The third bronze sculpture along Chandler Bikeway was unveiled Friday in Burbank, representing what city officials said was a piece of local history on the heels of the city’s centennial.
“Trackwalker” depicts a lone figure walking along a section of the track dressed in a rail uniform, holding his lantern and tools. In the early days of the rails, it was his duty to examine the condition of the railroad tracks and pound in loose spikes.
Chris Daste, director of Park, Recreation and Community Services, welcomed more than 20 people gathered at the site of Mariposa Street and Chandler Boulevard. All three of the art installations on the bikeway, he said, were made possible by the city’s Art in Public Places program established in 1992.
The program requires a development project with a construction budget of more than $500,000 to contribute 1% of the total project costs toward an art installation, he said.
“In other words, taxpayer dollars were not used for these art installations,” he said. “Private developer funds paid for these sculptures.”
The history and development of the city is closely tied to the Southern Pacific Railroad, said Mayor Anja Reinke. Three main rail lines running through Burbank were opened in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and in 1893, the Burbank Branch line was opened. The line, along what is now the Chandler Bikeway, remained in service until 1992, hauling primarily wheat, citrus and vegetables.
As a way to commemorate the city’s 100th anniversary of its incorporation, Artist Shiela Cavalluzzi used original tracks from a section of the former Southern Pacific Transportation Company railroad into the piece, Reinke said.
“I’m thrilled,” Reinke said. “I love this piece. Shiela is a terrific artist.”
The cost to commission the piece was $60,000, said Marisa Garcia, assistant to the parks director, including the artist’s work, casting and the plaque.
“It’s fantastic,” Garcia said. “Shiela is very detail-oriented and captures well the [facial] expressions on all of her pieces. The addition of this piece on the bikeway and its historical significance is important to the community, especially during the city’s 100th anniversary.”
It took four to six months to complete the sculpture, said Cavalluzzi, a Burbank resident, adding that she did a lot of research in preparation.
“People are passionate about the history of rail and trains; you just want to do right by that,” she said.
Seeing the sculpture reminded Burbank resident Jeff Stein of how he and his friends used to run up to the fence at nearby Edison Elementary to watch the train go by. After he became a train engineer with the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1979, he would watch the Edison kids run up to the fence and he’d blow the whistle and wave to them.
“It was like a time warp,” he said. “The kids did the same thing after I became an engineer.”