Over the past couple of weeks you have seen some of the wonderful paintings of sailing ships done by Robert Carter. When I was exploring and examining Robert's paintings, whilst absolutely enamoured with these majestic vessels, my eye kept focusing on the small steam powered tugs working to bring the ships into, or out of the ports. Below is the Olivebank and tug Waratah – The Heaving Line by Robert Carter.
Steam power developed slowly over a period of several hundred years, progressing through expensive and fairly limited devices in the early 17th century, to useful pumps for mining in 1700, and then to Watt's improved steam engine designs in the late 18th century. It is these later designs, introduced just when the need for practical power was growing due to the Industrial Revolution, that truly made steam power commonplace. (Wikipedia)
Our early memories for many of us oldies will be strong with another vehicle that was powered by steam: the train. I grew up only two streets away from the Bendigo railway line and yes, we played on the line as children. We would place our pennies on the rail and watch as the train rumbled over them bending the coins and fortunately not us, into a new shape. And frequently we would go up to the shutting yards and watch the engines being put to bed in the round house (below) which fortunately has been preserved.
To this day, many men in particular are keen steam train enthusiasts including my brother-in-law who works as a volunteer for the Castlemaine & Maldon Railway Preservation Society. And another steam train enthusiast is our very own in-house artist John Pickup. Fortunately for us John has created several paintings of steam trains for us to enjoy today.
What I love about John's steam train landscapes is the life contained in the steam rising as it does to mingle with the clouds above and become part of the atmosphere.
There is a dance going on in these paintings between the rough and solid ground beneath the train (from which the steam got its power through the mining of coal) and the glory of the unbridled steam and clouds above.
And for me, steam heralded the power and fury of the industrial age and brought with it great change, great improvements, and great challenges. In other words - steam set the world on fire as John Pickup has shown especially in this painting.