Journey to Steam’s Final Hour

“Steam’s Final Hour” by Tom Rock

My name is Tom Rock.  I am a self-taught train artist; I’ve been painting railroad scenes since 1972.  Here at Rock on Trains, I will share with you, the reader, the background information on each one of my paintings.  I began lithographing my work in 1988, but in today’s blog entry, you’ll learn about my 1994 painting, Steam’s Final Hour.

When I first started painting trains, it never occurred to me that I’d be penning such a historic scene.  The historical perspective associated with Steam’s Final Hour actually goes back to the fall of 1991.  While I was participating in an art show on the grounds of the Chattanooga Choo Choo, I met Mr. John Reese.  As we conversed, I learned that John was a retired Southern Railway conductor who worked the Royal Palm out of Terminal Station.

We kept in close contact over the next few years.  In the fall of 1993, he invited me to display my art at an upcoming World War II retired military railroader’s convention which was to be held in Chattanooga.  I did not know what to expect at the convention, but John reassured me that my work would certainly be welcomed. My confidence soared after reminiscing with many trainmen at the event.  John then introduced me to Mr. Ralph Clevenger, who served as the brakeman on the last Southern steam engine on June 17, 1953.

Listening to this historical icon speak provided the inspiration for my next painting; I would paint the scene that Ralph was a part of in June 1953. This piece would be released in 1994 — the Southern Railroad’s 100th anniversary, and also the final year of the Southern’s steam program.  This image could not be more fitting.  I informed Ralph of my plans for my new painting and asked if he would countersign my prints.  He agreed, but proceeded to tell me not to forget Clarence. Clarence McMahan served alongside Ralph as the flagman on the final Southern steam engine.

Clarence McMahan, Tom Rock, Ralph Clevenger

As time passes, so do precious souls; Mr. McMahan passed away a few years ago, and Mr. Clevenger passed away 3 months ago.  Steam’s Final Hour is a fitting tribute to hard working railroad men like Ralph and Clarence.  Their legacy will live on forever.

Click here to view/purchase this print at Rock on Trains.

Below are photos taken during the painting’s development.  In my next entry, I hope to share video clips from the print signing.  Enjoy!

Preliminary layout for “Steam’s Final Hour”

“Steam’s Final Hour” at 60 hrs development

“Steam’s Final Hour” at 110 hrs development

“Steam’s Final Hour” at 162 hrs development

“Steam’s Final Hour” at 206 hrs development

“Steam’s Final Hour” (complete)

Click here to view/purchase this print at Rock on Trains.

Rock on Trains © 2011, Tom Rock + T.D.R. Productions.  All rights reserved.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from Tom Rock is strictly prohibited.

5 thoughts on “Journey to Steam’s Final Hour

  1. Tom, your website Rocks! Jim and I love it and we still love your paintings. And, we still enjoy the Choo Choo painting you gave us a few years ago. Absolute painting genius!

  2. Absolutely fantastic Tom, just unbelievable detail. Thanks for sharing the story with us.

    Jim Marshall

  3. Do you know who has a recording of that last journey of 6330?I heard it as a child and a few years ago found it on the internet, but now it is gone. I would love to hear it again.

  4. Henry, I have a cassette tape of the 6330 coming into Citico yards June 17, 1953. This tape was taken from a recording made by WDEF on June 17, 1953. It was given to me by John Reese either before or after I completed my painting of Steams Final Hour, with the 6330. John was a personal friend of both Ralph Clevenger and Clarence McMahan who were crewmen on the 6330, and who countersigned my lithograph. If you are interested in a copy of this recording email me at and we can discuss the details.

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