Saturday, November 4, 2023

Tell Me How Long The Train's Been Gone

On the heels of last week's Rails and Sails post, I thought I would share some artwork scans from the set. Despite the mismatch of styles for Rails versus Sails, I consider this set to be the apotheosis of the Topps Giant Size Non-Sports cards. The artwork on the front of the cards is often stunning, always well-executed and there is a wide range of subjects in both look and time.  Then there are the card backs, which were so well thought out and colorful for both modes of transportation.  I imagine it was was fairly time-consuming set to create and may have been a little expensive as well, although if it was, had more to do with the backs than the fronts I'd say.  The artwork was paid at per-the-piece rates of the day but some of the Rails copy (and/or possibly stock photographs used for the illustrations) came courtesy of American Car & Foundry and I suspect Topps may have had to pay for it.  Not all of the Rails cards carried  "Courtesy A.C.F. Industries Inc." indicia of course, some were from foreign railroads or, obviously, not manufactured by ACF.

The original art has bubbled up in a few batches over the years, mostly around 15-18 years ago with some "finds" larger than others.  Today I want to ride the rails portion of the set and here's a great-looking original, which is the Casey Jones' Loco operated by the Illinois Central Railroad:

Here's the finished card:

Sweet, right?  Here's the reverse where you can see what I mean about the design:

Beware of snake heads-yikes! And dig the rando locomotives and cars used for the main illustration running on the tracks along the bottom.

For the record, here's how the ACF indicia looked:

Here's a piece of art offered by Heritage sometime back, the level of detail is astounding:

Card no. 109 for those keeping score at home:

And here's a true production piece:

It's not no. 48 though, as marked, but rather no. 33:

The handwriting on the back seems to be instructing the illustrator on the various colors, indicating the source was a black and white photo; that's how things rolled back then!

Back with some Sails art next time kids!

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