All Steamed Up with John Pickup

Early memories for many of us oldies might be of steam trains.

Anne recalls growing up only two streets away from the Bendigo railway line and playing on the line as children. She says: "We would place our pennies on the rail and watch as the train rumbled over them, bending the coins, and luckily not us, into a new shape. Frequently we would go up to the shunting yards and watch the engines being put to bed in the round house (below), which fortunately has been preserved."

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. 1

Whilst steam power ran many machines for industry, the real romance of steam was always in steam trains.

To this day, many men in particular are keen steam train enthusiasts, including Anne's brother-in-law, who works as a volunteer for the Castlemaine and Maldon Railway Preservation Society. The J541 in the above photo is the train used for the tourist runs between Castlemaine and Maldon, which our Julie (also a steam enthusiast!) travelled on recently.

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.........

Untitled by John Pickup 

What we love about John's steam train landscapes is the life contained in the steam billowing upwards as it does to mingle with the clouds above and become part of the atmosphere.

Untitled by John Pickup
Untitled by John Pickup

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.

Untitled by John Pickup

Do you get a feeling of of solidness and safety in John's images of these gentle but powerful giants?

Often, they thundered through long distances of vast, lonely, sometimes inhospitable countryside, day and night, safely delivering passengers and goods to their destinations.

Untitled by John Pickup

Part of the fascination steam is that, whilst 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 in this painting, below.

Untitled by John Pickup

Do you have a favourite amongst these wonderful paintings? Perhaps this one winding it's way alongside the treacherous mountain river.

The Gorge by John Pickup ©


  1. With thanks to Wikipedia

  2. With thanks to ©John Pickup who kindly gave permission for the images of his work to be shared on AnArt4Life.