A terrifying incident put Stan Carlson’s life on a different path

SALAMANCA, NY (WROC) — Among the many treasures of this building are trains, tracks and Jaré Cardinal. She is the director of the Salamanca Rail Museum.

“It showcases the rich railroad history in Salamanca,” Cardinal said with a model train behind her.

This story includes the story of Hawley Pierce, who lived in Salamanca over a century ago.

“So he was the first Native American engineer in the United States or Canada,” Cardinal said.

That’s why his portrait hangs in the railroad museum and that’s why Stan Carlson painted him.

Carlson lives exactly one mile from the museum, and on most days in the warmer months you’ll find him on his porch-turned-studio.

“The vibe is great here and I get so many people stopping by,” Carlson said.

Carlson’s first favorite painting subject was trains, mainly because trains had been his life.

“My great-grandfather, my grandfather, my father and I all worked for the same railroad,” he said.

But many winters ago, that life went off the rails.

“We were going down a hill, we hit an ice-covered crossing and the engine came off the track,” Carlson said. “By the time we stopped I was on the wall behind the engineer with 7 herniated discs and my neck was really bad.”

The surgeon may have saved him from paralysis, but not from pain.

“After the sinking, I realized that I will probably never be able to work like this again,” Carlson said.

So he turned to a childhood hobby.

“I thought, you know, I’ll see what I can do with the paint,” he said.

At first he was painting trains, but then it became the kind of stuff he sees from where he sits.

“I prefer to do ordinary people in everyday situations,” he said.

Carlson now sends his paintings all over the world and teaches on the side.

“One of the things I tell kids is you gotta make the paintbrush dance like Fred Astaire,” Carlson said with a laugh.

If Carlson could paint his story, he could give his clouds one of those silver linings.

“Without a doubt, without a doubt, as bad as the tragic situation of the wreckage and everything that happened after that was, in a way, it was the best thing,” Carlson said.

Carlson discovered that life is less about the train or track you’re on and more about the window you’re given – and through it, how you choose to see the world. here is a link at the Carlson Gallery.

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