I know that graffiti on railroad cars is vandalism. It’s against the law, expensive for the railroad company to remove and dangerous for the artists. I know all that. And I certainly would not want to come outside to get in my car and see that an artist had used it as a free canvas and then have to drive it around like that. When you look at it that way, railroad graffiti is destructive, wasteful and just plain wrong. Yet, I’m fascinated with it. When I’m stopped at a train (which happens a lot where I live), it’s a pleasure to sit and watch the art roll by. I wonder where it came from, who did it and why. I know that some of what I’m looking at is probably gang-related or obscene and I’m too ignorant to realize it — but sometimes art is subversive, so that’s OK.
I’m so enthralled with railroad graffiti that I bought this book, “Freight Train Graffiti,” by Roger Gastman, Darin Rowland and Ian Sattler (about $22 from Amazon, soft cover). It’s a valuable pop-culture and art resource. It does a super job of explaining graffiti techniques and why — and how — railroad graffiti evolved and why artist risk their lives to do this. The best part is the pages and pages of graffiti-ed railroad cars, with clues on how to identify individual artists. I passed this book on to my art-teacher son-in-law and he uses it in class.
At least, admiring the graffiti makes the train stops go faster!