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Train Art

I was stopped at the train tracks in Mechanicville, NY this morning. I was the second car in line so I knew it would be a while before the gates opened to let me pass. I’ve been stopped there before, and these trains are miles long so there is not much to do.

I intentionally leave my phone away when I am stopped at the tracks. What will I notice? Is there anything that is different? Is there anything that catches my eye? Is nature trying to tell me something? Today I was surprised by art.


The first few train cars went past, they were flatbed cars with what looked like long metal railings on them. They reminded me of guardrails. There is a row of trees next to the tracks, so it is hard to see the train cars until the moment they move from the tree line and into my view.


After the flatbed cars went past, I was treated to a railway art show. For the next several minutes I sat and watched as box cars went by with art scrawled across their sides. These cars were covered with what might be called graffiti but what I would call works of art. Each was different. Most of them were tags of the artist’s handle or name. Occasionally I would be treated to a box car with a cityscape or a nature scene. Each of these was painted in bright colors.


I imagined the artist sneaking into a railyard at night with their cans of spray paint. They know there is only a short amount of time to finish their handiwork before the security guards spot them and chase them away down the tracks. They would finish their artwork, put the spray cans back in their backpacks and hop the fences back out of the yard.


I’m not sure where these box cars came from. I think they were from somewhere in the southwest as many of the words were written in Spanish. I wonder if the artists are sitting in their backyard in Santa Fe, New Mexico drinking a soda while in Mechanicville, New York there is a guy sitting in his car at a train crossing and being inspired by their art.



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