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

See also: