Workers placed the finishing touches Monday on the train sculpture in Palestine Railroad Sculpture Park.
The large sculpture sits in the center with a smiley faced conductor, waving to passers-by. The sculpture, made by Tyler artist Dewane Hughes, features actual train wheels on real rails made from train parts, including train spikes seen throughout the open design.
“I was hoping it would be a mascot,” Hughes said, “just kind of waving to everybody as they come into town.”
This sculpture has been in progress for four or five years. “The design has changed over and over,” Hughes said.
Hughes, in his fifteenth year of teaching sculpture art at the University of Texas in Tyler, is president of the Texas Sculptor Group. He has been a sculptor for more than 30 years and currently affiliates with four galleries, including Art on Henderson Gallery in Dallas. This is not his biggest work, but most likely his heaviest, he said.
“Dewane has been very helpful since the beginning, volunteering to do this project for us,” Jean Mollard of Palestine Tomorrow Inc. said. “This has been a great contribution to our city, and it will be here forever for everyone to enjoy.”
Palestine Railroad Sculpture Park is a project of Palestine Tomorrow, a nonprofit promoting parks and arts in Palestine.
The park at Oak and Spring Streets commemorates Palestine's railroad history by recognizing the contributions of railroad employees, offices, and yards.
In recent years, residents purchased bricks to reflect the names of generations of Union Pacific and Missouri Pacific railroad employees, as well as friends and families who support the park project. The bricks rest securely alongside the sidewalks, where visitors can enjoy them for generations .
Money raised from the brick sale goes for constructing the sidewalks, sprinkler system, lighting, signage, and landscaping.
A donation from Union Pacific was made toward the large sculpture installation. Baze Chemical also donated to the park, along with other generous contributors who gave cash and in-kind services.
The bronze sculpture, “Forging History,” will eventually move from the Visitor Center to the new park, where it will be permanently installed on a pedestal at one end of the park.
The park also will include historic panels with educational information about Palestine train lines, along with relics of railroad equipment and signage.
Palestine Tomorrow was formed to provide and encourage parks and the arts in Palestine.
In 2012, the group, along with Palestine Main Street, sponsored its first Art Tracks Trail.
Since then, more than 90 sculptures have beautified Main Street. Some of those sculptures have been donated to the organization and will be on display at the rail-themed park.