This painting shows a theatrical view of a snowshed in winter, lit by the sun on the edge of the horizon, at the vanishing point of the picture. If the composition seems too picture-postcard perfect for reality, it is because it very likely did not exist exactly as depicted.
The painting was completed by Washington Friend (1820-1886). Friend is a perfect example of the artist as showman in the 19th century. He created exhibitions of his own work, for which he charged significant entry fees, and it was very much his intention to overawe the viewer. That said, Friend had a strong interest in railways and rail engineering projects. He wrote a guidebook to Canada and the United States, and in it he waxed poetical at some length on the marvel of Montreal’s Victoria Bridge, which was under construction when he visited in 1851. While there, he obtained a loan of engineering plans for the bridge, and may well have also seen plans for snowsheds of the type depicted here.
The location of the snowshed in this watercolour is currently unknown; however if it is based on a real location, it is likely in Quebec or Ontario, as Friend’s travels did not extend much farther west than Niagara Falls.