Currier & Ives Lithograph – The Night Express: The Start

This lithograph called, “The Night Express: The Start” originally by the famous firm of Currier & Ives, shows railroad drama at its height. With the Night Express train just leaving the station, we see fire and smoke bursting from the stack, steam emerging from the engine, and the brilliant light on the front of the engine against the backdrop of night sky, stars, and moonlight.

The image gives the feel of movement – that the train is heading out into the night. The grill on the front of the engine assures us that this train will keep going no matter what lay in its path on the tracks, be it cow or snow!

We see the lighted windows of the passenger cars conveying mystery as we wonder where are they each going? And we can imagine the scenes within as the passengers prepare for the night in a cabin seat, in one of the sleeping berths, or perhaps by sitting up all night in the dining or smoking cars.

It is amazing the ability to capture so much in one picture. This was the genius of the Currier & Ives artists, lithographers, and printers. Once again they have captured an everyday American event in such a way to convey drama and mystery.