I began my railway research in 1992 by painting the Geebung railway station in QLD. I have travelled over 10,000 kms and to date have spent more than 4,000 hours working on the project. The first ten years of my endeavours are documented in the book “Romance of the Rail, history in art and word”.
To date I have completed 104 painting and dozens of sketches of railway scenes and locos. Many of these, I painted from life (situ). I worked with Queensland Rail to establish a chronological list of stations to be demolished and prepared my research strategy from there with a number of methodologies being used. The paintings I completed in various media; watercolour, oil, pastel and mixed media. Painting sizes vary and measure up to 1.5 meters in diameter. A solo exhibition of the paintings toured Regional Galleries of Queensland for several years.
The Blue Baby – Janet Skinner Gallery Blackbutt
By being out there on the railway platforms I was able to gain access to local individuals and railway enthusiasts who gave me first hand evidence, information and recollections in relation to each particular subject. I also worked alongside local councils who put me in touch with elderly people who wished to share their story. To gain knowledge, I exhibited a selection of my paintings at the Railway Exhibition held annually at the RNA (6 years running). In all I conducted 45 formal interviews for the book.
The evidence, personal memories and recollections gathered from individuals have been applied not only in the writing of the book, but also to understanding and capturing the timeless character of the artworks. The source material is also used as crucial aspect at my talking engagements, including those to regional libraries, museums, Rotatory Clubs, The Australian Railway Historical Society, and of course at book launches and exhibitions.
I was able to supplement my research by showing comparable information by including a number of NSW Stations and locomotives in the project. Queensland stations were predominately constructed from hardwood to accommodate the warmer climate, whereas NSW were more prone to using bricks for their buildings. One stark examples that demonstrates the uniqueness of the old Queensland Stations can be found at the Wallangarra Station (see pg. 61 of the Romance of the Rail Book). At this particular station, located on the border between two states, the veranda on one side has all the Queensland fretwork etc. while on the NSW side of the station the architecture is typically of NSW origins. The use of foot warmers on the NSW trains and the discontinuation of them on the Queensland Trains was another interesting variable between the two regions.
Given that my ambition was to produce documented evidence in art and a written historical record on the personal recollections of the historical Queensland Rail System before it memories were lost; I am satisfied that the depth of my research was sufficient for the publication of “Romance of the Rail”.
It is almost 30 years ago that I painted my first station, shortly I hope to revisit some of the original sites and paint the platforms scene as they are today.
Signed copies of “Romance of the Rail, history of art and word” – Artists/ research by Janet Skinner, written by Pauline Reckentin, edited and published by (late) John Kerr are available for purchase below.