Dayton artist records history, one painting at a time
Gov. Kenny Guinn donned engineer’s overalls Thursday morning and the Captain and Tenille wore 1940s garb to pose for the latest in Dayton artist Steven Saylor’s series combining the Virginia & Truckee railroad with Nevada celebrities.
Titled “The Victory Train,” Saylor’s painting will raise money to help restore a historic McKeen car Ñ a self-propelled motorcar.
The painting’s setting is May 8, 1945, at Brown Station, at the base of Mount Rose.
It will eventually include a host of celebrities — as well as Engine No. 27 and the McKeen Car No. 22 from the historic V&T Railroad.
From his perch in the engineer’s seat, Guinn smiled down at singer Toni Tennille and her husband, Daryl Dragon, as they pretended to read the news of Germany’s surrender at the end of World War II.
“I heard that,” Guinn said, laughing. “I know exactly who said ‘Put the fat guy up here.'”
Later climbing around in the McKeen car, Guinn said “I feel better up here. You can’t see my shiny shoes. No engineer has shoes like these.”
Saylor said it will take about a year to finish the painting. Restoration mechanics Lee Hobold and Jeremy Harding said it will take between two and five years to finish restoration of the 70-foot car.
“It would take about a year and a half, if we worked on nothing else,” Hobold said.
“Only a handful (of McKeen cars) are known to exist and we have two Ñ this one and one we bought for parts,” Harding said. “Railroads hated them and scrapped them early. It was an ugly design. They were mechanical nightmares.”
“It’s quite modern looking,” said Tennille.
The car’s design ties in with the 1930s art deco wave, but was out of fashion when built in 1910.
“It was ahead of its time,” Harding said. “By the time it came into style in the 1930s railroads were phasing them out.
This will be the only complete one when done. It’s the only living species, you might say, but we don’t have the original engine. We may have to improvise.”
Hobold said only 200 of the cars were built. The car began its service with the V&T in 1910 carrying freight and passengers. In 1933, it was converted to a railway post office express agency car with only a few seats for passengers.
Restoration will return the car to its original maroon color. Its first trip between Carson City and Mound House was May 10, 1910. The car made only one run to Virginia City.
“It didn’t have the power to go up the grade,” Hobold said.
The car was retired in 1946, at which point it became home to a series of diners on Carson Street from 1946 and 1958. The car then became home to a pottery shop.
Carl Bernhard began renting the car, which was by now connected to a Hall-Scott motorcar, in 1960 for his plumbing business.
In 1996, Al and Lenore Bernhard donated the two cars to the railroad museum.
On Thursday, Dragon and Tenille donned 1945 garb and grabbed a 1945 copy of the Nevada State Journal to celebrate “Victory Day.”
“It’s the day Germany surrendered,” Saylor said. “Actually, a day late because they surrendered at midnight and we on the West Coast didn’t learn about it until the next day, and then the newspapers picked it up. Here they are unloading the newspapers and people are reading the news.”
In the background of the painting will be the Tamarack Saloon, owned by Rod Franzman, whose family owned the saloon in 1952.
“We did a good business,” he said. “We served a lot of locals and put out a lot of good breakfasts.”
Franzman is a collector of Saylor’s works, including his well-known portrayals of celebrities and politicians around V&T engines. His “Heavyweights” features several Nevada governors.
Franzman said he and a buddy, Lee Darrah, once rode the V&T Ñ on the cowcatcher Ñ from Brown Station to Steamboat Springs. From there they walked or hitchhiked to Virginia City and somehow ended up at Lake Tahoe.
Franzman and his dogs Missy and Cocoa will be included in the painting, as will Saylor and his wife, Johnye. “I always sneak us in there somewhere,” he said.
Included in Steven Saylor’s “The Victory Train” will be: Gov. Kenny Guinn, first lady Dema Guinn, Toni Tennille, Daryl Dragon, Paul Revere, Ian Tyson, Lt. Gov. Lorraine Hunt, Patty Sheehan, Lacy J. Dalton, Mills Lane, Juice Newton, Janie Frickie, Kevin Catagon, Sen. John Ensign, Congressman Jim Gibbons, Assemblywoman Dawn Gibbons.
Several others have been invited to be in the picture, but have not yet committed. They are: Colin Raye, Mark Hammill, Tony Curtis, Wayne Newton, McGuire Sisters, Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Terri Clark and Mike Love.