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Steam Arcana

May 2024
1min read

John H. White, curator of the division of transportation at the Smithsonian Institution and author of “Wood to Burn” in our December, 1Q74, issue, has taken polite exception to the illustrations used in that article: “I don’t wish to be rude,” he writes,
but I would be less than honest if I said I was really very much taken with them. The wood-burning locomotive is copied from a well-known contemporary engraving. The original is a fine, elegant print typical of the nineteenth-century engraver’s art, which I greatly admire. Unfortunately the modern artist has misread the lettering on the tender. It should be B. C. & M. rather than S. R. & W. , and the correct number is 23 rather than 5. Moreover, the locomotive is specifically identified, because the artist inscribed the name Mt. Washington on the cab. Hence anyone with an expert knowledge will spot the incorrect road initials and the mistaken number; and since the illustration is connected with my article, it could cause us both some embarrassment. …

We are pleased to report that so far this error has provoked no subscription cancellations. It had been our art director’s intention to get a pair of drawings, one obviously of a wood burner and the other of a coal burner; the wood burner is not meant to be a specific locomotive but rather one of the 4-4-0’s of the era. To this end our artist, CaI Sacks, deliberately fuzzed the lettering so that the inscription Mt. Washington cannot quite be read as such. As for the S. R. & W. , Cal explains that this is a mythical line invented to honor his daughter, Sandy, and his son, William. The line, says CaI, runs between the Sandy River and Williamstown.

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