CHARLIE HUNTER hunter-studio CHARLIE HUNTER hunter-studio

En Train Air

Take six of America’s top representational outdoor painters.
Put them on a legendary American passenger train.
Each day, they ride one stop down the line.
They disembark, paint for a day, catch the next day’s train, and move on.

All aboard….

EN TRAIN AIR Santa Fe Trail trips take place along one of America's most storied rail lines, that of the famed “train of the stars,” the Santa Fe SUPER CHIEF. Today Amtrak’s daily train from Chicago to Los Angeles, the SOUTHWEST CHIEF, plies much of that same route. Stopping at thirty intermediate communities and providing the only public transportation to many of them, the CHIEF provides riders a spectacular opportunity to see America up close, at speeds time-competitive with driving, in comfortable, unpretentious surroundings. The historic line parallels the storied Santa Fe trail and Route 66, climbs the steepest grade on the Amtrak system and is the last place in the country where hundred-year-old semaphore signals guide the way. However, this historic route is under threat from Amtrak management and faces an uncertain future.

The initial En Train Air - Santa Fe Trail trips (a play on ‘En Plein Air’, the French term for outdoor painting) focus on the critically endangered portion of the line - the segment between La Junta, Colorado and Albuquerque, NM. The painters board in Chicago, travel overnight, then stop to paint in La Junta and Trinidad, Colorado, Raton, Las Vegas and Lamy, New Mexico, the Amtrak stop for Santa Fe, one of the largest art markets in the world.

This project celebrates a little-observed, but crucial aspect of the American experience - the coming and going of the daily train, linking small towns to the nation at large. 

Due to the pandemic, EN TRAIN AIR trips are currently on hiatus.

Catch the spirit of EN TRAIN AIR in this video of the 2019 trip, featuring Jon Dee Graham's "Ghost on the Train."

Read all about EN TRAIN AIR  in these articles:
PLEIN AIR MAGAZINE, FALL 2019 (note: there is a typo on p. 64 - it should read "the new head of Amtrak", not "the rural head of Amtrak").

Underwriting for En Train Air provided by:
THE PLAZA HOTEL, Las Vegas, New Mexico  •  LA POSADA, Winslow, Arizona


Aimee Erikson is an oil painter living in Portland, Oregon. Trained as an illustrator, Erickson has developed a pictorial voice grounded in traditional realism, informed by the principles of design, and inspired by nature and human experience. She holds a BFA in Visual Communication Design, and has also studied with prominent representational painters including Sherrie McGraw, David Leffel, Burton Silverman, Joseph Paquet, William Park, Stephen Hayes, and Ray Roberts. Aimee is the first woman artist to paint an Oregon gubernatorial portrait, that of Barbara Roberts in 1997. Erickson teaches studio and plein-air painting, drawing, and color theory locally and at venues nationwide. Her work has been awarded top prizes in many national competitions, including Oil Painters of America, American Women Artists, the Portrait Society of America, and multiple plein air competitions.
  • 2018 American Impressionist Society Small Works Showcase
  • 2018 "Nocturnes" solo showcase, Meyer Vogl Gallery
  • 2018 Oil Painters of America Salon Show

Charlie Hunter has achieved national recognition for his distinctive, limited-palette renderings of austere American landscapes. While representational, Hunter’s work reflects a sophisticated design aesthetic honed from years designing graphics for acts as diverse as The Clash, U2, REM and the Jerry Garcia Band. Hunter has a lifelong love of rail travel and created and oversees the Roots on the Rails music trains, operating since 2003. “I’m interested in art that is simultaneously subjective and journalistic,” he says. “And the En Train Air project ties some very interesting strands of American DNA together in a new way.” Hunter has a degree in Art from Yale University and lives and works in Bellows Falls, Vermont, not far from his ancestral home. He is the recipient of numerous plein air painting awards.
  • American Masters Show, Salamagundi Club, NYC 2020, 2018, 2016, 2015
  • Curator, Boxcars, Rail Imagery in Contemporary Realism
  • Source of annoyance to both the Two Headed Cat Monster (THCM) and Studio Cat Corduroy (SCC)

Shelby Keefe - Wisconsin artist Shelby Keefe paints in a bold, realistic style. In 2005, after a career in graphic design, she became a full-time painter traveling the country participating in plein air competitions, art festivals and teaching workshops. Her distinctive style has received national notice, and in recent years her paintings have graced the covers of both Southwest Art and Plein Air Magazines. A consistent award winner and in-demand teacher, Keefe has been invited to participate in museum exhibitions, has published an instructional video, and serves as faculty for the annual Plein Air Convention and Expo. She is a Signature Member of Oil Painters of America, American Impressionist Society, and American Women Artists. “I am passionate about drawing and depicting my subjects with honesty as well as expressiveness—striving to create a fresh perspective to the recognizable world without being too predictable or mundane."
  • Award of Distinction, 19th Annual American Impressionist Society National Exhibition, 2018
  • Grand Prize Winner, EnPlein Air Texas, 2015
  • PleinAir Magazine Salon Competition Grand Prize Winner, 2013

