Art? Or a Tragedy?

This summer, there was a call for artists at the tourism site in St. Thomas, Ontario. That in itself isn’t unusual, but the call was for artists to paint on existing railway boxcars.

There was a bit of a hue and cry from railfans about this, including me. It was explained that these were outside the Elgin County Railway Museum and not part of the collection, and the boxcars were already covered with graffiti.

Not exactly preserved – from Google Street View

Four artists decorated the four boxcars and this is the result, from the museum’s Facebook post:

It’s difficult sometimes to know what to do with “surplus” railway equipment. Museums are chronically short on volunteer time and short on funds. Many museums have more inventory than they can maintain.


Years ago the New Brunswick Railway Museum in Hillsborough, NB was approached by a local paintball group (the Atlantica Outdoor Recreation Centre) wanting to use a couple of railway cars as paintball “props”. There was a little discussion about this before approval was granted. Museum curator Art Clowes said they simply didn’t have the people to maintain the equipment.

Maybe the right thing to do is to offer rail cars to other museums if you can’t maintain them. Maybe that was done and nobody wanted to pay the tens of thousands of dollars to truck the equipment away.

Your Turn

What do you think? How can railway equipment be properly preserved? Is it even possible with a museum’s limited time and limited budgets?

9 thoughts on “Art? Or a Tragedy?”

  1. I hate graffiti and adding more on top what was already there doesn’t make sense to me!
    If you can’t afford to restore the cars to their past glory and no one else wants them, call the scrap man and put the money towards other things!
    To have those EYESORES in the yard of the once great Canada Southern is a travesty of the highest order!

  2. Graffiti I’m not necessarily a fan of, but these designs I like. They’re no different from the murals at Woodstock – it’s repurposed railway equipment.

  3. As these railcars aren’t active, or part of a museum collection, they are industrial boxes. While we railfans want to see every piece preserved, that’s not an option. This isn’t graffiti, they are commissioned art works. The canvas just happens to be some discarded steel boxes. I hope the people in the community like the artwork.

  4. With respect to the NB Rail Museum – The Dining Car – Two Lounge Cars – one Sleeper
    were broken into – windows smashed – fires set – so the were moved down past the old
    track shed to be used by the paint ball group – I was in them all not to long ago and have suggested they all be scrapped and the funds we would receive be used to repaint the two passenger coaches in front of the station as they need to be refurbished.

  5. A big no from me – if the railway museum can’t afford to maintain the displays or a certain piece of rolling stock, then donate to a different museum or ask for help. Don’t let the items get graffiti or vandalism on them… As a railway museum volunteer (and railfan) I hate seeing graffiti or even worse someone’s attempt to repaint a wrong colour or font on a piece of rolling stock. I have noticed it at other museums, and I have to cringe sometimes seeing what they have done.


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