomotive & Machine Works and, thanks to a merger in 1901, the ALCO or American Locomotive Company.  The plant was in full operation until the 1920’s when it shut down operations in the Patterson area.


This means that our valuable engine 316 is one of the last steam locomotives produced by the Cooke Company before it merged with the ALCO in 1901-1902. Engine 316 not only provides a group of tourists with a glimpse of the years of East Texas railroading.  She also provides an inspirational ride through the history of American engineering and manufacturing for the mid 1800’s to the 20th century.

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A Living Legend: The 4-6-0 Ten Wheeler

They truly do not make them like this anymore.  Engine 316 has hauled freight, people, tourists, and lots and lots of curious children.  This engine has seen it all.

The 316 is a 4-6-0 wheel configuration that gives it 4 guiding wheels and 6 drive wheels.  The engine, like the Consolidations, has no trailing wheels.  The designation for the 4-6-0 is “Ten Wheeler”.   They hauled fast freight and passengers as early as 1847.  The 2-8-0 Consolidations like Engine 300 replaced the Ten Wheeler.

A. L. Cooke Locomotive Works manufactured the 316 for the Texas & Pacific Railway back in 1901. It spent many years hauling various cargo for the Texas & Pacific and then the Paris & Mt. Pleasant Railroad in 1949.

Finally, in 1951 the 316 met her retirement in Abilene.  The city was celebrating its 75th anniversary and bought the 316.  They gave it a paint job and a new number 75 and placed on it in Oscar Rose Park for display.   There to spend the rest of her time.  The 316 quietly endured the Texas heat, the blizzards of the winter, and the hands and feet of thousands of school children and curious adults.

Finally, this grand old lady of the rails was ready to meet her end at the hands of a scrapping crew.  But she had fate intervene.  An anonymous woman not only bought the old engine but also donated it to the Texas Railroad in East Texas.

After years of hard work and renovation she is back to work as the 316.  She now spends her days hauling happy tourists between Palestine and Rusk, Texas.


Here is the website from the Texas State Railroad with her exact mechanical specifications:


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Engine 300: History Rides the Rails in Texas.


Come one!  Come all!  Any railroad tycoons out there?  Locomotives and trains have long been a favorite hobby of people since their beginning.  There is something about these mechanical monsters that just defines raw power.  Maybe it’s the iron exterior, maybe the belching steam and smoke.   No matter, these behemoths of days gone by live on in our imagination and our fine art.

Engine 300 is a 2-8-0 Consolidation steam engine built back in 1917.  According to the Texas State Railroad, this engine saw domestic action in WWI and WWII.  Eventually it came into the care of the Texas State Railroad and is now fully restored and works transporting tourists instead of freight.


Referred to as the Consolidation class, because of the lack of trailing wheels in the back of the engine, these locomotives became popular in the United States after the Civil War.   Because there is no trailing wheels, this means that the front wheels or guide wheels occupy a single axle in the front.  The 8 drive wheels follow them immediately on 4 separate axles of their own. The design was first manufactured as early as the late 1860’s by the Baldwin Locomotive Works and used primarily for freight and goods transportation.


The Consolidation class engines saw work internationally in portions of Europe. Indeed, the two most common places outside the United States these capable steam engines worked were in the United Kingdom and eventually Australia.  However, they did see use in Turkey, South Africa, and even Finland.


Interestingly, the Russian designation for this engine class was the 1-4-0.  They counted the number of axles, not the number of wheels.


It is also worthy to note that Engine 300 uses oil as a fuel, not coal or wood.  The burning of oil provides a nice benefit for this tough little engine.  This working museum piece hauls passengers looking for an adventure with a minimum of black soot and none of the burning embers usually found in coal or wood burning engines.  This small fact makes everyone much more comfortable.

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Here is the link to the more technical specifications on this particular engine.  https://www.texasstaterr.com/engine_info.php