Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Cass - Art, Nature, and the Engineer

Cass, circa 1936, by Rita Angus. courtesy of the Rita Angus estate & the Christchurch City Art Gallery. Transcript of an introduction to Angus' "Cass" here.

As he pulls through Cass, does the loco driver catch the railway shed in the corner of his eye? Does it trigger thoughts of one of New Zealand's best known paintings by one of her best known artists, Rita Angus? Does he muse upon the contrasting vertical and horizontal lines of man-made structures and the swirling clouds and rolling hills? Or does he stare fixedly at the signal up ahead - dare one say it, with tunnel vision - as the on-coming coal train enters the west-bound track of the Cass loop?

Double header coal train eastbound through Cass on a hot summer's day, 2007.

Gone within 5 minutes from this scorching hot, dusty place the trains part in opposite directions leaving behind the mute, solitary shed.

Cass is 116 kilometers northwest of Christchurch in Canterbury. The Midland railway line was extended from Christchurch to Cass in 1910. With the completion of the Otira tunnel through the Southern Alps, between Otira and Arthur's Pass, the Midland line connected Canterbury and the West Coast by rail for the first time. The six day stage coach journey at the turn of the century was replaced by a one day train journey, increasing the flow of people and goods in both directions.

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