Paper Houses - yellow
Paper Houses - red
Paper Houses - adobe
Truchas Series
Lobster Gut Series
Subways Crossing Series
Lower Basin Series
Color Column Series
Chama Valley Series
Buoy Strings Series
Sierra Nevada RR Series
Sierra Nevada RR Series Explanation
Gallery House Series
Class One Railroads Model Photographs
Class One RR Series
Mergers & Acquisitions Series
Airport Series Model Photographs
Airport Series
Airport Series Enlargements
Grenada Series
Color Traffic Series
Streams-Bogs Series
Rainbow Polyphony Series
Upland Series
Fashion Series




The West and the East of the United States were connected by railroad on 10 May 1869. The Central Pacific built east from Sacramento, CA and the Union Pacific built west from Omaha, NE. Both railroads had mountains to cross. The Central Pacific's challenge began right from the start. There is a seven thousand foot climb from Sacramento, at sea level, to the Donner Pass, seventy air miles to the east. Both lines had access to federal bonds issued by the Lincoln administration.

In June 1993, I was able to visit many of the difficult construction sites in California with Lynn Farrar, senior engineer and historian of the Southern Pacific Railroad. We walked in Bloomer Cut, Clipper Gap, stood above filled in Secret Town trestle, visited Chalk Bluffs, Blue Canyon and viewed tunnels at Summit. My photographs taken on that trip, inform my paintings. The colors includes the sere conditions at the mountain base, the deciduous zone ascending to the conifer zone thinning to the exposed ledges and snow patches at the Donner Pass.

The intuitive route could not have been followed in the valley of the American or Bear Rivers. The sides were too steep and too sinuous for a railroad. Therefore, the strategy was to find and to follow uninterrupted ridges to the pass. Engineer Theodore D. Judah (1826-1863) found the conceptual route. Chief engineer Samuel S. Montague (1830-1883) fulfilled the alignment selection and route engineering. In time, trestles were filled in, curves eased and tunnels added, all to reduce grade and to allow greater speeds. The Central Pacific expanded in the west and evolved to become the Southern Pacific Railroad.

My paintings depict the Sierra Nevada from their base near Roseville, CA to the peaks at Donner Pass. The locomotive of the Southern Pacific, in black widow livery, and the locomotive of the Union Pacific, in armor yellow livery, are posed in 1996. That year, the UP acquired the SP to form the largest US railroad. Rivals from 1869, now they were joined, after 127 years of fierce competition. The flanking locomotives, in blue and gray livery, represent Amtrak, assisted by each railroad since its inception in 1970.

These paintings are dedicated to Samuel Skerry Montague, my great-grandfather.

Malcolm Montague Davis

450 Harrison Avenue, Suite 313, Boston, MA 02118Tel 617-266-0460 E-mail mmd@malcolmmontaguedavis.comStudio visit by appointment.