St. Louis Iron Mountain and Southern Railway art gallery resides in retired train car

Friday, August 18, 2017
From left, Marian "Candy" Martin, Margie "Mrs. Claus" Roberts and Carol "Sparky" Poole pose for a photo Aug. 8 in The Train Art Gallery and Gift Shop at the St. Louis Iron Mountain and Southern Railway in Jackson. All three are artists and volunteers on the train, which is open at 1 p.m. Saturdays.
Andrew J. Whitaker

The St. Louis Iron Mountain and Southern Railway in Jackson has a hidden gem of an art gallery tucked into a train car on the track next to the depot.

It's not connected to the rest of the train, which takes trips down the track through fields and past an Old West town to Gordonville.

Instead, it stands alone, a restored Havana Special car, built around 1930, said volunteer Elane Moonier.

The car itself was used for storage for many years, Moonier said, and was "piled high with junk" before she and Carol "Sparky" Poole noticed brass frames around the car's windows inside.

They cleaned out the car and figured out what needed to be done, starting with rust removal.

A wooden carving of the Cape Girardeau County Courthouse made by Carol Poole is on display Aug. 8 at The Train Art Gallery and Gift Shop in Jackson.
Andrew J. Whitaker

Moonier said they hand sanded, used vinegar, then painted over the car walls with Rustoleum to keep them in better shape.

"Top to bottom, we painted inside and out," Moonier said. "It was a really big job, but the results were very good."

The next step was adding artistic touches. The floor is painted to resemble flagstones, and clouds float across the ceiling.

The decision to make the car into an art gallery kind of came about organically, Poole said.

Poole, who manages the gallery, said she'd never measured the interior space, but she guessed it was maybe 12 by 55 feet -- with every inch packed.

A view of inside of The Train Art Gallery and Gift Shop on Aug. 8 in Jackson.
Andrew J. Whitaker

Art by Margie Roberts of Oak Ridge fills the glass display cases and some shelves on the walls.

Poole uses materials readily available at the train yard, including railroad spikes she's painted with "St. Louis Iron Mountain RR," and rocks she's decorated with paint.

A collage of sorts made from bits of recycled wood shows the Cape Girardeau County Courthouse in Jackson. A few other smaller pieces are spaced throughout the gallery, but, Poole said, the materials are all recycled -- everything from lath out of an old plaster wall to wooden crates she broke into smaller pieces and scrap pieces she had on hand.

"We're good at recycling," Poole said.

Paintbrushes used to apply the heavy-duty green exterior paint to the train cars also have been turned into decorations for potted plants, with faces crafted and stuck on.

A view of outside of The Train Art Gallery and Gift Shop on Aug. 8 in Jackson.
Andrew J. Whitaker

Poole also paints faces during the train rides and does a little bit of everything around the train yard, she said.

The Whistle Stop Cafe in the train depot building has food and another gift shop.

Yet another gift shop is in the train itself, whose green cars have been a Jackson attraction since the 1980s.

At Christmas, the Santa Express train rides are a big draw, Poole said.

Artist Roberts, who sometimes plays Mrs. Claus on the special holiday train rides, has a variety of pieces in the gallery, including graphite drawings reproduced as prints or note cards.

"I have larger pieces at home, but we don't have room for anything but small pieces down here," Roberts said. "It'd be hard for people to take on the train, too."

Volunteer Moonier has several paintings for sale in the gallery, mostly landscapes, and more of her paintings hang in the Whistle Stop.

Poole does copper bending and has copper-wire rings for sale.

She also makes "gem trees" from chips of gemstones and twisted wire, usually with a rock for the base.

But the gift shops and art gallery aren't really about making money, Roberts said.

"It all goes to upkeep on the train," she said.

And there's a lot of upkeep. Diesel fuel runs into money, Poole said, and if a train wheel goes out, that's expensive.

Sometimes rather than buying a new wheel, she'll trade with another train yard, Poole added.

Even though an adult train ticket is $17, Poole said, that doesn't leave a lot of profit margin after fuel and upkeep, not to mention other associated costs.

"But we love it," she said, laughing.

"It's good, being around the kids," Poole added. "It gives us what we need to keep going."

Poole said the volunteers really have become a train family, working together, and the gallery is just a part of what they do.

"It's fun," Poole said.

More information is available online at

(573) 388-3630

Pertinent address:

252 E. Jackson Blvd., Jackson, Mo.

Map of pertinent addresses

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