Eric Edward Esper, ‘Ashtabula Train Derailment’, 2017, Gallery Victor Armendariz

Ashtabula Train Trestle Collapse
On Friday, December 29, 1876 at 7:23 p.m., after two days of blizzard conditions with 20 inches of snow and 55 mph winds, the #5 Pacific Express train from Erie, PA was running behind schedule as it traversed the Lakeshore and Michigan Southern Railway at a mere 10 mph. As the train progressed, it pushed through the snow over the 154 foot long trestle, 82 feet above the Ashtabula Creek. The lead locomotive, “Socrates,” barely made it across the creek as the metal bridge structure collapsed under the following cars. 11 cars containing 128-200 passengers plummeted to the frozen river below. The survivors at the crash site were trapped in the wreckage which had caught on fire, as well as being stuck in the frigid, icy water.
Rescue efforts were hindered due to the location and the inclement weather. Not all of the dead could be identified because no-one knew exactly how many passengers were on board. On January 19, 1877, 19 unidentified were buried at Chestnut Grove Cemetery.

Eric Edward Esper

After obtaining my BFA in Illustration from Northern Michigan University in 1996 I relocated to Chicago to pursue my artistic endeavors. Here, I began exclusively oil painting and have assembled a body of paintings chronicling scenes of Chicago done primarily in plein air.

Capturing parts of the city’s landscape during its cultural evolution had been my way of conveying history as a painter. My fascination with landscapes and history has led me to create oil paintings of scenes that have affected us in dramatic ways. Recently I have begun painting aerial views of locations that have interesting historical significance, encapsulating true stories that are hard to imagine and harder to forget. My latest paintings capture these places and depict them with historically accurate attention to detail. Using various sources I recreate these scenes with as many photographs of every angle of the incident and research the stories, submersing myself in the event. My newest body of paintings depicts events with a more historically tragic significance, depicting scenes of the darkest hours in America’s Midwest history, where the landscape became the backdrop for tragedy and calamity. These events that irrevocably altered so many lives are important to remember, not only for the people lost and how it affected our culture, but also to remind us that disaster can occur at any time, anywhere.

About Eric Edward Esper