Friday, March 26, 2010

The Golden Spike

You may have been wondering -- but then again, maybe you haven’t -- why I have made so few posting recently.  Now that it has been awarded, I can finally reveal the reason. I have been working for about a month on “project of to end all projects”…a carving of a Steam Locomotive.  As previously posted, I have made commemorative carvings for those individuals who have reached their 20th anniversary with our company.  This is the latest in the series. 

I was inspired to make a locomotive by a book that I received for Christmas: “Carving an 1880 Western Train” by the Caricature carvers of America.  So it didn’t take too much encouragement from anyone for me to make the plunge.  After some deep thought, I decided to do one of the locomotives that were present at the driving of the golden spike at Promontory Point back in 1869.   

If you can find a photo of the event (there are many out there on the web) you will see that there were two locomotives there on that day: the Central Pacific “Jupiter” and the Union Pacific “119”.  Well, given that the “Jupiter” had a *way* cooler name and, well, just looked more like the western train that I wanted to make anyway (ridiculously large stack, big wheels, flashy paint job, etc.), the “Jupiter” won, hands down.

The locomotive was turned, carved and assembled from Basswood…many, many little pieces.  One of the major problems that I had was locating good drawings or photographs of a locomotive to work from.  I could find lots of photos but most had been taken many years after the fact and showed major modifications to the locomotive (specifically, the addition of air brakes).  There were precious few of “side-on” pictures and absolutely no “head-on” shots that I could scale from.  While the side view of the locomotive is a reasonably accurate representation, the wheel spacing and, therefore, the gauge of the track, are dis-proportionally wide.  However, I don’t think that detracts from the overall look of the piece.

About the paint job:  Ever since Fess Parker starred in the Disney movie “The Great Locomotive Chase” -- a not terribly accurate portrayal of an actual spy mission conducted during the Civil War (filmed in the late 50s or early 60s) -- I have been fascinated with “The General”, a classic, wood burning, 4-4-0 locomotive of the “American” design.  (BTW, if you haven’t seen the movie or read the story, it's a darn good yarn that you might just find interesting. A number of the Union troops involved in the mission received the very first Congressional Medals of Honor.  But I digress…). 

I found a number of color photos of “The General”, so the “Jupiter” was painted to look like the “General”.  Like I’ve said before, this is my carving and if I have to alter the space/time continuum just to make my carving fit what I think it should look like…well, so be it! :-)

I used birdcage gravel for the ballast, held in place with watered down “Elmer’s” glue and painted gray.  I’ve used it before on other dioramas.  Someone actually asked me one time, “how did I carve all those little pieces?” (Huh?)

The fourth spike from the right end of the track is painted gold.

A local model-maker crafted the beautiful, custom Plexiglas dust cover and cherry base.
I do believe that John was pleased with the gift.  This commemorative might be kinda hard to top for the next guy!

As for that itch to carve a 1880s Western Train…it’s still there.  Anybody know where I can get some good drawings or photos?????

“Til next time, keep makin’ chips.

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