The Railroad Worm

So recently I’ve taken to the habit of keeping my notebook beside me if I’m watching ‘Planet Earth II’ because the amount of inspiration for creature designs and behaviours is crazy! But there was one creature in particular that caught my eye; the Railroad Worm.

Now don’t let the name deceive you, because the Railroad Worm actually looks like a caterpillar and yet again in a double twist, it is technically classified as a Beetle Larva. It gets its name from the distinct lights on the side and front of it’s long coach-like body giving it the appearance of a small train. The worm is nocturnal, and uses the brightly coloured lights to warn predators not to eat it. It’s sides feature yellow-green tinted lights where as the head features a red light. On a tangent, when I was researching its bio luminescence I found out it is caused by an enzyme known as ‘lucirferases’ which comes from the name ‘Lucifer’ meaning ‘Light-Bearer’. This has influenced my idea for the character I’m curating in a large way which I will explain momentarily.

So the reason it has these two different coloured lights is because when it is hunting for millipedes, it has both sets on. However when it picks of the trail of a nearby prey it will enter ‘stealth-mode’ by turning off the side lights leaving only the red lights on. The reasoning for this, is that it has evolved to know that millipedes can’t see red light! They are unable to absorb that area of the spectrum and I found that insanely fascinating.

My sketches began in my Granny’s house in Carnlough up the coast where I started with a typical centipede-looking shape with a mean face that was partially inspired by the Ice Wraiths from ‘The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim’ however I moved toward a bulkier appearance with a signature feature becoming a gelatinous orb atop the beast’s head. The colour scheme I had in mind at the time was blue, similar to that of the caterpillar from Tim Burton’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’ films.


After deciding the direction I wanted to take the design, I decided to do a few studies to understand how to paint a creature like this. I began with looking up an image of a railroad worm and painting on to a dark canvas. Then to add a sense of scale and some further lighting I added a knight with a torch stumbling upon his demise. I don’t paint very often but recently I’ve taken a fondness to it and this study certainly sparked something in me.

Railworm Study - 21-12-16.png

As a follow up to this I wanted to try another creature, and so I chose a crab so as to understand the texture of the carapace I wanted my beast to have. This “study” turned out to be my most successful digital painting to date, and I had a lot of fun with it! It was my first time painting all on one layer and it’s inspired me to do a lot more like it.


At this stage I’ve moved on to starting to sketch some of the possible looks for the worm. Now, before when I mentioned about the origin of the enzyme it obviously reminded me of the devil in Christianity who governs hell. Hell lead me to fire, which again in turn made me think of the idea that this gelatinous sac on its head that I thought looked cool could now serve a purpose. So based on this logic, I want this behemoth of a beetle to burrow in to the side of volcanoes and suck molten magma to sustain itself. It would then store it in this sac which gives purpose to my design, which I always consider a good thing to have when creating a creature. Things don’t evolve a certain way for no reason.

The fiery habitat it would now be placed in had me thinking of the ‘Burrowing Rockworm’ from ‘Dark Souls’, and also shares a similar anatomy to my beast.


Burrowing Rockworm from ‘Dark Souls’

Worm_Sketch.png Wormhead.png

Above are some Photoshop sketches I made to get a better idea of the kind of feeling I wanted my creature to have.

I was looking at Michael’s blog and saw that he had taken my suggestion on painting over a 3D model in Maya and his turned out amazingly. I decided to have a go at it myself but didn’t waste too much time on it. This was the result as it currently is:


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