Railway engine picking up water at full speed magic lantern slide

This photograph from one of my lantern slides was taken in Bushey, Hertfordshire, England, probably around the turn of the 19th century.


At first sight, it’s just another photo of a steam locomotive. However, the hand-written label says ‘picking up water at full speed’. You can see the trough between the rails and the engine is scooping up water as it moves forward. Imagine what a time saving innovation this must have been, as it avoided the need for the engine to refill at a water tower. Even more interesting is the fact that the locomotive is pin sharp and the bridge is blurred. I don’t know much about photography but it suggests to me that the photographer was travelling at the same speed as his subject. How? Was he on the back of a train in front of this one, perhaps with a tripod and plate camera?

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2 thoughts on “Railway engine picking up water at full speed magic lantern slide

  1. Hello. The reason the steam engine is pin-sharp whilst the bridge is blurred, is because the camera was ‘panned’ during a slightly longer exposure than usual. The photographer followed the ‘track’ of the engine and the blurring gives a really good impression of movement; clever man. Modern day sports photographers use the same technique.


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