Oil on canvas.
Dimensions : Canvas 86 x 51cm; Frame 105 x 70cm
David Shepherd gifted this painting to the museum in South Africa for a fundraising event called ‘A Brush with Steam’. Each buyer was given a raffle ticket when they bought a print, with the prize being the original painting. David was then given the steam engine ‘City of Germiston’ which he transported back the UK. The owner had much in common with David, both having been to Stowe School, as well as being steam enthusiasts with connections with GWR in the UK.
As quoted by David: “I first went to Germiston Sheds, South Africa, on the very day that steam was ending in Britain at the end of 1968. To walk into a steam shed where there are over 200 locomotives with most of them in steam, was a magical experience for any steam enthusiast. In Britain, we had got rid of our great steam-railway heritage in scenes of squalor and degradation. In South Africa, it was very much alive and it was so exciting. All the engines we moving in every direction – shunting, hauling trains, and moving in and out of the shed. The whole area seemed to fill up with choking smoke, which is part of the glory of steam to someone like me. The whole place was a hive of activity. The African shed staff were everywhere, pushing wheelbarrows filled with ashes, cleaning out pits, and washing out the boilers with floods of water gushing in clouds of steam. On my last visit to Germiston, there were the familiar scrap lines, I had come to know so well – hundreds of locomotives in long lines, many of them with years of life ahead of them but with their firs cold, forlorn and neglected. In South Africa, it seemed even more illogical – with so much coal and cheap labour.”
The painting portrays a 15F Class, doing the job that it was designed to do, hauling freight trains, past one of the ‘gold tips’ around Johannesburg. The story continues with David shipping the train to the UK and renaming her ‘Avril’ after his wife.