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By Andrew Cross on

The making of Parallel Tracks – part 2

In part two of his travel journal, artist Andrew Cross continues his journey across America capturing the image and video used in his art commission Parallel Tracks.

This is the first full day of my trip to the USA and I’m in the delightful town of La Grange, Kentucky. With my body clock still on London time I have no problem rising very early. It is my intention to take advantage of the early start to make the most of my day filming before the town gets too busy with people.

I’m on Main Street. To my excitement, as I am selecting my spot and setting up the camera, two trains pass, one in each direction. Normally I might get excited and rush. However, on this occasion I need to get things just right. The image must be precisely composed, with the camera setting and audio levels correct. I need to be patient as sometimes this takes one or two tries to get right. Another significant consideration is that I have to have the camera running at least a minute or two before the train comes into view. There is no point in reacting unless everything is in place.

Rumbling down Main St
Rumbling down Main St

Anyway, it’s a beautiful summer’s morning and I have all day. With a frequency or one or two trains an hour I can relax into the situation and enjoy.

Except, it turns out that these two trains will be the only ones to appear until late afternoon. US freight trains do not run to a regular schedule and track work can occur at any time on any day. This is not the first time they have ceased to run just after my arrival, or start running again just after have packed up to move on.

Camera set and ready on Main St.
Camera set and ready on Main St. La Grange

No need to panic just yet. For most of my trip I have a reasonably tight schedule. Luckily, there is a bit of in-built slack, although I would rather not use this up at my first location. I decide to be philosophical about the situation, soak up the extremely pleasant atmosphere of Main Street and continue to meet the local people.

La Grange is popular with US rail fans. However, I did make prior contact with Discover Downtown La Grange, the local traders’ association, to ensure there would be no issues with my presence throughout the day. Not that I needed to have worried as everyone I meet is very welcoming and delighted their town is to feature in an exhibition at the National Railway Museum. I find myself settled outside the delightful Karen’s Book Barn, a second-hand book store and café serving one of the best espressos outside Italy.

Late afternoon and still no trains. A soft southern rain begins to fall so Karen invites me into her store and lets me set up my camera facing through the shop window. I am excited by what I see through the viewfinder, not least because it further emphasises the feeling that I am inside an Edward Hopper painting. It doesn’t take long before the signals indicate a train is due. With camera rolling, adrenalin pumping and full concentration, I hardly dare breathe as the train lumbers its way down Main Street and completely fills the window.



Eight minutes later and I have my first completed ‘take’ and frankly it could not be much better. Well worth the wait and I hope an indication of how things will continue throughout my trip. I’m very happy and tired from my day of doing relatively very little. Time to celebrate in Rails Restaurant and Bar just a few doors down.

A celebratory steak


Parallel Tracks is a new art commission created by artist Andrew Cross for our Trainspotting season. It runs until 1 March 2015 and admission is free.

You can read the first part of Andrew’s journal here.

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