Since moving to Elizabethtown in the 1970s to create sculptures for the Coca-Cola Bottling Co., artist Rich Griendling has created works that have been become fixtures to the eyes of local residents.
Griendling has created logos for local companies such as Nolin Rural Electric Cooperative Co., Helmwood Veterinary Clinic, the Cecilian Bank and more. His sculptures are featured in the commons area of John Hardin High School and the lobby of Nolin.
In recent years, Griendling has created sculptures for local veterans tributes such as the Hardin County Veterans Tribute at Elizabethtown Nature Park and the Carl M. Brashear Veterans Center in Radcliff.
However, Griendling also has decided to slow down in recent years and focus on projects that are more private and personal to him. One of these is a recently installed train set in his Elizabethtown home.
The track, which was completed in December 2017, is 108 feet long and was installed in the loft of Griendling’s home. Griendling said he worked 11 months straight on the project, working about eight hours a day on it.
“I went from beginning to end,” he said. “It was basically a full-time job.”
Griendling said the project had been on his mind for three decades. He said when designing his house in the late 1980s, he included a 108-foot long and 8-foot wide loft with the intention of one day installing a train set.
“I thought, ‘This would be a great platform for this,’” he said.
Growing up in Philadelphia, Griendling said trains have been a big part of his life over the years. He said he spent a summer in his 20s hitchhiking through Europe by train and he spent a whole summer in 1983 with his wife, Sylvia, traveling through the continent by train.
Building a wooden superstructure, installing the track and making use of about 400 feet of wiring, Griendling said it took about six months before he could start his favorite part of the process: creating the landscape.
The landscape includes a variety of scenes created through small figurines of people and animals, train stations, mountainous terrains and more. One scene even depicts Griendling and his wife hiking.
Working in the mode of hyperrealism, Griendling said he wanted his miniature world to be as life-like as possible.
“I was interested in trying to design a layout that looked real,” he said.
Though he wanted the project to be detailed and realistic, Griendling said he chose not to include too many structures. He said he wanted to make a scene that reflected a rural environment.
“I didn’t want to junk it up,” he said.
The walls of Griendling’s loft are adorned with large photographs he took in Switzerland and Iceland. He said one of his favorite parts of the process was creating scenes that aesthetically blended with the photographic backdrop.
The train set also includes a change of seasons as it goes along, with the color of trees and the landscape gradually changing as one watches the train move through the track. The winter section of the set includes a local homage, with figures waving outside a train station with a sign that says “Elizabethtown.”
The train itself is has 10 cars, a lighted caboose and produces steam. It is controlled by a control panel, which can regulate speed and produce the sound of a train whistle.
Though it’s mostly a finished project, Griendling said he still occasionally adds figurines to the project. He said he now is spending most of his efforts on a sculpture project for his yard. He said he still is in the planning stages of the project.
“On anything I do, I spend a lot of time researching before I go,” he said.
Usually working with life-size figures, Griendling said working on a micro level with the train set was a uniquely rewarding experience.
“It’s exciting that you can set a scene up that when you photograph it, it looks real,” he said.
For information on Griendling’s art, go to richgriendling.com.