The making of Parallel Tracks – part 2

In part two of his travel journal, artist Andrew Cross continues his journey across America capturing the image and video used in his art commission Parallel Tracks.

This is the first full day of my trip to the USA and I’m in the delightful town of La Grange, Kentucky. With my body clock still on London time I have no problem rising very early. It is my intention to take advantage of the early start to make the most of my day filming before the town gets too busy with people.

I’m on Main Street. To my excitement, as I am selecting my spot and setting up the camera, two trains pass, one in each direction. Normally I might get excited and rush. However, on this occasion I need to get things just right. The image must be precisely composed, with the camera setting and audio levels correct. I need to be patient as sometimes this takes one or two tries to get right. Another significant consideration is that I have to have the camera running at least a minute or two before the train comes into view. There is no point in reacting unless everything is in place.

Rumbling down Main St

Rumbling down Main St

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Teachers on track

This is a guest post written by three student teachers on their Settings Outside of School placement; Christopher Prior, Danny Reynolds and Martin Blenkinsop.

Hi! We’re three aspiring trainee teachers from York St John University and we spent a week behind the scenes at the National Railway Museum’s learning department so that we could get a better understanding of learning outside schools. Our goal for the week was to take a good look at how children learn at the museum. We’ve done all sorts towards that this week: observed the explainers in their natural habitats, interviewed the higher-ups in the department, seen school groups doing workshops, and even taken part in some of those activities ourselves! We figured that to give you a better idea of how our week went we’d all tell you a little about our favourite thing from it!

Three trainee teachers

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My grandad used to drive that!

This is a guest post written by Associate Curator of Rail Vehicles Bob Gwynne.

Bob Gwynne photograph

‘My grandad, (or sometimes my dad) used to drive Mallard’, is not infrequently heard from visitors to the National Railway Museum. For a change though we were recently contacted by  someone whose grandfather had been based at Fleetwood shed and whose loco had been LMS ‘Crab’ no. 2700. He sent through a photograph of his grandfather taken in 1938 in the cab having discovered that this locomotive was now on display at the National Railway Museum in its earlier livery as LMS 13000.

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The elegance of modernity

This is a guest post by Graphic Designer Rob Derbyshire.

The common visual language used to depict railways in design often harks back to the romanticisms of British steam. The three-quarter view of a heroic locomotive thundering down the mainline surrounded by billowing smoke is an enduringly popular one, but how can graphic design make railways look cool?

Personally I’m a sucker for modernist design, the elegant use of typography, simple shapes and a well-selected colour pallet.  I love the precise elegance of brand guideline documents, where each letter is perfectly constructed and the colours perfectly matched – an oasis of ordered tranquility.


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Remember these? How would you track the modern railway industry?

This is a guest post by Associate Archivist Alison Kay and the National Railway Museum volunteer team.

Great North Eastern Railway (GNER) logo, 2006
Intercity Logo from the NRM collection photo

Hundreds of railway companies have existed over the last 200 years, with even very recent companies fading into distant memory.

The British railway industry has always been complicated, hundreds of companies were created during the 1800’s, merging into four companies in the 1920’s and then one giant state owned operator in the 1940’s .

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Installing Parallel Tracks

This is a guest post by Exhibition Officer Naomi Collett

As Exhibition Officer, one of my main responsibilities is to manage the changeover of the museum’s exhibitions.  This happens every four to six months, and is always one of the busiest times for the museum.

The latest changeover involved taking down Open For Business, and installing Parallel Tracks, a new work by artist Andrew Cross.  This is the centrepiece of our Trainspotting season, and includes Andrew’s film Being There.  The timeframe for exhibition changeovers can be as little as a week; this time we had just under three, but there was a lot to do.

Joe looks very small in the empty Gallery filling holes.

Joe looks very small in the empty Gallery filling holes.

The first job was to take down all of the works which had been hung for Open For Business. Normally we’d use a team of at least three freelance art technicians, but as only one was available I stepped in to the breach!  Between us, art technician Joe and I took down the works, packed them carefully, then filled and sanded all the holes in the walls.  The gallery looked very empty with nothing hanging in it.

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The making of Parallel Tracks

This is a guest blog post by artist Andrew Cross

On 1 July, around 6.30pm, I was standing on Main Street in the small Kentucky Town of La Grange. I had just arrived having spent the day travelling from London. It was a beautiful hot summer evening and I found the town very quiet – everything looked closed for the night. Before settling in at my hotel, I decided to check out the town centre. This was where I intended to spend the first day of over two weeks of intense train watching. Ultimately, I would visit a number of contrasting locations across six different states.

When I arrived on Main Street only 15 minutes earlier, I had watched the headlight of a train coming into view. Its slow passage down the centre of the road fulfilled my every expectation ­and I would undertake the task of filming this somewhat unique event the following day. What a fantastic environment in which to watch trains.


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