J. Craig Thorpe's interest in rail and art dates from his formative years in Pittsburgh, PA. His grandfather regularly took him on train and streetcar rides, and with his parents, he often lingered to watch the nightly passage of the Baltimore and Ohio's famed Capitol Limited. The imagery of those experiences shaped the foundation of a career.
Thorpe studied at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, and graduated from Carnegie-Mellon University with a BFA in Industrial Design. Following a short stint in the US Army Transportation Corps, he worked for architects and landscape architects in Virginia. After graduate school in New England, Thorpe moved to Seattle, WA. In 1985 he began free-lance architectural illustration.
When Amtrak featured his painting of the new Olympia, WA station on its 1993 corporate calendar, Thorpe's rail art began to be recognized nationally. While Mr. Thorpe still does architectural illustration and historical rail art, his specialty is contemporary railroading. He is often commissioned to show future rail infrastructure and transportation options thereby helping to shape public perception and policy. All his work reflects the ethic that rail transportation enables the stewardship of land, resources and community.
His clients include General Electric, the White Pass & Yukon Route, various state transportation departments and Amtrak. Notable among his Amtrak commissions is the 2008 commemorative art for the centennial of Washington D.C Union Station.
Most of Mr. Thorpe's published works are oil-on-canvas, but many of his conceptual rail pieces use rendering techniques of pencil, ink and watercolor. His art has appeared in Arizona Republic, Denver Post, USA Today, National Parks Magazine, Alfred Runte's Allies of the Earth: Railroads and the Soul of Preservation, and other books, newspapers and journals.
Mr. Thorpe serves on the Executive Committee of the Issaquah (WA) Valley Trolley, new rail line east of Seattle and works as a consultant with various organizations dedicated to helping formulate and implement rail policy. He occasionally volunteers as an interpretive guide on the Cascade Mountain portion of Amtrak's Empire Builder. Mr. Thorpe is also often asked to speak on the themes of railroads, art and their relationship to landscape and community preservation. His wife and three grown children also enjoy travel by train.
The painting of the Amtrak Empire Builder is also the image featured on the Amtrak themed party supplies that can be purchased at TrainParty.com. Click here to view the Amtrak party supplies featuring this image.
The American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation (APRHF.ORG) is a 501c3 non-profit tax-exempt organization promoting passenger rail heritage. The APRHF operates the Exhibition Of Amtrak History, Silver Rails Gallery, Silver Rails Shop, and the Silver Rails Event Center all located in Silver Rails Country in La Plata, Missouri, a stop along the line of the Amtrak Southwest Chief.