It’s a warm summer evening in 1946. You’re standing on a train platform in Topeka, Kansas, preparing to board the train. But the enormous, hissing, “iron horse” standing before you demands your attention before you board. This is the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe (ATSF) 2912 steam engine.
This mechanical marvel was built in 1944. With lightweight materials reserved for the WWII effort, “ordinary” materials were used for this tandem. Together, the engine and the tender behind it are just over 121 feet long and weigh in at nearly one million pounds. Unlike many of its earlier brethren, this engine burns fuel oil, not coal.
After 900,000 miles crisscrossing the West, the ATSF 2912 engine was retired on August 5, 1955, and donated by AT&SF to Pueblo City Hall in 1959, where it sat on display for 35 years. The City then donated the engine to the Pueblo Locomotive and Rail Historical Society. The 2912, one of only six engines of this type which still survive, is currently on static display at the Pueblo Railway Museum in historic downtown Pueblo, Colorado.
Imagine what it would have been like to take a trip on one of these historic locomotives…
The music for this piece is “The Little Train of the Caipira”, from Heitor Villa-Lobos’ Bachianas Brasileiras #2. My adaptation uses four pianos, percussion, and the actual bell from the 2912 engine. Orchestral samples included in this recording are from the Vienna Symphonic Library.
So, “All Aboard!”, for “A Ride On The 2912”!
This next selection, an even more ambitious endeavor than “2912”, adds more instruments: plate bells, a gong, a vibraphone, a harp, a triangle, and a piano that plays notes backwards (6:29). This is my transcription, for four pianos and percussion, of the second movement of Sergei Prokofiev’s Symphony #5, Opus 100. Orchestral samples included in this recording are from the Vienna Symphonic Library.
I have a niece who is also a musician, cutting her musical teeth on an old piano of mine. During her senior year, she made plans to attend Colorado State University and apply to pursue a Music Therapy major. This field of study isn’t just something you can jot down on your application because you think it might be interesting – you have to audition for this major. As part of this audition, she was given two classical piano compositions to practice, and at audition time, the university faculty would pick one.
On the occasion of her high school graduation in 2019, and knowing that her audition had been successful, I worked up a graduation video for her. Among the video vignettes on that DVD is one which features one of those two audition pieces.
This is my arrangement of Claude Debussy’s “Sunken Cathedral”, from his first book of solo piano Preludes, transcribed for two pianos, two harps, vibraphone, plate bells, tubular bells and celeste. Orchestral samples included in this recording are from the Vienna Symphonic Library.