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.

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     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.

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     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.

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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.