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Most of the photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs, 20 to 200 megabytes in size) from the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) Many were digitized by LOC contractors using a Sinar studio back. They are adjusted by your webmaster for contrast and color in Photoshop before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here.

 
 
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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • FLY CANADIAN PACIFIC, c. 1950s

New York Central: 1900

New York Central: 1900

Circa 1900. "New York Central R.R. photographic car." Possibly one of the "specials" reserved by DPC for the use of its photographers as they traveled around the Northeast. Detroit Photographic Co. glass negative. View full size.

 

Just a guess

So, that wooden structure in the middle of the car must be a darkroom? Or a port-a-potty.

Socks, but not the Socks the cat.

In early twentieth-century America it was common to find young boys wearing "over the knee" socks with their short pants. I think the trend even lasted longer in Europe.

That cord under the lamps

Is a communicating cord. In pre-radio days (actually, well into the Amtrak era), this was a way for the conductor to communicate with the engineer. You can tell if a passenger car is equipped with it if it has a second, slightly smaller air hose alongside the brake system hose.

It operated on a reverse-air principle, that is, when you pulled it, it opened a valve on the car and let air out of the line (you could hear it hiss), and caused a shrill little whistle that sounded much like a boatswain's whistle to sound in the engine cab.

Many people think this cord is the emergency brake, but it's not. Railroads would never make the emergency brake so readily accessible. Doing so would cause too many "false" emergency applications when it was erroneously pulled by passengers. The emergency brake was always located on the bulkhead wall just inside the end doors of a car.

In the modern era, the communicating cord was only available in the vestibules (the enclosure at the end of the car with steps), usually as a small overhead chain. In the first generation of new Amtrak cars, the system was electrified, and the conductor used it to signal by pressing a button.

Cat? I can't find a cat, but

looking for one made me notice something else. Is that kid wearing panty hose?

About those lamps, if they are oil, kerosene is pretty safe. It's not volatile, like gasoline or other lighter fuels. It needs a wick (or something to spread out on, wood will work) so it can mix with air to burn. It will vaporize, but you have to spray it or heat it to get it to. You could take a bucket of kerosene and drop matches in it, and, unless they floated and acted as a wick, they'd just go out.

Gas or Oil at Night?

Julius Pintsch's gas compressed from distilled naphtha was common in railroad cars before fire and other fears led to the use of electric lights.

Ho Hum- -

are we there yet?

The thirsty railroad cat said

Yuck! Would it have been too much trouble for one of you posers to tell me this is a spittoon?

The Light at Night

Does anybody know if those are oil or gas lamps in the car? Seems either would be dangerous but they don't look like they're electric.

Dapper dan

The dude standing must be a bulk purchaser of moustache wax.

Squeeze Bulb

I'm sure others have noticed the man, center at the table, making an effort to look nonchalant. The deflated pneumatic squeeze bulb in his hand tells us it is a posed photo and he is keeping the shutter open. The air pushed through the tube, causes a piston to push a pin into the shutter and hold it open. If you have ever noticed a "B" for bulb on a camera, that is how the setting came to be named. Useful for those times that the shutter needed to be open for longer than normal, such as low light rooms, night-time fireworks, etc.

 
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Shorpy.com | History in HD is a vintage photo blog featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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