November 3, 2020

A Whale of a Tale~Public Art Whale Stops Runaway Train in The Netherlands

NPR’s Reese Oxner reports on another whale of a tale that just happens to be true~a public art installation of whales’ tails stopped a derailed train from falling into water, causing a greater disaster.

Architect Maarten Struijs worked for the City of Rotterdam starting in 1981 and has an array of public buildings to his credit, including the Blijdorp station on the new Metro Train line. He designed the playful whale tale sculpture to be placed in water two decades ago, and was surprised that the plastic structure held up when the metro train ran on top of it. The train was approximately ten metres above ground when it ran through the shock system designed to keep the train on the  elevated track. The train was vacant of passengers at the time and had one operator on board.

Surprisingly the sculpture installed in 2002 is called “Saved by the Whale’s Tail”. The sculpture is located at the  Akkers station in Spijkenisse, a town of 72,500 people  near Rotterdam.

It’s no surprise the safety officer for the area expressed what everybody has been thinking~”Thank God the tail was there.”

This is the latest in the series of auspicious fish tails, including the Hedlington Shark which was installed in Oxford England.  In 1986 Bill Heine installed a 400 pound 25 foot tall headless shark on his row house as a protest against how his theatre business  was being treated by the town council.

The good citizens of Oxford were apoplectic about this shark among the roofs, and as  this web page on the Hedlington Shark attests  the local Oxford city council sprung into action.

The story spoiler is that Mr. Heine got to keep the shark,  with an appeal tribunal stating that this was not about the fact the shark did not blend in to the surrounding historic roofscape but rather the individualism that the shark did NOT blend in the historic roofscape. The shark tail is now a registered national historic site.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Images: Robin Utrecht, Wikipedia

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