Strange Trains


April 25, 2016 Dick Sheaff





Though both my father and his father worked for the Boston & Maine Railroad for their entire careers, I've never been especially interested in trains. (Though when, as a boy, I got to actually drive a steam engine for a short distance in the Charlestown, MA yards, and a few years later likewise drive a diesel engine a bit, I found that very exciting!) But these days I do have an active interest in 19th century train images, especially the odd and unusual ones which Victorians were wont to create. It was, after all, the golden age of the iron horse, and trains—the economic and travel wonder of the day—were front and center in the Victorian consciousness. Advertisers came up with many a strange train to tout their products.


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In other cases, though the locomotives themselves were shown in a straightforward fashion, the situation was a tad unusual . . .

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The multi-language Hundred Years Hence set of trade cards included one (the most rare one) which predicts warships that would ride on rails up onto dry land to continue battle. Here it is in the German version . . .




The Victorians invented some actual, real-life strange trains, including cog railways and other incline railroads. And this truly odd English one: Volk's Electric Sea Railway, also known as "Daddy Long Legs". Launched on November 28, 1896, it was damaged by a storm on December 4, and re-opened in July 1897. It ran until January 1901.



A bit off-topic, but trains done in chromolithographic full color were a commonplace of the that era, a topic for some future blog, perhaps.







A great locomotive image from the era . . .




And to wrap up for today, a modern stamp design, one of a series of stylized transportation vehicles. Several in that series were released, but the series was ended before the locomotive engine made it's way onto envelopes . . .







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