Cliff Curran, 91, donates steam train painting to historical society, with more to come | photos

AS a young bloke in the 1950s, Cliff Curran would wait on Toronto station to catch the steam train to Newcastle where he worked as a panel beater.

He hated the work, but he remembers his time at the station fondly and, as it turns out, clearly.

So clearly, in fact, that he has painted a scene depicting the approaching steam train, as well as the long-gone footbridge that once traversed a cutting near the station.

“I’ve painted it from memory,” Mr Curran, now 91, said.

Steam trains gave way to diesel locomotives in the 1960s, and all trains stopped running to Toronto in 1990.

But some things don’t change: Mr Curran’s painting also depicts Toronto Hotel, which opened in 1887.

“I’d rate this as a good painting, and it has historical interest,” he said.

For that reason, Mr Curran on Thursday donated the painting to Lake Macquarie and District Historical Society which is based in the former station building.

“This place brings back a lot of memories,” he said.

Dobell and I are on the same track, we're just on different trains.

- Cliff Curran

“I used the catch the train to work in Newcastle. It was a nice little steam train. I liked it.”

Mr Curran, of Wangi Wangi, said his interest in art had grown in the last 25 years he had volunteered at Dobell House, the former home and studio of the artist Sir William Dobell.

Visitors to Dobell House, which is now a museum and popular tourist attraction, may have heard Mr Curran’s presentations on Dobell.

“I never met him [Dobell] but he was quiet, polite, and you wouldn’t take him to be an artist of great fame. And that’s how he wanted it.

“As an artist, I admire him. And I model myself on him. We have identical personalities. He was shy. I’m shy. And we both wanted to paint and live at Wangi Wangi.

“We’re on the same track, we’re just on different trains.”

It was painting of another sort that initially brought Mr Curran to Dobell House.

“I was in Toronto Apex Club and we’d do community work, and we helped to paint his house,” Mr Curran said.

His steam train painting might not be the last he donates to the historical group. He’s planning to paint a scene showing the steam train accessing the former water tank at the station.

“The kids have gone, so I’m painting all the time. I have a studio upstairs overlooking the lake. It’s paradise,” he said.

Historical society president Janice Bendeich welcomed the donation and was especially appreciative of Mr Curran’s subject matter.

“It sometimes seems that the station has been forgotten in the development of Toronto when, in fact, the station was the catalyst for Toronto’s growth,” Ms Bendeich said.

“Without it, the town would not have developed as a tourist destination. The tourists came and discovered that Toronto was a beautiful place to live.”

Almost 100 years after it opened, the station finally closed, she said.

“It is so good to see so many people here today. Sometimes the station feels like it did on that day in 1990 when the last train had just departed.”