Brownwood train museum silo getting dressed up with mural

Steve Nash
Brownwood Bulletin
Lehnis Railroad Museum curator Crystal Stanley chalks off a section of the silo on the museum property on a chilly Friday morning earlier this month. Stanley plans to paint an 8-foot-tall mural around the silo's 130-foot circumference.

BROWNWOOD — Lehnis Railroad Museum curator Crystal Stanley isn’t afraid of working out in the cold.

The 36-year-old proved that on a recent chilly, windy morning, when she began preliminary work on what will become an outdoor mural at the museum.

Stanley, whose talents include drawing and painting, plans to create an 8-foot-tall mural around the large round silo next to the museum's mini-train tracks. The silo’s circumference is 130 feet.

The mural will consist of two joining sections. The section she's starting on will be a multi-image and multi-color "welcoming mural,” Stanley said. That section of the mural will be visible to people who approach from the area of the Timmins Building and the site of the former Ice House.

“It’s just very representative of us and the town and very welcoming,” Stanley said.

The second section will be abstract, with the ends depicting a train pulling into the depot. It will be visible to people headed away from the museum toward the Timmins Building and former Ice house areas.

Weather hold

The weather has prevented Stanley from making any more progress beyond the preliminary work on a cold Jan. 8 morning, when she made measurements chalked off sections.

And it's not because Stanley can’t take the cold. The issue: it’s been too cold, and sometimes too wet, for the paint to stick.

Shifting plans

The mini-train locomotive travels past the silos in the background in an earlier Bulletin photo.

Stanley explained how the concept began.

“It’s actually been more than a year in the making, and started out with different people coming and talking to me about doing something on the silo,” Stanley said.

The Arts Council of Brownwood agreed to help with funds.

“Once I knew we had secured some of the funding, I started talking with local artists about helping with the mural,” Stanley said. “I did have a small group of artists that were going to help, but as you know, corona happened and a lot of people didn’t feel comfortable coming out and working, which I totally understood.”

Stanley initially planned on a mural depicting an oversized wildflower garden with giant monarch butterflies, milkweed and sunflower, which would match the monarch butterfly garden on the museum’s property.

Then Stanley realized a mural being painted on the nearby health department building had a similar theme. She talked with museum assistant Michell Ezra and they devised a new plan. 

Leaving 'comfort zone'

While Stanley is an artist who has entered some small local contests, she’s never painted a mural — “not like this,” Stanley said.

“I like to draw and do water colors in my free time, but I just thought that I’d get out of my comfort zone a little bit and get this started. I am hoping that we can get some other people involved, especially with the other side, just to kind of help the process move faster. But this first half of the silo, I feel completely comfortable doing it by myself if I have to. It’s not anything that’s out of my artistic realm.”

'A lady with many hats'

A portion of the Lehnis Railroad Museum's exterior is pictured.

Stanley and her husband, Joseph, a City of Brownwood employee, are the parents of a son and daughter.

Stanley has two master's degrees: one in history with a specialization in museum studies from Tarleton State University, the other in library science with a specialization  in archives and digital imaging from the University of North Texas.

Her education qualifies her for multiple jobs including librarian, historian, preservationist and museum curator. A co-worker described Stanley as "just a lady with a lot of hats."

Journey from Bangs High School

Stanley explained the journey that took her from graduating from Bangs High School in 2002 to working as the train museum’s curator, a job she began in October 2017.

Stanley attended Ranger College on a band college, then went on to study history at Tarleton State University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree.

“I realized when I got to college, and even in high school, I was just really good at history and understanding it, and how it correlated with what was going on now and what that meant for the future,” Stanley said. “It really stuck with me.”

After leaving Tarleton, she taught school briefly before realizing that wasn’t her career path.

Stanley returned to Tarleton to begin working on her first master’s degree. She also began working at the Tarleton library, where other employees noted she had a passion for history and preservation. Her co-workers suggested she pursue that as a career.

Stanley learned the University of North Texas offered a specialization in library sciences for archives and preservation, and she attended online, completing her second master's.

“This is what I wanted to do with my life,” Stanley said.

Grandfather's influence

Stanley said her passion for history and preservation probably came from her late grandfather, who collected antiques. “He would talk about them and how important they were,” Stanely said. 

Stanley was working at the Tarleton library when she became involved with the Lehnis Railroad Museum.

Wanting some additional museum experience, Stanley approached then-museum curator Beverly Norris and asked to volunteer. She was soon working on different Lehnis Museum collections and serving on the Brown County Museum of History board.

After learning Norris planned to retire, Stanley applied for the curator’s job.

“I’ve always wanted to work with collections and preservation," Stanley said. "I like coming to the museum every day or to a library every day, and it’s never the same. There’s always something different.”