Artist: Tucker Smith
Title: The Challenger
Size: 36"w x 18"h.
Edition: Artist Signed and Numbered, Limited to 75
Medium: Giclee on Canvas
About the Art: Those who love steam engines are no doubt familiar with the Challenger, the fastest freight locomotive of the Union Pacific fleet in the 1940s and 1950s.
The Challenger, based on the design for a successful freight engine, was the largest, heaviest and most powerful articulated passenger locomotive ever built. The powerful engine and 67-inch-diameter driving wheels enabled it to both negotiate the steep grades of the passes through the Rocky Mountains and achieve speeds necessary for express passenger service.
Artist Tucker Smith set the painting at the top of Sherman Hill between Cheyenne and Laramie, Wyoming, at an elevation of about 8000 feet. In the background are the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. At the left of the painting, the yellow scheme the Union Pacific used for its passenger cars during the 1950s can be seen.
“I like to paint steam locomotives, in part, because I view myself as an animal painter,” says Tucker Smith. Continuing, he explains that paradox. “There’s something almost alive about a steam engine. It breathes steam and you can watch all the moving parts on the outside of the engine―even the steam pipes, valves and pumps. That’s what is magical to me about a steam engine. It seems to have a life all its own. As I was working on it,” Smith says, “I was thinking ‘speed’ and ‘movement.’ I wasn’t trying to think of it as a photograph. I was trying to put myself there. I was wondering how it would feel if you actually stood there as the train went by. That was more important to me than getting every detail. You can see every nut and bolt only when the locomotive is motionless, not when it’s racing by you.”