The power and romance of the rails lives again in the paintings of artist Gil Bennett. From the huge 600-ton Union Pacific 4-8-8-4 to the modest 42-ton Little Cottonwood Transportation Company shay, you’ll find remarkable locomotives. You’ll also find notable passenger trains from time past including: the Panama Limited, Golden State Limited, Sunland and Water Level Limited, in addition to freight trains from the Santa Fe, Delaware & Hudson, and Southern. All are depicted with historical and informational captions for every month.
Great Trains 2021 monthly wall calendar features: Large blocks for notes | Beautiful reproduction | Quality heavy-weight paper | Deluxe 11- by 14-inch size
Paintings featured in the 2020 edition include:
Roses in the Snow
Union Pacific Railroad, 1948
The first section of train #18, thePortland Rose,accelerates out of Boise, Idaho on a cold January day in 1948. The train was scheduled to leave Boise daily at 1 p.m. on its journey from Seattle, Washington to Chicago, Illinois. Locomotive 836, a big 4-8-4, has the train rolling at 60 m.p.h. as it nears the connection to the mainline two miles ahead. Once on the main the speed will rise to a steady 85 m.p.h. as the train heads east. Behind this first section, two others follow pulled by smaller 4-8-2 locomotives. Today, a sister of 836, locomotive 844, still steams over the Union Pacific system.
Two for the Road
St. Louis -San Francisco Railway, 1945
A brisk February day at dusk finds Frisco 4-8-4s 4517 and 4521 storming the grade west of Rolla, Missouri. The big bull-throated locomotives blast past as the last rays of a cold winter day light the train in a warm glow. This is “red ball” freight #38 that ran at passenger-train speeds from Fort Worth, Texas to St. Louis, Missouri. Usually only one of the big 4-8-4s was enough to handle the train, but the cold temperatures and a heavy train necessitated the use of an extra locomotive. Four of these big 4-8-4s are on display in towns along the old Frisco mainline.
Nickel Plate Fast Freight
New York, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad, 1952
Roaring across the upper Midwest, Nickel Plate S-2 765 disturbs the frozen landscape. It is March, but a cold wind and lake-effect snow still have this part of the upper Midwest in thrall to winter. Berkshire 765 is one of 80 2-8-4 type locomotives built for the New York, Chicago & St Louis Railroad. Known as the Nickle Plate, this railroad offered “high speed service” between Chicago, St Louis and Peoria, Illinois to Buffalo, New York. Locomotive 765 has train 37 in tow at a steady 60 m.p.h. as it heads to its western destination. Today 765 still steams up under the direction of the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society at Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Whistles in the Woods
Weyerhaeuser Timber Company, 1938
A cold rainy afternoon finds Weyerhaeuser Timber Company’s 2-6-6-2T heading toward the sawmill at Longview, Washington. The Weyerhaeuser Company built rails to its logging camps to deliver cut trees to the mills. In the early 1900s, shays were used to run over the light rails in the woods. In the 1920s, larger 2-6-6-2Ts with a water tank over the boiler were purchased to speed up the trips through the woods while still enabling the locomotives to handle the light track and tight curves. Today a few of these 2-6-6-2T locomotives have been restored to run on tourist lines in the western United States.
The Flagship of the Fleet, #4000
Union Pacific Railroad, 1951
In 1941 the Union Pacific ordered 20 4-8-8-4 locomotives from ALCO to move trains up the Wasatch grades in Utah. Nicknamed “Big Boys,” they were numbered 4000-4019 and were the largest steam locomotives in the world. Capable of developing 7000 horsepower and running at speeds up to 70 m.p.h., these were some of the finest locomotives ever built. In 1944 five more were added to the fleet. The flagship of the fleet, number 4000, runs uphill at a steady 40 mph in Weber Canyon, just above Peterson, Utah. Number 4000 would not be retired until 1961. The Union Pacific has rebuilt Big Boy 4014 to run again, but pulling passenger cars to promote the railroad, instead of the freight it used to pull to earn its living.