Larry Moore has a diverse background as a visual communicator; from advertising and design, through several decades as a top illustrator, thence into plein air and fine art. "I’ve made kind of an interesting discovery," he says. "The creative process behind all of these approaches is pretty much the same. As an instructor, I am taking my years of acquired knowledge from illustration, graphic design, location painting, teaching critical thinking and the aforementioned topics and morphing them together in my work and in what I teach. I give people a way to access the creative spirit and broaden not just the way they paint but the way they think and play.” The initial idea for En Train Air rests with Mr. Moore.
  • 1995-2005 Society of Illustrators, Gold medal, NY annual exhibit
  • 1999-2008 Communication Arts Illustration Annuals
  • Luerzers Archive Top 200 illustrators worldwide

Timothy Horn was born and raised in Ohio, and graduated from the Cooper Union School of Art in 1984. He worked in New York before moving to San Francisco in 1992, where he continued to work as a designer until 2006. He now paints full-time and lives in the the small town of Fairfax where he is drawn to the everyday scenes of the rural areas in Marin and Sonoma Counties — the old buildings that have evaded development, the workings of ranch life, the old cars and trucks that continue on, or sometimes simply the play of light and shadow across planes of weathered color. 
His work has won numerous awards, has been featured in several magazines, and was on the cover of Southwest Art in 2012. He participates in several annual group shows, and is currently represented by four galleries. Every year, Horn teaches four to six painting workshops around the country and abroad.

Kim VanDerHoek is an American contemporary fine artist who creates vibrant, textural oil paintings of landscapes and urban scenes. Kim worked as a graphic designer, leaving the design field in 2004 to pursue a career as a full-time painter.
 “I enjoy the challenges Plein Air painting poses. Dealing with the weather, changing light and other hurdles of outdoor painting has forced me to to have a plan for each painting, to paint with commitment and to fearlessly experiment .” Kim feels that through Plein Air painting she has gained a better understanding of the effects of light and atmosphere, and aims to translate those effects into her studio paintings. Currently, she is working on a series of studio paintings documenting iconic bridges across the U.S.
  • Artist member of the California Art Club (CAC)
  • Member of the American Impressionist Society (AIS)
  • Member of American Women Artists (AWA)
  • Member of the Oil Painters of America (OPA)


Due to the pandemic, Amtrak has reduced operation of the SOUTHWEST CHIEF to three days a week. Amtrak says they hope to resume daily operation later in 2021. Until the pandemic subsides, En Train Air trips are on hiatus.


Like most of Amtrak’s western long-distance trains, the SOUTHWEST CHIEF features sleeping cars, coaches, full dining car, an observation-lounge and checked baggage service, and operates at or near capacity for much of the year.

Current Amtrak management, however, sees the future of passenger rail in state-supported services between major cities in corridors of 400 miles or less, and gives little consideration to Amtrak’s social contract, legislative mandate to serve a national network, and important role connecting so-called ‘flyover country’ to the rest of the nation. In August, 2018, Amtrak proposed discontinuing the middle segment of the train and substitute a 500-mile “bus bridge” between either Dodge City, KS or La Junta, Colorado and Albuquerque, New Mexico. Overnight coach-only stub trains, running from Chicago to Dodge City/La Junta and Los Angeles to Albuquerque, would connect to the bus segment (it bears noting that this substitution would trigger a provision in Federal law requiring the affected states to pay for the service, rather than Amtrak having to shoulder the costs).

During the summer of 2018, significant pushback occurred from citizens' groups, communities along the line and Congressional delegations of the affected states. A bipartisan, bicameral group of federal lawmakers responded to Amtrak’s refusal to pay its promised $3 million match to unlock a $16 million TIGER IX grant. The grant, tentatively awarded to Colfax County, New Mexico by the USDOT for the SOUTHWEST CHIEF was intended to fund track repairs in New Mexico. Lawmakers confronted Amtrak Executive Management and have proposed legislation that would provide an additional $50 million for track repairs while forcing Amtrak to provide its promised match. In response, Amtrak has continued running the CHIEF.

In 2020, as a result of the pandemic, Amtrak has cut full dining service and is threatening to reduce frequencies of its long-distance trains to less than daily. We will monitor developments and adjust our schedule as necessary

It is the hope of the ETA artists that this journey will help bring attention to the need for a truly national rail system, and that the SOUTHWEST CHIEF will keep rolling for many years to come.

"SAVE THE SOUTHWEST CHIEF" SHIRTS - Show your support for preserving America's long-distance passenger trains. 100% of proceeds go towards efforts to keep our national network rolling. 

If you are interested in efforts to expand and grow America's national rail passenger network, we urge you to join the following organizations:
 Friends of the Southwest Chief/Passenger Rail Kansas, Evan Stair, Chair.
 Colorado Rail Passengers Association
Rail Passengers Association (formerly the National Association of Railroad Passengers)