Art and Railway: Creative Communities

Posted: 3 November 2023 | | No comments yet

Rail companies Amtrak and SWR, from both sides of the Atlantic, have collaborated with local artists to create installations for stations.


In both the UK and US, there have been unveilings of artistic projects in railway stations. The community and local creativity are at the heart.

The rail company Amtrak has recently celebrated a grand opening of an art installation at Gray 30th Street Station. The artist, Adam Crawford, who has lived in Philadelphia for the past 29 years, has completed a majestic installation at the station, called Euphonic and Chromatic Drift. The artwork is composed of a large-scale vinyl window display, awash with bright colours and waving lines. The installation will be in place until Winter 2024 at the East and West ends of the transportation hub. 

Adam Crawford’s Installation

The Art at Amtrak® scheme is a public art programme, offering memorable art projects. Amtrak collaborates with local artists to create individual pieces. Each installation is designed to fit in the unique spaces of Amtrak stations, showcasing each region’s creativity. The purpose of the scheme is to “invigorate and humanise” (Amtrak) the travel experience for passengers. They will be able to view works, including Crawford’s, all year-round.

“Our goal is to showcase the work of this local artist while enhancing the natural beauty of the station and improving the overall experience for our customers,” said Jina Sanone, Amtrak Vice President, for the Northeast Corridor Service Line.

Crawford’s installation is the latest addition to the programme. He has previously worked on both interior and exterior large-scale pieces, found across the US in Pennsylvania, New York City, Washington D.C., Pittsburgh, Chicago, Nashville, Cleveland, and Las Vegas.

In this piece, however, he has adapted the work to fit the parameters of the building. (The station is also currently undergoing renovation.) The strong lines of the architecture mirror Crawford’s display. The varied linework in the piece reflects the height of the space, as well as the spatial dialogue of the atrium. Strong vertical lines create a harsh accent in parts of the piece, heightened by the interspersed Corinthian columns in the architecture. Nevertheless, there is some softness from the waving lines, mirroring Crawford’s inspiration – the relationship between sound and space, and how this is amplified by the transport hub.

Preceding Crawford’s installation, as part of the same Art at Amtrak® programme, visual artist Karen Mongolis launched her installation. This is on view at The Metropolitan Lounge at Moynihan Train Hall through Summer 2024.

Likewise, Washington Union Station recently opened a large-scale piece by DC-based multidisciplinary artist Tim Doud. Both of which celebrate not only the range of artistry developed, but also the role of rail in the community. Regional creativity is reflected.

This thinking is also present across the Atlantic. SWR and Network Rail employed Sian Storey, an artist based in Basingstoke, to replace an existing mural at Basingstoke station.

The new wall painting portrays a Hampshire hedgerow. It depicts flora and fauna native to Hampshire, including a brown hare, a robin, long-tailed tits, and a dormant dormouse. This rural scene, however, contains an SWR train, complete with pride livery, demonstrating the coexistence of the Hampshire countryside and the commuting line to London. The skyline of which is complete in soft, bluish hues.

Sian Storey’s Mural

“Every train journey from Basingstoke serves up mesmerising countryside views, so I wanted to capture that feeling of glimpsing through a hedgerow as the train glides past,” artist Sian Storey said.

“Street art breathes new life and energy into an area – it can bring so much positivity and pride amongst the community too – so I hope this mural brings a new buzz to Basingstoke railway station,” she added.

This is not the first public mural Storey has completed. Storey has painted numerous outdoor spaces, such as the underpass in the Winklebury district of Basingstoke. The vibrancy of this space mirrors that of the Clifton Terrace mural.

SWR funded this project, which replaced a black and white mural from the 1990s. Network Rail provided the materials and labour.

“I had often thought about replacing the faded and damaged mural with something a bit more colourful. I was so pleased when I contacted Sian and she said she would love to work on the project,” Stefan Chybowski, South Western’s Control Centre Manager, said.

“I’m very grateful to our colleagues at Network Rail Wessex who helped to make it possible and to Sian for the fantastic result we can see today,” he added.

Through both collaborative projects, passengers can see the importance of the relationship between the railway industry and local community. By reaching out to regional artists, the railway hubs become centres of celebration for local individuality and creativity.