Rock on Trains History: My Train Recollections

Today, I offer you a brief narrative of my own infatuation with trains. I hope you enjoy this blast from my past!

Tom and the Detroit Zoo train

A very young Tom Rock and the Detroit Zoo train

My interest in trains began at a very early age, probably when I was 5 or 6 years old. My father would often take me to Sarnia, Ontario, to visit my great-grandfather, an engineer for Canadian National Railways. His job involved moving electric freight trains from Sarnia to Port Huron, Michigan. Canadian National rules would not allow me to stay on board the train during these movements, but grandfather made sure I boarded once the engine was parked near the roundhouse. At this time, Canadian National was still running steam, so it was quite an experience for a 6-yr. old to grasp the size of one of those coal-fired giants.

When I was 10 years old, my father accepted a job in California. On the way out west, we stayed in Cheyenne, Wyoming. My father noted my fascination with trains, so he took me to the Union Pacific station in Cheyenne for a closer look. There I saw a diesel locomotive up close for the very first time. When the engineer offered a tour of the cab, I backed away and refused to board. After a little encouragement from my father, I finally climbed the ladder and got into the cab. The engineer tried to show me the entire working components of the engine, but I wanted no part of it. I grew up around steam engines, but the sounds that this new type of locomotive produced frightened me. With that, I gracefully exited the engine.

Back in the 50’s, Chrysler produced locomotives to be used at the Detroit Zoo. These scaled-down versions of steam engines would carry patrons around the entire zoo complex. One day while I visited the zoo, my father took a photo of me studying one of the engines before it departed. I had convinced myself at this age that a railroad life was for me, but like all dreams, some come true and some do not.

Upon my high school graduation, I took a drafting job. This lasted 43 years until my retirement came in 2006. During those 43 years, I worked with many notable NASA illustrators that taught me the art of painting with acrylics.

I had to trade my railroading dream for painting, which flourished into railroad nostalgic scenes. Evidence of this dream can be seen on this blog or at my website, Rock on Trains.


Rock on Trains © 2020, 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.

Southern Railway Engine #6910

In 1960, the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum was founded by Paul H. Merriman and Robert M. Soule along with a group of local railway preservationists who were concerned with saving steam locomotives and railway equipment for future historical display and use. In 1964, Mr. Merriman and Mr. Soule found out that the Kentucky & Tennessee Railroad was converting to diesel. With this in mind, they raised $5,000.00 and purchased K&T Nos. 10 & 12. The latter of the two engines originally belonged to the Southern Railway as 4501. Engine No. 10 was renumbered 6910. It ran for a short while after restoration. In October 1965, the engine made a fan trip to Cleveland, Tennessee from Chattanooga. I thoroughly enjoyed working with this engine back in 1978 & 1981. Currently, the engine is in storage at the TVRM.

The silent video of this historic trip is courtesy of HawkinsRails.net via YouTube.


Rock on Trains © 2020, 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.

Depot Doings: Oliver Springs, TN / Bryson City, NC / Decherd, TN / Chatsworth, GA

Featured Southern Railway depots this month are Oliver Springs, Tennessee (1980), and Bryson City, North Carolina (1978). The Oliver Springs and Bryson City depots have been restored. The Oliver Springs depot houses the Oliver Springs Historical Society, and the Bryson City depot houses the Great Smoky Mountain Railway excursions.

Featured Louisville & Nashville (L&N) Railway depots are Decherd, Tennessee (1978), and Chatsworth, Georgia (1980). The Decherd depot has been removed from service, and the Chatsworth depot was relocated and restored in 1990. It currently houses a museum of railroad and talc industry memorabilia.

Southern Railway Depot: Oliver Springs, TN – 1980 (Credit: Tom Rock)

Southern Railway Depot: Bryson City, NC – 1978 (Credit: Tom Rock)

L&N Railway Depot: Decherd, TN – 1978 (Credit: Tom Rock)

L&N Railway Depot: Chatsworth, GA – 1980 (Credit: Tom Rock)


Rock on Trains © 2020, 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.

