To the delight of his fans, iconic painter Phil Ponder spent some time at Picture This Creative Framing Art Gallery in Hermitage last Thursday.
Dozens showed up to the open house from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. to chat with Ponder and view several unique train originals and be some of the first to see his newest original of the Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Locomotive No. 576 as depicted passing Nashville’s Union Station.
For the past 40 years, Ponder has painted historic structures and skylines in Middle Tennessee. His famous painting style is accomplished through a combination of pen and ink and watercolor techniques, said Ponder. His paintings are instantly recognizable, with emphasis on great detail and warmth of color.
Ponder’s daughter, Stephanie Randolph, has worked at Picture This for six years. She said Matt Fischer and Duane Chambers are the owners and opened their first location in May of 1996. Their current store, located at 3883 Lebanon Pike, is their third location, Randolph said.
This latest art event featuring Ponder’s new painting packed the house and Ponder signed many prints bought by visitors. Ponder enjoyed personalizing prints, ornaments and art on wood while refreshments were served and several door prizes of Ponder’s artwork were presented.
Ponder told Main Street Nashville it took him about six weeks to paint N.C. & St. L. No 576
“It’s a World War II-era steam engine, known as ‘The Stripe’ for its distinctive bright yellow accents,” said Ponder. “It was staged recently on the same rails where it originally served as a workhouse and stopped for one day at Union Station before continuing to the Tennessee Central Railway Museum to undergo a complete restoration.”
When Ponder learned the steam engine would stop at Union Station, he quick drove there to take pictures of it so he could replicate it in a painting. The original has already been sold, but prints of different sizes are for sale.
“This particular steam locomotive was built by the American Locomotive Company and delivered to Nashville in September of 1942,” explained Ponder.
As with many of his other originals, Ponder spent a lot of time researching. The locomotive was dual-purpose for both freight and passenger trains and arrived just in time to haul troops and supplies to and from Atlanta. Ponder said after the war the train pulled the N.C. & St. L.’s luxury named trains out of Union Station.
In a joint effort by city officials and railway employees, the iron beast was saved from the scupper’s torch and put on display in Centennial Park and dedicated on Sept. 20, 1953.
“Kids would climb all over it,” Ponder recalled.
According to Ponder, the locomotive became a beloved fixture in the park and was on several magazine and album covers with music legends such as Johnny Cash.
The Stripe left Centennial Park in January of this year after The Nashville Steam Preservation Society was formed in 2016 with the goal to lease and relocate it.
“It’s a $3 million project,” Ponder said. “There are about 100 volunteers who will rehab the locomotive, and even reconstruct parts when necessary.”
The project is ongoing at the Tennessee Central Railway Museum and it will take about three years to complete. Ponder said eventually, the restored locomotive will use the same tracks as The Music City Star and still be steam powered.
Ponder said this is his twentieth train painting.