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Augusta Artist Enjoys Creative Hobby

Terry Prather, The Ledger Independent

While the need for mass transit in Augusta may be limited to special events, long-time resident John Gibson had a need to fill a void between two large windows in his workshop restoration project.

So the Upper Street Trolley came to life.

“I needed something between the two windows. After taking 170 years of paint off the windows I thought the wall needed something,” he said of the practically floor to ceiling openings facing the railroad tracks which bisect Augusta, “Then I thought, why not a trolley.”

“There was no pattern,” he said. “I started with the cow-catcher and when that was done I kept working until it was done.”

Not building the whole trolley, but a life size artistic, three dimensional, replica of the front end of one, Gibson started with a real trolley headlight and throttle he found in an antique shop in New Jersey in the 1960s.

“I knew I would find the right project for them,” he said. “The figure is holding the throttle.”

The “Upper” destination light above the trolley windows harkens back to the original Augusta street names, he said.

“Main Street use to be Upper Street,” he said.

The lights work, and giving the project even more dimension, Marilyn Lustic painted the image of a conductor of the early 1900s which is featured behind the glass and in front of a mirror giving the piece even more depth, he said.

“I found the uniform design in an old Sears catalog,” he said.

The trolley is one of the largest of Gibson's works, which includes scaled down trains and boats, in addition to clocks he has restored or brought back to life.

He has been enjoying his woodworking hobby for about 55 years, the octogenarian said.

Gibson has been working from his current workshop for about 20 years, he said.

“This big house is perfect for what I do. When the weather gets warmer, I am going to finish this room,” he said, explaining plans for the trolley room restoration.

He lives nearby, at a home overlooking the Ohio River.

“We bought the house in 1988 and moved in in 1993,” he said.

Gibson has finished pieces of his work at his home, under the watchful eye of his dog Buster.

“That one really needed a good cleaning,” he said of the mechanism of a century old clock he is currently working on, which is now shining like new and its pendulum apparently keeping time again.

Another clock mechanism, grandfather size, was rescued from a burned out house and recreated with his own woodwork body, he said.

In a place of honor is a toy train size replica which he built from scratch, but was hard to discern from actual vintage toy trains he has collected displayed nearby.

There is rarely a day goes by that Gibson is not at work on something in his shop, he said.

“No kits or plans,” he said with a smile. “The plans come from up above.”

The Ledger Independent is online at: http://www.maysville-online.com