Saturday, June 20, 2009


Look at the below 102 year-old hand-colored postcard.

left click to enlarge

It's a trolley load of folks nearing the summit of Mt. Lowe in California. It's wintertime, snow is everywhere. There's a man standing on the tracks in front of the trolley, so it's stopped for the photograph. Everyone else has left their bench seat and are standing up. Photography was pretty basic back then, with cameras the size of suitcases and using huge plate glass negatives, so how long did this photo take?

They are all up in the air maybe 50 feet on a spindly wooden trestle. There are no hand rails or guard rails on the trolley.

Even when sitting, the passengers are totally exposed to the open air and weather. Gotta wonder how long they stood there... and how much wind was blowing. Try to imagine the hissy-fit this kind of conduct would cause today. The NTSB, OSHA... Who knows what other government bureaucracy would have heart attacks over citizens acting so.... unsafely. Investigations, firings, lawsuits.

At least one of the ladies is still seated.

Another interesting point... The front of the card has a Kansas City postmark indicating the date the card was RECEIVED. Never knew any post office did that sort of thing.The back of the card is fairly typical, showing that it was mailed April 9, 1907, at Whitter, Calif.

The post date on the front shows it was received in Kansas city on April 12, 1907. Three days from California to Kansas. Not bad for 1907.

The Mount Lowe Railway was a scenic mountain railroad created as a tourist attraction on Echo Mountain and Mount Lowe, north of Los Angeles, California. The railway existed from 1893 until its official abandonment in 1938, and had the distinction of being the only scenic mountain, electric traction (overhead electric trolley) railroad ever built in the United States.

Thursday, June 04, 2009


I know next to nothing about English railroads and equipment, but the postcard collection contains several dozen cards of English locomotives. As usual, you can left/click on the photos to enlarge. Here are a few:

This first one, using the Whyte classification of locomotives, would be a 2-2-2-T. No information is on the card other than it was in use in 1862. Named the "Dwarf", protection from the weather for the engineer and fireman was basically non-existent, only a metal windbreak surrounding the upright firebox.

This next one, a 2-2-2, or perhaps a kind of 2-2-2-T, if that's a tank with the number on it. Named the "President", the card says it was built in 1851 and had "7 ft" driving wheels. Good for more speed, but reduced pulling power. Crew protection from the weather was totally non-existent.

Next is another 2-2-2, named "Lady of the Lake", and shows that tenders had become a standard fixture. the locomotive had even larger driving wheels at 7' 6" diameter, and sported a half-hearted attempt at crew protection. According to the card, this locomotive - number 531 - was built in 1862, and rebuilt in 1876 and 1898. They ran this thing for 35 years?

Following is an 0-8-0. Obviously a freight locomotive, the drivers had shrunk to a diameter of 4' 3". Protection for the crew from the weather was still a joke. The card says this locomotive was built in 1901, and is said to be a four cylinder compound coal engine.

Lastly, this number 6000 is a 4-6-0 Pacific class type of locomotive, named the "King George". This loco was sent to the Baltimore and Ohio Centenary Exhibition in 1927, still sporting the six-wheel tender design first developed around 1862 for locomotives like the "Lady of the Lake" (see above)

The back of this card carries quite a bit of information:

Now here's a real unique item: A postcard sized photo of an African railroad locomotive... with a truly intriguing message on the back.

Says the message:
On our great worlds record run of 856 miles from Johannesburg to Cape Town, with the premier train of South Africa, the "Union Limited", August 13th and 14th, 1925.
(signed) Harry

Our (?) in white coat. He and I went together on all tests of these experimental engines.
Volumes and volumes left unsaid there.