4:00 p.m. Central Time
New York Central Railroad, 1939
Every day at 4 p.m., the 20th Century Limited departed from Chicago’s La Salle Street station. The date is Monday, June 19th, 1939, as the finest train in the land heads for New York. This was New York Central Railroad’s flagship train; the queen of the fleet. It catered to important businessmen, Hollywood and Broadway stars, captains of industry and lucky travelers. It was the fastest and finest train on the rails. To lead the train, designer Henry Dreyfuss created a streamlined shroud for the Central’s J3a 4-6-4 locomotives to pull the train. Ten of the streamlined Hudson-type locomotives were built at ALCO just for the 20th Century Limited and were used exclusively for that train. J3a 5450 has the first of four sections of the Century underway at 4 p.m. sharp. Three other sections wait their turn to follow at one-minute increments. To the far left, (unstreamlined) J3a 5429, has the Water Level Limited ready to follow the four sections of the Century out at 4:05 p.m. The20th Century would run in as many as seven sections on its 16-hour sprint from Chicago to New York.
Union Pacific Railroad, 1967
In the early 1960’s, the Union Pacific Railroad wanted some super diesel-electric locomotives that could produce 5,000 horsepower per unit. The UP found that a lash-up of locomotives that would produce 12,000 to 15,000 horsepower was ideal way to keep their trains moving over their system’s varied terrain. The three major locomotive builders, GE, EMD and Alco, each designed a super-power diesel for the UP to try on their system. Alco’s entry was the C855, a super diesel capable of producing 5,500 horsepower per unit. Numbered 60, 60A and 61, the trio was able to produce 16,500 horsepower to pull trains over the system. We see the units on a hot July afternoon as the trio headed by 61, drags a 112-car train up the 1.14% grade at the mouth of Weber Canyon. This was on the new line built in 1923 to lessen the grade from 1.77% to 1.14% for up-hill trains. The down-hill line is 30 feet lower, and the Weber River runs through a canyon down a farther 78 feet. While the C855 was powerful, it did have operational problems and no others were ordered.
Rain and Steam
Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad, 1949
A track worker waves a highball as the first section of Chesapeake and Ohio’s train 6, The Fast Flying Virginian, passes the first section of train number 4, the Sportsman. The locomotives fly green flags indicating that there are sections of both trains following behind. The date is August 29, 1949, and Hurricane Two (in 1949 hurricanes were not named) has moved inland, dumping heavy rains from Florida to New England. Due to the bad weather and a backlog of trains, the dispatcher has the 490 with the F.F.V. running against traffic as it passes the Sportsman. The rails are wet and slippery as the fast-running locomotives try to make up for lost time. 490 is a streamlined 4-6-4, rebuilt from a 4-6-2 at the railroad’s own shops. The 614, in charge of the Sportsman, is a four-year-old 4-8-4 built by Lima Locomotive Works. The two track workers have cleared their part of the line and have moved the track car they used into a lineside shed. Both locomotives still exist today. The 490 is on display at the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum and the 614 is on display at Clifton Forge, Virginia.
Over the Bridges and up the Hills
Rio Grande Southern Railway, 1938
A cool day in mid-September finds Rio Grande Southern T-19 number 22 and Rio Grande K-27 number 456 climbing uphill across bridge 46D outside of Ophir, Colorado. The train is struggling up the 3% grade as it heads the cars to Durango, Colorado and points east. During this time of year, the cold nights and shorter days create a palate of yellows and oranges as the groves of aspen change color. The two little locomotives produce a cacophony of sounds that echo down the valley as they blast across the bridge. Sisters of these locomotives still steam today. RGS T-19 number 20 at the Colorado Railroad Museum, and D&RGW K-27s 463 and 464 run on lines in New Mexico and Michigan.