Canadian Corner: Toronto Steam

Featured subjects this month are Canadian Pacific and Canadian National steam locomotives. These photos were taken in the early 1950’s at the John Street Roundhouse (CPR) and the Spadina Roundhouse (CNR) in Toronto, Ontario.

CPR No. 2806 at the John St Roundhouse (Credit: Walter Taylor)

CNR No. 5565 at the Spadina St Roundhouse (Credit: Walter Taylor)

CNR Nos. 6066 & 6069 at the Spadina St Roundhouse (Credit: Walter Taylor)

CNR Roundhouse and yards at Spadina St (Credit: Walter Taylor)


Rock on Trains © 2020, 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.

“Pardon Me Boy, Is That the Chattanooga Choo-Choo?”

This blog entry features my 1991 painting of the the Southern Railway’s Terminal Station in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The title of this painting, “Pardon Me Boy, Is That the Chattanooga Choo-Choo,” was chosen to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Glenn Miller’s big band era hit song which was recorded May 7, 1941. This painting, which is comprised of two images, shows the majestic building front as viewed from Market Street and the rear where the trains departed, reviving a more tranquil time in railroad history.

By the 1970’s, declining rail traffic to Chattanooga forced Southern Railway to close the doors of Terminal Station. The Birmingham Special, Train No. 18, became the last regular passenger train to pass through Terminal Station. On August 11, 1970, at 11:35PM, the Birmingham Special departed Terminal Station and headed for Washington, DC. The windows of the station were boarded up, as its once immaculate interior began collecting dust. The abandoned station faced the sad prospects of demolition.

Fortunately, a group of two dozen local investors had a much better idea for the old station; the investors obtained the property from Southern Railway, and with an initial investment of 10 million dollars, converted the old Terminal Station into a family vacation complex second to none.

My two images of the Choo-Choo took five (5) months and 325 hours to complete. I’m including several development photos taken during its creation. When my lithographs were released in 1991, I mailed a set to Jonnie Miller Soper (Glenn Miller’s daughter) along with Paula Kelly Turner and Tex Beneke, both singers of Glenn Miller’s famous song. Not long after the prints were mailed, I received very nice thank you notes from all three recipients (see images below). Unfortunately, Paula (d.1992) and Tex (d.2000) have passed away, but Jonnie is still living. This 8-minute video clip on YouTube shows Tex and Paula performing the Chattanooga Choo-Choo song.

“Choo-Choo” rear Preliminary Development Photo

“Choo-Choo” rear at 30 hrs development

“Choo-Choo” rear at 56 hrs development

“Choo-Choo” rear at 122 hrs development

“Choo-Choo” rear at 150 hrs development (complete)

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

“Choo-Choo” front Preliminary Development Photo

“Choo-Choo” front at 30 hrs development

“Choo-Choo” front at 90 hrs development

“Choo-Choo” front at 175 hrs development (complete)

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

Paula Kelly Turner thank you letter

Tex Beneke thank you letter

Jonnie Miller Soper thank you letter

Click here to visit Rock on Trains and view/purchase your “Choo-Choo” print set.

Thank you for your interest!


Rock on Trains © 2020, 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.

Rock on Trains

Happy New Year! The holidays may be over, but now is a good time to deck the walls! To order Tom Rock’s train art prints of the images below and others, please visit the catalog link on his website at www.rockontrains.com for details.

“Steam’s Final Hour”

“Joint Effort”


Rock on Trains © 2020, 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.

Close Calls

Operation Lifesaver

In posting these Close Calls, I hope to make the general public more aware of railroad-related accidents as viewed through actual near-fatal video at grade crossings. These video clips will hopefully show viewer(s) how complete disregard for safety could cost one his/her life.

Safety first,
Tom

Close Call #1:

Close Call #2:

Close Call #3:

Videos courtesy of YouTube.


Rock on Trains © 2020, 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.