Sketches From the Zephyr

Sketching from a moving train takes practice. I figured I had sketched from a moving boat racing up the Cristalino River in Brazil, how hard could this be?

It always helps to have an expansive view, perhaps of a mountain range in the distance that moves slowly, while the foreground blurs by. In any case you have to work fast and create a quick image from different snap shots from the journey.

It helps to have a few tricks in your sketcher’s toolbox. You have to capture things quickly, using a bit of short hand when trying to get the “essence” of the scene. This means leaving a whole lot of information out. You have to only include what is the most important. Good thing the average speed of the California Zephyr is only 55 miles an hour, the maximum speed limit when I got my driver’s permit. The reason for the slow speed is because the Zephyr is on a freight route. These rails are not built for high speed. The trade off is that sketching from the second story of a Superliner car is a bit easier.

Below are a few Zephyr sketches from Colfax to Denver.

A observation car quick sketch from Yuba Pass.
Donner Lake, formerly Truckee Lake. The east shore was the sight of the lake camps of the Donner Party in the winter of 1846-47.
Okay I will have to admit that this one is a bit tongue and cheek. Moffat Tunnel crosses under the Continental Divide and is six miles long. It takes the Zephyr ten minutes to pass through the tunnel.

Moffat Tunnel was first opened in 1928 at an altitude of 9,200 feet. At 6.2 miles long, it is the fourth longest railroad tunnel in North America. About 15 trains a day pass through Moffat Tunnel which is about 50 miles west of Denver.

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