Thursday morning I decided to walk south and visit an industrial area near a railroad yard in Quebec City. I’m something of a train nut and I thought maybe I could sketch some trains.
I was walking to the freight yard when I happened upon this scene. I liked the yellow wall, juxtapositioned next to the brown train car and the harsh shadow between them, so I decided to sketch it.
I set up to the left of where this photo was taken, on a sidewalk, with the street behind me. My WalkStool was actually straddling the railroad track. Those railroad tracks crossed the street and went somewhere. I didn’t pay much attention. I remember chuckling to myself that at least this subject wouldn’t drive away like a car I was sketching earlier in the week.
I was having a really nice time as the sun felt good, it was quiet, and the sketching was going well. I’m a really slow sketcher so I’d been there more than an hour and I was intently adding color to my ink sketch.
I was so concentrated on the work that I didn’t even hear it… until a guy walked up to me and his shadow crossed my paper. “Qu’est-ce que tu fait, Monsieur?” (What are you doing, Mister?) I looked up to see a guy in overalls and a baseball cap staring down at me. And then I saw IT. It was an EMD SW-1500 switch engine, idling no more than ten feet from where I was sitting – on the railroad tracks.
I told him I was sketching and showed him my sketch. I stood up as I did and he told I’d have to move. As I was packing up he walked over to the derail (that yellow thing clamped to the track), disengaged it, and motioned to the engineer to move forward.
By then I was taking photos of the engine. I did mention that I’m a railroad geek didn’t I? Once they’d engaged the boxcar, the guy dropped off the engine, walked back to me, and asked if I could show the engineer my sketch. I was both amazed, excited, and nervous all at once. The sketch you see below bought me access to the cab of that engine, which for a railroad geek is a really big deal. And then they hauled my boxcar away. And that, my friends is what I call a great day of sketching.
Here’s the sketch. I still have to add the white letters on the boxcar and I’ll probably do that with a colored pencil. This sketch was done in my Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook (10×7), using a Lamy Safari XF and Platinum Carbon Black ink. Color is W&N artist watercolors. Has anything like this happened to you while you were sketching?
What a great story, Larry! And glad you got to finish your sketch…
my husband is also a railroad geek and loved your story , thank you for sharing please be careful next time
Glad they didn’t run you over. You did such a nice job on the sketch. I can make you a little envious. I got to ride in the engine and pull the whistle!
What a great story and an excellent example demonstrating the “currency” of sketches.
There was no real danger involved, Marilyn. They would have stopped the engine where they did whether I was there or not. It was just a single spur into that building and the derail had to be removed before they could proceed. But it might be good for me to not ‘disappear’ into my sketching when I’m out in the world 🙂
Cheers — Larry
Thanks, everybody, for your comments.