Flipper's Waterbury Rail Art Project

Submitted 5 months ago
Created by
Sara Tucker

Phil Godenschwager's very cool sculpture is now installed in Waterbury, Vermont—at least I think it is

My landlord has spent the past ten months working on an aluminum sculpture to go on the side of a bridge in Waterbury, Vermont. He had to get some new equipment for the job, and the new equipment, which included a band saw, takes up a lot of space. Space normally occupied by a lemon tree.

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My landlord is the artist Phil "Flipper" Godenschwager. His studio is next door to my house in downtown Randolph, Vermont.

So being a good neighbor, I said, "Bring the tree to my house!" Like a good neighbor does.


That tree took up half the room.

But never mind, all for a good cause. Art being high on my list of good causes. Especially public art. We do what we can. And besides, I was going to France for the winter.

When I got home in April the bridge project was a little behind schedule, but nothing some sleepless nights wouldn't fix. The tree looked a little petulant. I gave it some water and went next door.

Phil's studio was full of aluminum panels in the shape of buildings—Waterbury architectural landmarks, to be specific. The WDEV Building was one, if I remember correctly. The engine was pulling all of Waterbury behind it. The caboose was a nineteenth-century boat that Phil dug out of Waterbury Historical Society records. Very cool.

Every little piece of the elaborate 57-foot sculpture had been made by Phil in his studio. 

Phil's scale drawings of the train sculpture.

Phil looked a little frazzled. He told me the price of aluminum had sky-rocketed since he bid on the project last fall. I believe the word he used was "doubled." Public art doesn't come cheap.

Phil is a perfectionist. Perfectionists worry. The day I showed up, Phil was worrying about the shininess of the brushed aluminum. He was worried, specifically, that glare from the sun reflecting off the metal might annoy motorists as they enter the town of Waterbury. Obviously, he had been working too hard.

In early June, I discovered that a family of mice had moved into the closet under the stairway during the winter while I was away. I dashed across the parking lot in the rain to discuss extermination measures with Phil, and the aluminum sculpture was all wrapped up and ready to go to Waterbury as soon as the sun came out. I'm assuming that's where it is now. (I'm in France, but that's another story.) Look for it on the side of the railroad bridge as you enter the town of Waterbury.  It is very cool. You might want sunglasses.

Update: The locomotive engine is now on display at the Stowe Street Emporium in Waterbury. The sculpture will be installed on the bridge in late summer. Revitalizing Waterbury needs to raise another $10,000 to complete the Waterbury Rail Art Project and is soliciting donations via donately.com. 

Phil's lemon tree.


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