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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Empire State Express: 1905

Empire State Express: 1905

Syracuse, New York, circa 1905. "Empire State Express (New York Central Railroad) passing thru Washington Street." Our second look at one of these urban express trains. 8x10 glass negative, Detroit Publishing Co. View full size.

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Electric Steam

Interesting juxtaposition of steam powered train crossing under overhead trolley catenary wires, and over the trolley tracks, all frozen in one moment of time.


What a wonderful masonry masterpiece!

The mystery coach of Syracuse

Here, from the New York Public Library's online archive, is a 1909 Babcock Electric brougham, manufactured in Buffalo.

[The vehicle in our photo seems to have a tiller for steering. - Dave]

In Urbana

I saw something similar in the mid-50's. In Champaign-Urbana Illinois. Main line track, right down the middle of the main street.

Steamed up

My wife and I rode a train (RGSR) last weekend which was powered by a steam locomotive, one of the last standard gauge steam locomotives left in Colorado. They are amazing machines! Our's was an oil burner, rather than coal, but the black smoke and steam was magnificent, not unpleasant to me at all! It pulled La Vita pass like magic. This picture is one of my favorites so far!

Street Running

Actually, trains running in city streets is quite common, even today. The most notable example is the Union Pacific tracks through Jack London Square in Oakland, Ca. It is not uncommon to find long double stack intermodal trains moving through the heart of downtown rather frequently there. There are numerous examples of the railroads using city streets, which were added alongside the rights of way. Be advised though, that the speeds are really slow, and the trains don't go tearing off through the heart of town.

Good stuff

Most of that "smoke" is steam. Great photo from a great era!

Gotta Love

those streetlamps.

It still happens

There are several places here in California that still have some trains running down the middle of the street. I was in Santa Maria a couple of years ago and nearly got in the way of a locomotive meandering down the avenue. It was cool to see.

Here it is today

Still quite recognizable by the building on the right.

View Larger Map

Trains in streets

New Albany, Mississippi, had the GM&O main line go right down main street. This persisted even after diesels arrived in 1935. There are tracks in the streets of Paris, TN but I don't know if they are still used. You have to remember that the railroads were there first and the towns built their streets later in most cases.

That "plume of smoke"

Actually that's steam, which is why it's white and not black.

Cover your ears

Can you imagine the noise? I'll wager the people working and/or living at The Yates hated to hear that old locomotive approaching. Probably rattled their very bones. Magnificent sight, though. Look at that plume of black smoke!


The Yates Hotel was torn down in the 50's or 60's to make room for a parking lot. This intersection is gone also. The triangular building is still there.

Fresh *cough cough* Air *cough cough*!

I can't Imagine being in one of those offices or apartments in "The Yates" with the windows open when the train came through! Egad, How did people stay alive back then?

Mystery Coach

What is the vehicle beside the awning? Looks like a self-propelled stagecoach.


I'll bet the only time you couldn't hear the noise in that bowling alley next to the tracks was when the train came roaring through.

Street train

The scariest railroad picture I've seen is one I picked up on Flickr of a freight train going down a residential street in small town Georgia. Guess you check the schedule before you back out of your drive, or let the kids out.

SHORPY OLD PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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