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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

Ways of Going: 1865

Ways of Going: 1865

Circa 1865. "City Point, Virginia. Railroad yard and transports." Wet plate glass negative, half of stereograph pair. Studio of Mathew Brady. View full size.

 

Locomotive Smokestacks

There is a lot about those smokestacks that a photograph will not show. Inside there is a cast iron deflector that diverts the exhaust blast downwards and at the top is a heavy wire mesh screen. Coal burning locos used a straight stack as they did not create sparks to amount to anything, but the wood burners needed something to keep them from setting the scenery on fire. There were one or two cleanout doors near the bottom of the stack to allow for removal of the settled cinders. The locomotives in the photo are all of "American Standard" design and had four-wheel trucks up front to guide the four main drive wheels. For those in the know, the wheel arrangement was called 4-4-0.

Mopping Up

On the side of the boxcar in the foreground, next to its door on which "BROKEN" is scrawled, hangs a mop! Anyone have an idea of the mop's purpose?

Interesting place to visit

You can still walk along one area where the original track was laid around that bluff next to the river as seen in one civil war photograph. This was an important Union military center with trains departing this location for the front on a daily basis.

The rail transportation system was so efficient at this location that fresh baked bread was still hot when it arrived for the soldiers at the front.

General Grant had his command post not very far from here on top of the bluff.

Transition of technologies

Remarkable scene of a busy waterfront showing the transition of wind-powered clippers to steam-powered ships, of mule trains to locomotion. i love the stack of wagon wheels on the dock. Another great Shorpy photo.

Second Look at Ships

East Coast three masted schooners were called "tern schooners."

The vessel moored outboard of "our" tern schooner is technically a half brig or hermaphrodite brig, although today it could be called a brigantine. In the 19th C, brigantines had upper, square sails on their mainmasts in addition to their gaff mainsail. (That rig is no longer seen today even for yachts or training ships.)

The smokestack immediately aft of its mainmast can't possibly belong to this ship, because it would obstruct the swing of the main boom, as well as presenting a fire hazard to the mainsail. It's about the right size to belong to a steam tug moored on the outboard side of the half brig.

Hurry Up and Wait

There is a lot of activity in this photo. Whether it is efficient activity or not is impossible to judge.

Great photograph

Technically this is a great photograph; historically it is magnificent. You can just feel the moment and can also appreciate the sheer strength and efficiency of the (relatively) young United States.

Mystery Object

I wondered if anyone might know what this is? It somewhat resembles a lathe. Possibly some kind of woodworking equipment, as there seems to be a large saw blade next to one of the buildings and perhaps a pile of unfinished railroad ties near there as well.

Balloon Stacks

Those funnel-shaped smokestacks (aka "balloon stacks") were designed to keep sparks from escaping, esp. from wood-fired locomotives of that era.

Great photo!

Ships

Great depth of focus (if that's the correct term -- I mean you can clearly see details in the far distance). I'm fascinated by the ships. Looks like your standard schooner docked at the right. The inboard ship on the left appears to be a three-masted schooner. The outboard one looks like a brigantine -- could it be a type of Baltimore Clipper? It looks like it has steam power too.

Locomotive smokestacks

Once again, I'm sent to wondering why the locomotives of that era had those huge, funnel shaped smokestacks. Seems like a stovepipe type would eject smoke just as well, or am I missing something by way of aerodynamics?

That said, another magnificent moment frozen in time.

A lot to see

I'm always amazed at the detail in these photos you post. From the word "Broken" chalked on the rail car to the piles of wheels on the dock. And with a bit of exposure time, we can see the moving masts of a ship at dock.

Last Push

You can really feel the war coming to an end in this picture. All the stops were pulled out with this drive. Great picture. Is now my desktop background.

Broken

At first I thought there was graffiti on the boxcar in the foreground, but on close-up it reads "Broken."

 
THE 100-YEAR-OLD PHOTO BLOG
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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