BACKGROUND ON MOTHER-OF-PEARL PICTURES Do you remember the "pearl train" pictures that the Rock Island made as passenger traffic advertisements way back in the early 80's and 90's? Perhaps you can see one of these pearl trains glistening as you even today from the wall of some hotel lobby or at an occasional passenger station along the 8,209 miles of the Rock Island Lines. For some thirty or forty years ago these ornate pictures, with insets of shiny pearl along the engine cab and sides of the coaches, were much in demand. Two of them, it is remembered, were sent as exhibits by the Rock Island to the European Exposition at the opening of the Eiffel Tower. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * From the Rock Island research material it is found that around 1880 a veteran car builder in the 47th Street Shops, Mr. Andrea T. Gavell, developed a technique of working on the glass faces of a number of clocks which were later put in the executive offices. As an outgrowth of his artistry, he produced some small three-quarter view pictures of a train located near La Salle, Illinois. Mr. Gavell, in later years, described the method of painting the pictures as follows: "After the design of the object had first been drawn on a conve- nient size of paper, a clean glass, the size of the intended picture, is placed over it and the design very carefully traced in black oil color, following very carefully the line on the underlying paper. Then the surrounding landscape is painted on, free-hand, as well as it is possible to accomplish this. When this is done and well backed up, it is also allowed to dry very hard. The open spaces formed by the black lines on locomotives and cars are then glazed over with transparent colors, that is, the places on the picture representing windows, doors, curve of the boiler, etc. When this also has been thoroughly dried, thin pieces of pearl, pieces from a quarter of an inch to an inch big, are placed over the glazed open spaces, using clear white Demar varnish as an adhesive. This, when thoroughly dried, finishes the picture and when the glass is reveresed, will reveal the success of the work." Since these were free-hand drawings and paintings, each individually handeled, the results showed quite a variation, not only in color, but in the type of locomotive used and in placement of cars in the train. Mr. Gavell's technique was adopted by other craftsmen who were experts at carving and inlaying of mother-of-pearl in the construction of the old Rock Island observation cars. The result was that engines were of different types and bore different numbers, and the trains depicted were of different lengths. We have no accurate knowledge of how many of these might have been created in the early days, but shortly after the turn of the century, due to quite a demand for the mother-of-pearl inlays, the Rock Island obtained bids on a commercial basis, and the Western Sand Blast Company of Chicago was awarded a contract. We have a record that the contract called for 50 pictures over a period of two years, and it appears we paid $50 for each. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * The mother-of-pearl picture we have on display at the First National Bank is a view of a train crossing the plains with the Rocky Mountains forming a backdrop, Engine and Tender #1101, U.S. Express, #621 Chair Car, two sleeping cars and a dining car. ======================================================================== The text between the asterisks (* * *) appears to have come from the Rock Island. The last two sentences were deleted and the additional text added by the bank. In 1986, The Villanova Preparatory School of Ojai, California advertised a RI mother-of-pearl picture in TRAINS magazine. I wrote them and they replied saying that it was sold in September to the Manitou and Pike's Peak Railway Company of Colorado Springs. They included the original RI text above. Here are confirmed and possible locations of the mother of pearl paintings that the Rock Island gave to its biggest customers: 1. Clyde's bar on M Street Northwest in the Georgetown section of Washington, DC confirmed by telephone 5/21/1999 2. Clyde's bar in Tyson's (Corners) VA confirmed by telephone 5/22/1999 3. One listed in a book from an auction house in New York City in 1996 (info from Clyde's bartender) 4. Private home in DC yeah - big help, Pick (perhaps No. 2?) 5. Venachen's or Venachin's Junction, a Hyatt House dining room in Peoria (no telephone listing 5/22/1999) 6. RR Museum at Knott's Berry Farm in Los Angeles (will try to confirm by phone later - closed) 7. Best one he'd seen: Travel Office at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs (will try to confirm later) 8. Broadmoor Hotel basement in Colorado Springs in poor condition 9. Broadmoor Hotel basement in Colorado Springs damaged beyond recognition 10. Destroyed in a hotel fire in Michigan 11. Pick Temple's, possibly in the Phoenix area, his notes say he paid $500-$600 for it in the 1950s Pick Temple actually saw numbers 5, 6, and 7. The above information was hand written in a Copy of Hayes' Iron Road to Empire which was given to Pick Temple which was on a list of books from a Scottsdale, AZ railroad hobby store which was going out of business. 12. The copy Maytag had and is now in the Iowa State Historical museum (or library?) in Des Moines. According to Temple, 15 were made, so that leaves 5 unaccounted for as of almost 20 years ago. Where they are now is anyone's guess other than number 12. One of them may be in the Chicago Historical Society in the same room as the "Pioneer" locomotive of the CN&W.