Trains: a charming & mysterious book

Illustration from Trains by John R. Day
Illustration from Trains by John R. Day

The picture on the left is not by me. It is an illustration from the book Trains by John R. Day, originally published in 1969 by The Hamlyn Publishing Group (London, England). When I was about seven or eight, I received as a gift an Italian copy of this book (Treni e ferrovie, Mondadori, Milano), as I already loved trains and railroads.

This small book immediately became a favourite of mine, not only because it was about trains. To me, it was charming and sort of mysterious. Today, I think that if that book had had photos of trains instead of illustrations, maybe its effect would have been slightly different.

The illustrations were by David A. Warner and Nigel W. Hearn and all those pictures of trains, railroads, engines, cars, wagons and stations from all over the world (then) had a fascinating atmosphere – a sort of feeling that I found later on in some Edward Hopper’s paintings.

In some cases – as the one of the illustration on the left – I was also struck by the decontestualization: I just loved this picture also because the railway yard is cut off the place it belongs to and put directly on the blank page, becoming an abstract construction. Maybe this picture also reminded me the train models and the LEGO ones I enjoyed building at the time, Lilliputian rails running over my room’s floor – only, this was something taken from the real world – something that existed out there.

I think that something of Trains poured inside my head and is still there. Here are two paintings of mine reminiscent of the railway yard, for instance: To be kept dry and Lightning Rod.

By the way: I still have the charming & mysterious book, and sometimes I still enjoy leafing through Trains.

To be kept dry | Teme l'umido
To be kept dry | Teme l’umido, acrylic on canvas, 80×100, 2010
Lighting Rod | Parafulmini
Lighting Rod | Parafulmini, acrylic on canvas, 40×80, 2011