Railways, Subways, Phantom Rides-05

A Kiss in the Tunnel
P and R: George Albert Smith. UK 1899
Print: BFI

“The railway subgenre soon incorporated short scenes for comic relief. G. A. Smith made a one-shot film of a couple kissing in a railway carriage — a gag that had comic strip antecedents. He suggested that showmen insert Kiss in the Tunnel into the middle of a phantom ride, after the train had entered the tunnel. Unlike the structuring strategies suggested by Selig, comedy and scenery were contained within the same fictional world. Ferdinand Zecca‘s Flirt en chernin de fer was intended for the same use, but rather than require the entrance of the train into a dark tunnel, Zecca matted in a window view of passing countryside. A Lubin film, Love in a Railroad Train (1902), depicts a male traveler’s unsuccessful attempts to sneak a kiss from a woman passenger. When they emerge from the tunnel, it turns out that he is kissing her baby’s bottom. Porter combined a variation on Lubin’s gag with Zecca’s use of a matte to make What Happened in the Tunnel. A forward young lover (G. M. Anderson) tries to kiss the woman sitting in front of him when the train goes into the tunnel but ends up kissing her black-faced maid instead. The two women, who anticipate his attempt and switch places, have a laugh at his expense. The substitution of a black maid for a baby’s bottom suggests the casual use of demeaning racial stereotypes in this period.”
Charles Musser: Before the Nickelodeon. Edwin S. Porter and the Edison Manufacturing Company. Berkeley/Los Angeles/Oxford 1991, p. 262 f.

15 years later:

L’anglais tel que Max le parle
R: Max Linder. D: Max Linder, Cécile Guyon. P: Pathé. Fr 1914

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Railways, Subways, Phantom Rides-04

Giant Coal Dumper.
K: William Heise. P: James H. White / Edison Manufacturing Company. USA 1897
Print: Paper Print Collection (Library of Congress)

“Shows how a full carload of coal is loaded into a vessel every thirty seconds at the great Erie Railroad docks, Cleveland, Ohio.”
Edison films catalog

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Railways, Subways, Phantom Rides-03

Empire State Express
P: American Mutoscope & Biograph. USA 1902

Empire State Express was a phenomenal hit that thrilled – and momentarily terrorized – unsuspecting viewers. In one instance, ‘two ladies in one of the boxes on the left-hand side of the horseshoe, which is just where the flyer vanishes from view, screamed and nearly fainted as it came apparently rushing upon them. They recovered in time to laugh at their needless excitement.’ Such films attracted their own constituency. Biograph’s first night at Hammerstein’s, for example, was attended by a large group of men from the New York Central Railroad; on the following Thursday, the railroad bought a block of two hundred seats in the orchestra.”
Charles Musser: The Emergence of Cinema. The American Screen to 1907. Berkeley-Los Angeles-London 1990, p. 152 ff.


Railroading in the East. Train Films 1897-1906.
Print: Library of Congress
Collection of films made by Edison and Biograph
(Speed: 0,5 recommended)

“In the 1890s illustrated lectures, often known as ‘lantern journeys’, featured railroads as the best way to reach and view American scenery. These frequently created a spatially coherent world with views of the train passing through the countryside, of the traveler/lecturer in the train, of scenery that could be seen out the window or from the front of the train, and finally of small incidents on sidings or at railway stations. The railroad, which carried its passengers through the countryside, was ideally suited for moving the narrative forward through time and space.”
Charles Musser: Before the Nickelodeon. Edwin S. Porter and the Edison Manufacturing Company. Berkeley/Los Angeles/Oxford 1991, p. 261

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TRAUM UND EXZESS, S. 118 f. (about Black Diamond Express)

Railways, Subways, Phantom Rides-02

New York, Pont de Brooklyn
Lumière No. 321. K: Alexandre Promio. P: Auguste & Louis Lumière. Fr 1896


New Brooklyn to New York via Brooklyn Bridge
P: Edison Manufacturing Company. USA 1899

“This is a new negative showing the entire trip from Brooklyn to New York, in which the immense towers stand out clear and distinct against the sky. The best picture of the Brooklyn Bridge yet secured.”
Edison films catalog


Interior NY Subway from 14th to 42nd Street
P: American Mutoscope & Biograph Co. K: G.W. Bitzer. USA 1905

“The camera platform was on the front of a New York subway train following another train on the same track. Lighting is provided by a specially constructed work car on a parallel track. At the time of filming, the subway was only seven months old, having opened on October 27, 1904. The ride begins at 14th Street (Union Square) following the route of today’s east side IRT, and ends at the old Grand Central Station, built by Cornelius Vanderbuilt in 1869. The Grand Central Station in use today was not completed until 1913.
Filmed on May 21, 1905 onboard the Interborough Subway from 14 St. to 42nd St., New York, N.Y.”
American Mutoscope & Biograph Co./Library of Congress/Tehrkot Media

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Railways, Subways, Phantom Rides-01

View from an Engine Front – Barnstaple
P: Warwick Trading Company. UK 1898
Print: BFI

A ‘phantom ride’ taken from the front of a train passing through the Devon town of Barnstaple
Charles Urban

“Aside from two briefly-glimpsed London & South-Western Railway employees waving flags (the second only visible as an arm emerging from the signal box), no human activity is apparent until the train reaches the main railway station – an earlier platform is mysteriously deserted.
However, this allows a greater opportunity to appreciate what are still clearly recognisable Barnstaple locations, with good views of the town as the train approaches the station. At the same time (presumably during the same trip), the Warwick Trading Company produced a similar ‘phantom ride’ through nearby Ilfracombe.”
Michael Brooke
BFI Screenonline

104th Street Curve, New York, Elevated Railway
R: James White. P: Edison Manufacturing Co. USA March/April 1899

“Taken from the front platform of a special train run backward over this celebrated S curve. Not only are the passing trains and crowded platforms of great interest, but the view of uptown New York is an excellent one, showing acre upon acre of roofs, towers, steeples and towering apartment houses. As the ‘special’ slows up at 92nd street, a Harlem express dashes by, the engineer leaning out of his cab, and waving a good-bye.”
Edison Catalog

Elevated Railroad, New York
P: American Mutoscope and Biograph Company. USA 1903

“Many films (…) emphasized the mobility made possible by the traffic system. Almost as soon as the cinema was invented, cameras werde mounted on elevated trains to replicate and represent movement. Elevated Railroad, New York (American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, 1903), for instance, is taken from a train navigating an S-curve. The train’s movement results in a complex pan moving both left and right. New Brooklyn to New York via Brooklyn Bridge (Edison, 1899), for which a camera was mounted on the front of the train, gives a spectator the sense of spatial penetration, an incredible depth of field, and a sense of a changing point of view as the elevated train first approaches and then passes through the Brooklyn Bridge.”
Sabine Haenni: The Immigrant Scene: Ethnic Amusements in New York, 1880-1920. University of Minnesota Press 2008, p. 37-38

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