Commuter and Transfer Stations In Art

These illustrations are views of the outside of commuter stations — train stations, lorry transfer stations. (I’m not including here illustrations of the insides of commuter stations.)

Commuter stations are interesting because they fall into the category of ‘liminal spaces’. When creating stories, writers are typically advised to avoid the transit scenes. This is good general advice, because “Transit can make for a slow and ordinary beginning unless something quite odd is going on or we have an entertaining voice“.

On the other hand, these spaces are such ‘nothing’ spaces that if storytellers and artists linger with purpose, showing the details normally overlooked as we rush from place to place in our daily lives, the description of a commuter station can defamiliarise the everyday experience of living.

Flat Tire at the Commuter Station 1960 Amos Sewell (1901-1983)
Flat Tire at the Commuter Station 1960 Amos Sewell (1901-1983)
New Yorker cover train station by Garrett Price
New Yorker cover train station by Garrett Price
New Yorker cover train station night by Garrett Price
New Yorker cover train station night by Garrett Price
Charles Saxon, cover for The New Yorker, 1959
Charles Saxon, cover for The New Yorker, 1959
When the railway is closed by snow... Rowland Emett, Punch 1953
When the railway is closed by snow… Rowland Emett, Punch 1953
MARC FERNAND SEVERIN (1906-1987) Poster Art 1938
MARC FERNAND SEVERIN (1906-1987) Poster Art 1938
Grace Golden (1904-1993) lorry station
Grace Golden (1904-1993)
Théophile Poilpot - Embarkation of La Normandie at Havre 1889
Théophile Poilpot – Embarkation of La Normandie at Havre 1889
Erskine Nicol - The Emigrants 1864
Erskine Nicol – The Emigrants 1864

Train stations aren’t what they used to be. Take a look at a few then-and-now photos of European and American terminals and you’ll notice a few things beyond the usual observations of technological innovation and increased patronage. First, the grandeur of the older stations has made way for more sterile architecture, as in the cases of St. Pancras and Roma Termini. Second, and perhaps more importantly, the interiors of modern stations bear an uncanny resemblance to shopping malls. Gone is the notion of the train station as a transient space: no more in and out; no more creaky, dark corridors – a proliferation that can only conclude with in-station condos – but somewhere within the riff raff, terminal newsstands still provide a small window into the world of a literature they came to define. 

Rethinking The Littérature De Gare: Crime Fiction In France And The U.S.
from Graham Greene’s The Little Steamroller (1955), illustrated by Dorothy Craigie (1901-1971)
‘Christmas at Basingstoke’ by Robin Pinnock railway platform station
‘Christmas at Basingstoke’ by Robin Pinnock
Norman Rockwell, Color Study for Breaking Home Ties, 1954, cover for The Saturday Evening Post
Norman Rockwell, Color Study for Breaking Home Ties, 1954, cover for The Saturday Evening Post
Adolph K. Kronengold commuter station
Adolph K. Kronengold
'Fairies' by 'Moebius' Jean Giraud (French Artist,Cartoonist 1938-2012)
‘Fairies’ by ‘Moebius’ Jean Giraud (French Artist,Cartoonist 1938-2012)
Douglas MacPherson Piccadilly Circus underground station crosscut 1928
1942, At the Station by Dean Cornwell (1892-1960)
1942, At the Station by Dean Cornwell (1892-1960)

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