On 1 July, around 6.30pm, I was standing on Main Street in the small Kentucky Town of La Grange. I had just arrived having spent the day travelling from London. It was a beautiful hot summer evening and I found the town very quiet – everything looked closed for the night. Before settling in at my hotel, I decided to check out the town centre. This was where I intended to spend the first day of over two weeks of intense train watching. Ultimately, I would visit a number of contrasting locations across six different states.
When I arrived on Main Street only 15 minutes earlier, I had watched the headlight of a train coming into view. Its slow passage down the centre of the road fulfilled my every expectation and I would undertake the task of filming this somewhat unique event the following day. What a fantastic environment in which to watch trains.
Hungry from my travels and wanting to stay awake to beat the jet lag, I looked around for somewhere suitable to eat and a loud cheer came from inside the bar directly opposite me. I recognised this immediately as the USA scoring against Germany in the World Cup quarter final. Without hesitation, I walked across the road and straight into the bar. I announced to all present that “now we have a game on…” Immediately, I felt at home.
As an artist, Parallel Tracks is easily the largest train project I have ever undertaken. Since March there has been a programme of extensive research and planning. On the itinerary were nine locations in America plus a further seven in England and Switzerland. Some of the places were familiar, others I was visiting for the first time. They all came with a degree of uncertainty – weather, reliability of equipment, reliability of trains and no matter how well planned, the issue of access. When filming trains, there is always the possibility that someone won’t approve of what I am doing. On my trip, these concerns proved unfounded.
The making of Parallel Tracks involved many days of early rises, busy airline terminals, miles of driving, numerous motels, diners and encounters with some wonderful people. There were excursions into some of the most stunning landscapes, some scary moments like getting stuck in the desert, and some wonderful chance happenings. And, significantly, there was a lot of waiting, looking, listening and some of the best train moments I have experienced.
This is a guest blog post by artist Andrew Cross. Read part two of his journey.
Parallel Tracks is a new art commission created by Andrew Cross for our Trainspotting season. For more information please go to: nrm.org.uk/trainspotting