Dramatic early photograph of a steam train in Bushey

This photograph from one of my magic 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 water trough between the rails and the locomotive 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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