A train whistle and tracks on a line could be heard from the Caboose Park on Monday, July 9.
The sounds didn't come from a train, but rather a phone.
“Tracks on a line. Only appropriate,” Artist Jim Russell said to the crowd gathered for the unveiling of the “Speed Train” sculpture.
The railroad-themed sculpture was the third unveiled on Willis Avenue during a ribbon cutting ceremony on July 9.
Mayor John Andorf first welcomed the crowd gathered in Caboose Park.
“This sculpture is indeed a fitting tribute to the history of railroading in Perry and all those connected to railroading in Perry,” he said. “If you stand and look at the sculpture, you can almost hear the train come down the track and the whistle blow.”
It wasn't long before Russell played those same sounds on his phone before talking about the process behind the “Speed Train” sculpture.
He came into the Perry streetscape sculpture project earlier this spring. Artist John Brommel created the first two sculptures in the four-sculpture series.
The first, “Born of Fire,” honored the memory of Pete VanKirk and centered around the industrial theme of the Progressive Foundry.
The second, “Iowa Girl,” paid tribute to Roberta Ahmanson. Ahmanson helped revitalize multiple buildings within Perry.
The third, “Speed Train,” was dedicated to those who worked on the railroad or who have a connection to the railroad. Russell said Brommel recommended his name to continue with the remaining two sculptures.
He met with Jenny Eklund and others with Art on the Prairie to come up with a scheme for the railroad sculpture.
Russell said it was important to try and capture the essence of a train through the sculpture.
“The cow catcher, that's an iconic thing that everybody really understands about trains. And the color banding that we did. Also the lantern lights up on the side and more or less the size being to scale of the components,” he said.
He worked with his son, Matt Russell, to realistically represent the more recognizable features of the Milwaukee Road Hiawatha train engine.
“And heading west, pointing west off the median strip. It's almost as if you can envision a track there,” Russell added.
Skip Lowe, of Newton, was part of the design process. He spoke about that process and what the sculpture meant to him and to Perry.
“That is a beautiful work of art there,” Lowe said to Russell during the unveiling ceremony. “When you look at that locomotive, it really to me is a gateway to your future and what you've done here with the bike trails. Thank you goodness you have salvaged your history.”
Those in the crowd then crossed 1st Avenue and looked on as the ribbon was cut in front of the “Speed Train” sculpture.
“Tonight we're celebrating the railroad, which is why Perry is even here now,” City Administrator Sven Peterson said. “The streetscape project is really all about celebrating our past, celebrating our history and looking to the future of what we have to come.”