Gustav Krollmann Paints the Northern Pacific

In 1926, the Northern Pacific Railway became the first to use a 4-8-4 locomotive, which is why this wheel arrangement is often called a Northern. To publicize this achievement, the railway hired Austrian artist Gustav Krollmann to paint scenes along the railway featuring passenger trains being pulled by Northern locomotives.

Krollman’s most famous poster shows a 4-8-4 locomotive pulling the heavyweight North Coast Limited over Bozeman Pass. Click image to view a 1.5-MB 2,544×3,461 JPG.

Krollmann was born in Vienna in 1888, making him two years younger than Oscar Bryn. After studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, he moved to the United States and settled in St. Paul, headquarters of the Northern Pacific and Great Northern railways.

This particular view is on the Yellowstone Park branch line between Livingston and Gardiner, so the train would be the Yellowstone Comet, not the North Coast Limited. This is not only one of the few posters I actually own, I’ve been to the spot where this painting was made.

The Great Northern was relatively uninterested in poster art, but the Northern Pacific had hired Alaskan artist Sydney Laurence to paint scenes advertising NP destinations. One of the scenes was of Mt. Rainier, while another popular poster featured a native boat in Alaska.

Krollmann left a lot of detail off his image of the locomotive, and the greenish color is wrong–NP locomotives were black–but it is unmistakably an early NP Northern. Click image to view a 1.5-MB, 2,554×3,438 JPG.

Of course, the Northern Pacific didn’t actually go to Alaska, and Laurence was apparently not interested in spending a lot of time painting in the states, so Krollmann ended up doing more posters for the railway. Both painters used a subdued palette known as “tonalism,” so based on colors alone their paintings could almost be mistaken for one another.

The Mission Mountains are in Montana, though not as close to the NP Railway as this painting would suggest. No larger view available.

Unlike Laurence, Krollmann included trains in most of his paintings. The locomotives in his pictures are representative of those built in 1926 and 1927, so the paintings date before 1930, when the next class of NP 4-8-4 was built.

Krollmann’s painting of Mt. St. Helens may be his only NP poster that does not a train in it.

The Boston Public Library has posted a series of a dozen Northern Pacific postcards, some of which are crude versions of Krollmann paintings. Curiously, one postcard shows a Northern locomotive in front of Idaho’s Lake Pend Orielle, and must be based on a Krollmann painting of the same scene. But as far as I can tell, no poster was ever issued of this painting.

Click to download a 2.8-MB PDF of all twelve postcards, at least three of which are based on Krollmann paintings.

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