This is part 2 of the article. Read part 1 here.
The U.S. Postal Service has commemorated the history and romance of train travel with five Railroad Stations Forever stamps. The five stamps, issued in panes of 20, were formally honored in a first day ceremony March 9 at Cincinnati Union Terminal in Ohio, one of the five stations appearing on the stamps.
All five architectural gems remain operational in some form and are registered on the U.S. Department of the Interior’s National Register of Historic Places.
Joining Cincinnati station on the stamps are Tamaqua Station in Pennsylvania; Point of Rocks Station in Maryland; Main Street Station in Richmond, Virginia; and Santa Fe Station in San Bernardino, California. The stamps show exterior views of the stations, including two at night.
Derry Noyes served as art director for the project. Down the Street Designs designed and created the digital illustrations and typography.
Linn’s Stamp News reported that the terminal’s 300-seat auditorium was nearly filled to capacity for the formal first-day unveiling and celebration.
The U.S. Postal Service offered the following details about the stations depicted on the stamps.
Union Terminal (largest of the stations shown): The spectacular art deco terminal opened in early 1933 at the height of the Great Depression. The Ohio municipality had become an industrial and commercial center by 1900, as well as the country’s 10th largest city and a major gateway and transfer point for rail passengers traveling between much of the Midwest and the South. The New York architectural team of Alfred T. Fellheimer and Steward Wagner devised a design that mirrored the prosperity and optimism of the 1920s: a monumental half-dome [the largest in the Western Hemisphere] rising from an enormous, raised plaza, with interior mosaics celebrating the city’s important industries. However, soon after construction kicked off in August 1929, Wall Street crashed. Union Terminal would be among the last great train stations built during the railroad era.
Designed for 216 trains per day, the station was welcoming just a handful by the time passenger service ended altogether in 1972. The city renovated and reopened it in 1990 as the Cincinnati Museum Center, and the next year Amtrak restored passenger rail service there.
Tamaqua Station: Built by the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad, opened in 1874, replacing a wood-frame depot that had burned down. It was thanks to the railroad, which first arrived in Tamaqua in 1831, that the town had emerged as an anthracite coal center and regional hub. The new station’s Italianate elegance underscored this. Residents and visitors alike enjoyed the station’s restaurant, along with the manicured garden and fountain at Depot Square Park in front of the building.
Tamaqua peaked as an anthracite center by 1920. Its fortunes waned as other types of fuel reduced the use of anthracite coal. The park closed in 1950 and the land was redeveloped. The railroad began cutting passenger train service to Tamaqua and then ended it completely in 1963, converting the station to administrative use before shuttering it in 1980. After a fire the following year, a historic preservation group successfully campaigned to save the building, purchasing it in 1992 and restoring it by 2004. A re-created Depot Square Park was dedicated the same year. The station has since housed a heritage center, shops and a restaurant, and the Reading and Northern Railroad now operates an occasional tourist train that stops at Tamaqua.
Point of Rocks Station: The Gothic Revival structure in once rural Frederick County, Maryland, stands at a crossroads. It was built on the spot where the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad’s Metropolitan Branch, to Washington, D.C., split from the original main line, which ran between Baltimore and the Midwest.
Founded in 1827 as the country’s first long-distance freight and passenger railroad, the B&O reached Point of Rocks in 1832. Forty-one years later, the company opened the Metropolitan Branch. It hired Baltimore architect E. Francis Baldwin to design a new headquarters building in Baltimore, as well as the Point of Rocks station, completed in 1875, and numerous other notable stations.
The Metropolitan Branch eventually became the B&O’s main line for passenger and freight trains to and from Baltimore, Washington and other points. While the Point of Rocks station building closed in 1962, trains continued to stop there to take on and drop off passengers.
Main Street Station: The station in Richmond calls to mind a French chateau, but one embraced by train tracks and a highway. Built by two of the railroads that once served the city — the east-west Chesapeake and Ohio and the north-south Seaboard Air Line — it opened in 1901 in a busy commercial district at the edge of downtown. The Philadelphia firm of Wilson, Harris and Richards, specialists in railroad architecture, chose the Second Renaissance Revival style for the ornate building, giving it a steep roof and a six-story clock tower.
In the 1950s, the construction of the elevated interstate highway, nearly touching the station, made plain the automobile’s ascendancy. Yet both rail transportation and the station survived.
Amtrak took over passenger service there in 1971 before moving to a new, suburban depot four years later. Main Street Station subsequently underwent major renovations and revival, briefly in the 1980s, as a shopping mall and then office space. Amtrak returned in 2003 and now shares the building, which received another massive makeover about 2017, with a visitors center and grand event space.