Coal for Kaiser Steel
Denver & Rio Grande Western Railway, 1969
In 1968, the Rio Grande, Union Pacific and Santa Fe worked in cooperation to move coal 806 miles from Sunnyside, Utah to Fontana, California. A new loadout was built to load an 8,400-ton train every four days. During the first year 700,000 tons of coal were moved from Utah to California. To overcome the grades of the Wasatch range and Cajon Pass, both the D&RGW and UP purchased EMD SD-45s to run together in pool service. D&RGW SD-45 5317, heads UP 3616 and D&RGW 5310 on a string of leased MKT (Missouri, Kanas, Texas Railroad) hopper cars. The 8,400-ton train is slowly moving up the steep 2.4% grade just below Kyunne, Utah. Around the S-curve, four more locomotives working as mid-train helpers push and pull the heavy train upgrade.
Hot Ore and Cool Days
Chicago & North Western Railroad, 1988
The cool sunny days of an Indian summer in northern Minnesota find a trio of Chicago & North Western C628s engines “throttle up” as they head out of Partridge Junction Minnesota. The air is cool, and steam rises from the hot taconite ore pellets that have just been loaded at the Empire Mine. This was a busy time of year for the ore lines. When winter snow began the mines slowed or shut down, but mills throughout the United States still needed ore to make steel for the growing economy. As the weather got colder, a constant parade of ore trains ran from the mines in Minnesota’s Iron Range to the yards and docks in Duluth so that mills could stockpile the ore. The C&NW used the sure-footed Alco C628s to lug the 10,000-ton ore trains from the mines to the yards.
Makin’ up Time
New York Central Railroad, 1943
On December 19, 1943, the Northeast was hit by a severe winter storm that crippled traffic from Washington D.C. to Boston. The Hudson and Mohawk valleys in the state of New York received 16 to 18 inches of snow causing even the mighty New York Central Railroad to slow, but not stop. The last train of the day to Chicago was the Iroquois, leaving Grand Central Station nightly at 11:30 p.m. With green flags flying, the first section of the Iroquois streaks by three hours behind schedule. K5b 4931 and J1e 5342, have the train making up time as it hits 94 m.p.h. through the Mohawk valley. The train will cut away at its tardiness as it heads west and arrive in Chicago only 45 minutes off its schedule. There is some mighty fast running ahead!
About Artist Gil Bennett
Gilbert Bennett has been painting professionally since 1984. An avid rail fan from the age of 2, Gil has a lifelong love for the subjects he paints—trains. Gil’s grandfather was a freight agent for the Chicago & North Western Railroad and traveled extensively by train, at times with Gil’s father in tow. Hearing about the rail travel their father took, a fascination for trains was kindled in Gil and his brother. At the age of 4, Gil was taking pencil to paper, drawing what he liked most. His talent for drawing grew over the years, but it was channeled more toward architecture, and his drawings of trains took a back seat to his studies. It was not until 1983 that, on a whim, Gil took an oil painting class at the University of Utah. Of course, the first thing he attempted to paint was a train. From that time, Gil started painting trains to pay for his college tuition. In 1987, Gil also picked up watercolors and has painted in both watercolors and oils ever since. After graduating from the University of Utah with a bachelor of fine arts degree, Gil put school on hold before going back to get his master’s degree in architecture. It was during this time that he was commissioned to do 30 paintings for a company in Minneapolis, mostly of railroad subjects. Since then, Gil has been painting steadily and has developed a long list of clients. While at times Gil has painted wildlife, landscapes, Western art, and portraits, he prefers to paint trains. His paintings have graced book and magazine covers, articles, calendars, and Christmas cards. In 1999, Railway Reflections, a history of railroads in Utah illustrated by Gil’s paintings, was published. Currently, Gil lives with his wife and four sons in Saratoga Springs, Utah. He is the most prolific railroad artist working today, sought out by private collectors as well as national corporations. Gil takes commissions, and you can view his website at: www.gilbennett.com.
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