Yard Switcher
image © Robert N. Morrissey + click to enlarge

Yard Switcher

Signed, lower left
16" x 22¼"


Please note: Masters was inducted into the army in 1942, at the age of 20, and sent to Williamsport, PA to guard the coal mines and bridges. He met Carelene Fiester of Laporte, PA the following year and a romance ensued. Honorably discharged in 1946, he returned to Pennsylvania, on the GI Bill, to study at the Dauphin School of Arts in Philadelphia. The two were married in June, 1947 and returned to St. Louis in 1948. During his time in Philadelphia he made a pen and ink drawing of a rail yard which some 30 years later would become the basis for this series called “Yard Switcher”

The utility poles, numerous factories with billowing smokestacks and “No Trespassing” signs create a foreboding frame around the rail yard. The deep perspective vanishes into a mist of steam and smoke. Yet the engineer leans comfortably on the window sill while his rail man stands with the nonchalant ease of someone who has spent a lifetime in the harsh environment.

Born in 1922, the son and grandson of railroad workers and raised in a one room shack at the confluence of three sets of tracks, these are the type of men Stan grew up around. (See the essay at “The Big Icicle”.) He saw engineers, conductors and legions of laborers on a daily basis. Hobos were common. In the 1970's, reminiscing about his grandfather, who was the section foreman for the Missouri Pacific Railroad, Masters wrote:

"The Mo. Pac. Railroad paid tough “bulls” to beat the
hobos off the trains and run them off the right-of-way.
If they had known my grandpa was feeding them
on R. R. Property they'd have at least censured him-
possibly demoted him- or even fired him. I know
my grandpa- he put in a hard days work for the
railroad- but when a hungry hobo asked for food
grandpa fed him- and surely figured that God
was more to be feared than the mighty Mo Pac."

Such intimate, first hand experiences, rare, if not unique among railroad artists, inform Masters' urban landscapes. He depicts the blue collar aristocrats, as railroaders of the time were called, with the authority of someone who was there.

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