Santa Fe Depot: When this station opened in 1918, it was advertised as the largest railroad station west of the Mississippi River. The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad had arrived in San Bernardino in 1886 and built a wood-frame station. After a fire destroyed the structure in 1916, company architect W.H. Mohr designed its replacement in the Mission Revival style, adding Moorish elements.
Into the 1950s, the San Bernardino depot served as an important gateway for thousands of Americans migrating to California..
The Santa Fe Railroad turned its passenger service over to Amtrak in 1972. Two decades later the San Bernardino Associated Governments bought the old station and added Metrolink commuter rail service. Since the completion of extensive renovations in the early 2000s, the San Bernardino Depot has also housed local government offices as well as a history and railroad museum.
Derry Noyes – Art Director
When did you start working on these stamps?
I started working on these stamps in 2019.
What was the assignment from the USPS?
Originally this was going to be a single stamp to honor railroad stations nationwide.
What settled the project on five?
Five was the maximum number decided upon for the final designs. They represent the variety of railroad stations around the country. There are 20 stamps on a pane.
Were any of the five included in the original directions?
Yes. We started with Point of Rocks and expanded from there to include the four others.
How did you choose these five? Were they based on anything such as era or geography?
We wanted to showcase a variety of architectural genres from different eras and different parts of the country. They are visually interesting buildings that can be visited today.
Three of the stations are in fairly well populated areas, but Point of Rocks and Tamaqua obviously are not. How did population play into the choices?
Population did not play into the choices.
How many stations were reviewed before settling on these five?
We had a very long list in the beginning. We gradually whittled it down. It took some time to settle on these five.
How did you come to work with this design firm? Had they ever created a postage stamp before?
I had seen the work of Down the Street Designs and thought they would be a good fit for this assignment. They had designed numerous publications with illustrations of architecture and bold graphics that clearly translate well at a small size. Designing for this small scale is difficult, especially simplifying architectural details to read well. This was their first assignment for a postage stamp and they took to it right away.
How were the angles of the stations chosen for the stamps?
In order to create a dynamic pane we made sure we had a variety of angles and day and night scenes intermixed. The variety in the architecture and the different points of view make for a lively sheet. They work well individually as well as all together.
I see from the artists’ sketches that one perspective of Point of Rocks would have been to show tracks diverging to each side of the station. Did that angle get a serious consideration and what were the deciding factors for the final design?
The station was very small in that layout and the tracks more dominant. We tried to include the tracks in each of the images when possible just to remind people what these buildings are all about. The station in each stamp is the main focal point.
What prompted the night view of the Richmond station?
The variety adds dynamism. The Cincinnati station is also depicted at night. The mix of times of day throughout was intentional.
Obviously, there are many beautiful interiors of train stations but these are all exteriors. Should we assume that was the assignment?
I have numerous examples of beautiful interiors to some of these buildings and experimented with including them. Ultimately, I decided to stick with exteriors, including the tracks nearby when possible. It seemed more cohesive as a pane and a reminder that these are all train stations.
Is there anything else interesting you would like to share about these stamps or the design process?
The designers were a delight to work with. The back and forth communication was seamless. They worked hard to come up with numerous solutions before settling on the final ones. They went the extra mile and were very responsive. They also had fun with the title at the top of the pane. This was a good experience for all of us involved.
Art of the Skateboard
The Art of the Skateboard stamp can be purchased here.
The bold artwork on a skateboard deck is often as eye-catching and individualistic as a skater’s most breathtaking moves. These four stamps issued March 24 celebrate the Art of the Skateboard with vibrant designs that capture skate boarding’s excitement.
Art director Antonio Alcalá designed the stamp issuance using photographs of skateboards created by four artists:
Crystal Worl, an Alaskan whose blue and indigo salmon form line design expresses her Tlingit/Athabascan heritage;
Self-taught artist William James Taylor Jr., of Virginia, who created an energetic red and orange graphic abstraction.
Di’Orr Greenwood, of Arizona, who represents her Navajo culture with a turquoise-inlaid skateboard that features eagle feathers and colors of the rising or setting sun.
Colombian-born, Washington, D.C.-raised muralist MazPaz (Federico Frum), who painted a stylized jaguar.
If you follow new U.S. stamps you may recognize the name “Worl.” Crystal’s brother, artist Rico Worl, created the artwork for the Raven Story stamp issued in 2021. Could this be the first pair of siblings to help create U.S. stamps?
