The painting depicts a time before electronic travel boards, when train times were chalked on blackboards. The model Dean found for the painting was a gravedigger from the Oxfordshire village Wolvercote. The grave digger died a year after. He didn’t really speak much and was very much lost in his own thoughts. It was included in a group show on the theme of urban realism called Art for Society at the Whitechapel Gallery in London.
“This was the first of my train reference paintings which culminated in Compartments (trilogy) which was 1979-80. In retrospective I now wonder if they also refer to the fact that I wasn’t completely happy living in Oxford at that time and wanted to be back in London. I had just left the Landesmans house at Duncan Terrace. It’s a painting about travel and the passing of time –the days of British Rail may be romanticised now but I remember dirty, often smelly trains which didn’t run late –at least they were on the London /Oxford line.”