TRACKS: The Art and Times of Switchman Joe

TRACKS: The Art and Times of Switchman Joe

20.00 25.95

by Joe Varro 

Paperback (Art Books/Non-fiction/Prairie Classics) 
10." x 8." · 96 pages
Release Date: October 2014
ISBN 9781926710310

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Joe Varro celebrates the working life of railroaders on the Canadian Pacific Railway during a time when the steam engine was king. For many years Joe Varro worked for the CPR in Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia. Varro has created images of the people who worked beside him and with whom he shared stories of his “life on the tracks”. Yet it is the mystique of the steam locomotive that fully captured Varro’s imagination and is at the center of his artistic vision. TRACKS features over 30 full colour art works. 

This book captures Joe Verro’s practice of creating “work art”: railway paintings, his bunkhouse sketches in pencil, prints, personal photographs, watercolors and paintings in oil and acrylic as well as a written narrative. His illustrated vignettes describe in some detail the daily risks faced by switchmen — night and day, in every kind of weather, in every season.

Joe has given us many crisscrossing tracks to follow in this varied chronicle of a working life on the prairies: railroad lore, labour history, a language, a way of life, and a way of bringing together, through art and text, a visual and oral history of a time, a place and a world of work now largely gone. —Victor Cicansky

Joe Varro lived that steam world all those years ago in the Regina yards. You’re in for the pleasure of Joe’s written word and his visual world: two dimensions of his memories and our memories as well. —Don Kerr


Joe Varro

A native of Saskatchewan, Joe Varro was born in 1925 at Regina’s fabled east-end Tuxedo Park (Garlic Flats). Early in the war years at the age of seventeen, he began his seventeen year-long career as a CPR switchman/conductor. Since 1952 Joe has been serving as an ordained minister with the Apostolic Christian Church. He completed his B.Ed. and M.Ed. degrees in 1967 at the University of British Columbia. From 1961 until 1988 Joe was a high school art teacher, the art coordinator and finally a Vice Principal with School District No. 41 (Burnaby). The Godfrey Dean Art Gallery in Yorkton featured Joe Varro’s railway art in a solo art show titled Joe Varro: TRACKS, which was exhibited between July 14 and September 14, 2014.