Skateboarding is said to have evolved in the late 1940s or early 1950s when surf enthusiasts in California wanted something to do when the waves were flat. The action sport grew in popularity throughout the 1960s and ’70s and grew into recreational and competitive and competitive legs, as well as growing around the West Coast Grunge culture. It entered the Olympic Games as a competition in recent years. Tony Hawk (b. 1968) was one of the world’s best and well-known competitors during skateboarding’s growth years.
The four pressure sensitive stamps produced in panes of 20 on Banknote Corporation of America’s Gallus RCS press enjoyed a first day ceremony in Phoenix, Arizona.
The U.S. has had a previous stamp showing skateboarding. The 33-cent stamp (Scott 3321) is part of the Extreme Sports block of four issued in 1999. The latest checklist from the American Topical Association lists 85 stamps showing skateboards, including Australia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and New Zealand.
Antonio Alcalá, Art Director
When did you start working on this stamp issue?
Was the assignment specifically skateboard art for four boards?
No. The assignment was about the general subject. The set of four developed during the design process.
Can you tell us something about the artists. First, all they all skateboarders?
I know that two of them are active skateboarders (Di’Orr Greenwood and Mas Paz). I’m pretty sure Crystal Worl rides, and I saw other board designs she created before I contacted her. I’m not sure about William James Taylor Jr. I’d seen other designs he made which led me to believe he was familiar with skateboarder culture.
How did you come to find them for this project?
Crystal: I first saw the work produced by Trickster Company; a company Crystal started with her brother Rico at the National Museum of American Indian. I then hired Rico to do the Raven Story stamp. During that project, I saw some boards Crystal created and shared them with the USPS staff who encouraged me to have her paint one of the boards.
William: During my initial search, I brought a variety of artists’ work into USPS t review with me, including William’s James Taylor Jr.’s work (which I found online). During the review, we thought his style of board art would make a nice complement to the other three artists’ styles.
Federico: Mas Paz was the first artist hired for this project. I saw his work at the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival many years ago, and noticed his murals around the Washington, D.C. area. Before this project, I brought samples of his work into USPS for review. When this assignment came up, and I learned he had offered skateboarding clinics, I knew he would be perfect.
Di’Orr: I remember I saw a short film about a skateboarding community developing among the Diné. The film included Di’Orr and her riding. I then found her Instagram account and was immediately impressed by her passion for skateboarding, her artwork, and her interest in supporting her culture.
Did the artists create these works just for the stamps or were any of them pre-existing art?
These boards were created specifically for the stamps, but all the artists had created art for boards before I approached them.
On the stamps, are those the artists holding up the boards? Clever. What made you think of that idea?
The people holding up the boards are not the artists. In my early mock-ups, I looked for a way to communicate the boards are for riding, and not just a different kind of canvas to hang on the wall. I tried a few different approaches, and discovered having someone hold a board up horizontally was the most effective way to emphasize the board and having a rider present.
And you set them in a non-colorized to tone so as not to conflict with the boards, right?
Correct. The background colors are desaturated (and the radiating lines are added) in order to emphasize the boards.
Since we only see the bottom of these boards, are the designs replicated or similar on top?
No, the boards have grip tape on the top – a sandpaper-like material that helps a rider maintain good contact with their board. Di’Orr Greenwood did, however, add more art touches to the top of the board she created.
I like the rays emanating off the boards. How did you come up with that? It’s an effort to add a sense of energy to the static images as well as helping to direct one’s eyes to the skateboard artwork.
Is there anything else interesting about the stamps or project you would like to share? It’s a real treat to create stamps for such an important but under-recognized culture. Additionally, it’s satisfying to see the diversity of America represented by these artists and the boards they created.
Music goes hand-in-hand with skateboard culture so I wanted to share a few such songs and videos available via the website, 15 Songs About Skateboarding (https://www.musicalmum.com/songs-about-skateboarding/)
“My Skateboard” (1997), by the Fury of the Aquabats
It’s a reflection of unrequited love, with skateboarding. A snippet of lyrics:
I just wanted you to come over
Sit on my couch and hold me tight
But you went out with some dumb jock
And left me alone with my skateboard tonight
“Sk8r Boi” (2002), by Avril Lavigne
Maybe the most famous of all skateboard songs (five awards!), which comes with a bit of comeuppance.
He was a skater boy
She said, “See you later, boy”
He wasn't good enough for her
Now he's a super star
“Got on My Skateboard” (c. 2017) Skegss (Chosen for the video starring Australian comic Aaron Gocs)
A reflective video about aging and perhaps a champagne-popping 180 in the end.
I guess I'm not getting any younger
Life flashes by just while we wonder