June 21, 2008


Railways: When Artists Look Down the Track: Railway Imagery Is Explored At Two Museums (CHARLOTTE COWLES,
June 9, 2008, NY Sun)

The mystique of the railways has attracted artists since the mid-1800s. [...]

While art is often a medium for reflecting a cultural mindset, it is also a tool used to shape opinion — a theme that is taken up here. "British Victorian artists would use the railways for social comment," Mr. Kennedy said. "People were thrown together in train cars like never before."

...is songs about people dying when the crash them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 21, 2008 6:03 AM

I'm as railfan as they get, OJ, but I beg to differ. There is a whole genre of celebratory car songs, from "Merry Oldsmobile" to "Little GTO" and "409" and "Little Old Lady From Pasadena" and "Hot Rod Lincoln" down to the delightful "'92 Subaru" by Fountains of Wayne.

Posted by: Mike Morley at June 21, 2008 9:13 AM

Casey Jones died, too.

Posted by: ratbert at June 21, 2008 9:34 AM

And don't forget the best one by Queen...

The machine of a dream, such a clean machine
With the pistons a pumpin', and the hubcaps all gleam
When I'm holding your wheel
All I hear is your gear
When my hand's on your grease gun
Oh it's like a disease son

I'm in love with my car, gotta feel for my automobile
Get a grip on my boy racer rollbar
Such a thrill when your radials squeal

Told my girl I had to forget her
Rather buy me a new carburettor
So she made tracks sayin' this is the end now
Cars don't talk back they're just four wheeled friends now

When I'm holding your wheel
All I hear is your gear
When I'm cruisin' in overdrive
Don't have to listen to no run of the mill talk jive

I'm in love with my car, gotta feel for my automobile
I'm in love with my car, string back gloves in my automobile

Posted by: Bartman at June 21, 2008 10:55 AM

Tomorrow (June 22nd) is the 90th anniversary of the Hammond Circus Train Wreck. 86 dead.

Posted by: Bryan at June 21, 2008 12:03 PM

The post immediately after Beach Book ignores the Beach Boys? Someone's synapses are not firing at their usual rate.

Posted by: ghostcat at June 21, 2008 1:12 PM

No matter your bigotry, a Duesenberg is an object of beauty.


Posted by: Mikey at June 21, 2008 1:48 PM

BTW - I still have my Lionel 2-4-0 that I got 35 years ago. Planes, trains, ships, automobiles are all part of the little boy's love for machines that move, and they all can be made beautiful. And should.

Posted by: Mikey at June 21, 2008 1:52 PM

YOU CAN'T KILL ENOUgh clowns....

Posted by: oj at June 21, 2008 2:51 PM

I call B.S.

Most of the automobile songs in blues and blues-derived rock fall in to the rich (and humorous) tradition of using the car as a euphemistic stand-in for a woman. It's trains that mostly represent Death.

Posted by: ted welter at June 21, 2008 5:17 PM

Let me just consult my CD box set "People Take Warning! Murder Ballads & Disaster Songs, 1913-1938, Disc 1: Man vs Machine"
2) Wreck of the Old 97
4) The Crash of the Akron
5) The Fate of Talmadge Osborne
7) The Wreck of the Virginian
10) Wreck of Number 52
11) Kassie Jones
13) The Brave Engineer
16) Wreck on the Mountain Road
17) The Unfortunate Brakeman

Out of 24 tracks on the disc, 9 are about death on trains.
Orrin's mistake is thinking that, because nobody writes train death songs anymore, nobody ever wrote train death songs. But nobody rides trains anymore and so fewer people are dying on trains than did during the early part of the 20th century. It just the same that all of the great car death songs came out during the 1950's because that was during the great flowering of American car culture.

Posted by: Bryan at June 21, 2008 6:00 PM

I'll bet India has some killer train death songs, what with 300 or 400 dying per crash.

Posted by: ratbert at June 21, 2008 6:09 PM

No, Bryan, you completely miss the point. Of course there are great songs about trains and death, there just aren't any great car ones. Trains dominate even the only automotive art form.

Posted by: oj at June 22, 2008 9:30 AM


Bingo! a car is like a motel with hourly rates, a train is profound.

Posted by: oj at June 22, 2008 9:31 AM
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