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Lagniappe Favorites Collection

Railcar Graffiti

Graffiti, whether it's called art or vandalism, is a fact of modern railroading. But it didn't always look like what we see on the trains passing us today. Railroad graffiti has evolved over the past century and a half from simple chalk marks left by railroad workers to notify other workers of issues to marks left by hobos to vanity tags made in permanent ink to the elaborate and often enormous painted "pieces" (as they're termed by those who create them) of today.

The word "piece" in this context stems from the word "masterpiece" which is meant to indicate that the graffiti is more than just a scribbled name. The graffitist may have taken upwards of a few hours to design the work on paper and then a few more hours to apply the work with spray paint and/or rollers to the chosen location. Beginning in the early 1970s, the simple signature tags evolved into the more complex styles that are now seen. This was partly a result of so many similar tags being applied that the graffitists started to write their tags with larger characters and larger pens, then adding outlines and other flourishes to them in order to distinguish their tags from the multitude of others around them.

The Rip Track

All graffiti photos below taken by Ralph Hawkins unless otherwise indicated

Links / Sources

This page was updated on 2016-02-09