Earliest Color Photo of US Freight Cars?


Chris Barkan
 

This photo is said to have been taken ca.1910 at the Eastern Packet Pier looking at the Commercial Wharf in Boston, MA just off Atlantic Avenue.  Rail service at this location was provided by the Union Freight Railroad that connected the New Haven and the Boston & Maine via street trackage that skirted downtown Boston serving various wharves, industries, and warehouses along the waterfront.  Four boxcars are visible: L to R, Fort Dodge, Des Moines & Southern, Erie, and two that appear to be Boston & Albany.  According to the individual who posted this it is a true color Autochrome Plate.  I would be happy have my speculation that it might be the "earliest" color photo of freight cars proven wrong, and would enjoy seeing any supporting evidence.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/91981316@N06/50861430552

The following photo taken by Leslie Jones ca. 1930 shows the same wharf and is helpful visualizing the exact location in Boston.  That is the Atlantic Avenue Elevated on the left side of the photo, and long-departed component of what eventually became the present-day MBTA Orange Line.  This photo also has some interesting freight cars visible, including a NYNH&H double-sheathed wooden boxcar and an MDT reefer.
https://www.digitalcommonwealth.org/search/commonwealth:5h73s608r

Chris Barkan
Champaign, IL


Peter Ness
 

My opinion only; it appears to be a colorized image as the box car on the extreme left has no color.

 

Peter Ness

 

From: main@RealSTMFC.groups.io [mailto:main@RealSTMFC.groups.io] On Behalf Of Chris Barkan
Sent: Sunday, February 14, 2021 2:10 PM
To: main@RealSTMFC.groups.io
Subject: [RealSTMFC] Earliest Color Photo of US Freight Cars?

 

This photo is said to have been taken ca.1910 at the Eastern Packet Pier looking at the Commercial Wharf in Boston, MA just off Atlantic Avenue.  Rail service at this location was provided by the Union Freight Railroad that connected the New Haven and the Boston & Maine via street trackage that skirted downtown Boston serving various wharves, industries, and warehouses along the waterfront.  Four boxcars are visible: L to R, Fort Dodge, Des Moines & Southern, Erie, and two that appear to be Boston & Albany.  According to the individual who posted this it is a true color Autochrome Plate.  I would be happy have my speculation that it might be the "earliest" color photo of freight cars proven wrong, and would enjoy seeing any supporting evidence.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/91981316@N06/50861430552

The following photo taken by Leslie Jones ca. 1930 shows the same wharf and is helpful visualizing the exact location in Boston.  That is the Atlantic Avenue Elevated on the left side of the photo, and long-departed component of what eventually became the present-day MBTA Orange Line.  This photo also has some interesting freight cars visible, including a NYNH&H double-sheathed wooden boxcar and an MDT reefer.
https://www.digitalcommonwealth.org/search/commonwealth:5h73s608r

Chris Barkan
Champaign, IL


Tony Thompson
 

My opinion only; it appears to be a colorized image as the box car on the extreme left has no color.

Can it not be a gray car? Why would they fail to colorize one box car??

Tony Thompson




Mitchell Mercante
 

There are a number of very early color photographs shown in collections of museums from the late 1800s and early 1900s.  Apparently it requires using several filters in a long process to create the color and was very time consuming and expensive.  I also doubted the subject photo was color but the process was available in that time period.  I have no idea if this photo was colorized or not but check Google for "earliest color photographs" for more detailed info and examples.

Mitch Mercante
Brentwood, TN

On Sunday, February 14, 2021, 01:10:23 PM CST, Chris Barkan <cplbarkan@...> wrote:


This photo is said to have been taken ca.1910 at the Eastern Packet Pier looking at the Commercial Wharf in Boston, MA just off Atlantic Avenue.  Rail service at this location was provided by the Union Freight Railroad that connected the New Haven and the Boston & Maine via street trackage that skirted downtown Boston serving various wharves, industries, and warehouses along the waterfront.  Four boxcars are visible: L to R, Fort Dodge, Des Moines & Southern, Erie, and two that appear to be Boston & Albany.  According to the individual who posted this it is a true color Autochrome Plate.  I would be happy have my speculation that it might be the "earliest" color photo of freight cars proven wrong, and would enjoy seeing any supporting evidence.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/91981316@N06/50861430552

The following photo taken by Leslie Jones ca. 1930 shows the same wharf and is helpful visualizing the exact location in Boston.  That is the Atlantic Avenue Elevated on the left side of the photo, and long-departed component of what eventually became the present-day MBTA Orange Line.  This photo also has some interesting freight cars visible, including a NYNH&H double-sheathed wooden boxcar and an MDT reefer.
https://www.digitalcommonwealth.org/search/commonwealth:5h73s608r

Chris Barkan
Champaign, IL


Chris Barkan
 

Peter, what you suggest is of course possible although I agree with Tony's point as well.  If you read what is said on the linked page, there is specific statement that it is a "true color Autochrome Plate" and he goes on to discuss the very high cost of that technology in that era.  I have no reason to doubt that the individual that posted it knows whereof he speaks.  Here are some links about the development of the Autochrome color process by the Lumière brothers in the first years of the 20th Century and some examples of its use from National Geographic's archives, not surprisingly an "early adopter".
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autochrome_Lumière
https://www.sharkandpalm.com/news/the-oldest-color-photos-discovered-in-the-national-geographic-archives
Chris Barkan


Tony Thompson
 

Chris Barkan wrote:

Peter, what you suggest is of course possible although I agree with Tony's point as well.  If you read what is said on the linked page, there is specific statement that it is a "true color Autochrome Plate" and he goes on to discuss the very high cost of that technology in that era.  I have no reason to doubt that the individual that posted it knows whereof he speaks.  Here are some links about the development of the Autochrome color process by the Lumière brothers in the first years of the 20th Century and some examples of its use from National Geographic's archives, not surprisingly an "early adopter".
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autochrome_Lumière
https://www.sharkandpalm.com/news/the-oldest-color-photos-discovered-in-the-national-geographic-archives

 I would just add that the Shackleton expedition in the Antarctic in 1914 included a photographer, Frank Hurley, who was taking color images using the Paget process, when actually in the Antarctic. Luckily they survived the harrowing later stages of that expedition.

Tony Thompson




Eric Hansmann
 

The Fort Dodge Line car seems like a very pale green to my eye.

 

 

Eric Hansmann

Murfreesboro, TN

 

From: main@RealSTMFC.groups.io <main@RealSTMFC.groups.io> On Behalf Of Peter Ness
Sent: Sunday, February 14, 2021 1:51 PM
To: main@RealSTMFC.groups.io
Subject: Re: [RealSTMFC] Earliest Color Photo of US Freight Cars?

 

My opinion only; it appears to be a colorized image as the box car on the extreme left has no color.

 

Peter Ness

 

From: main@RealSTMFC.groups.io [mailto:main@RealSTMFC.groups.io] On Behalf Of Chris Barkan
Sent: Sunday, February 14, 2021 2:10 PM
To: main@RealSTMFC.groups.io
Subject: [RealSTMFC] Earliest Color Photo of US Freight Cars?

 

This photo is said to have been taken ca.1910 at the Eastern Packet Pier looking at the Commercial Wharf in Boston, MA just off Atlantic Avenue.  Rail service at this location was provided by the Union Freight Railroad that connected the New Haven and the Boston & Maine via street trackage that skirted downtown Boston serving various wharves, industries, and warehouses along the waterfront.  Four boxcars are visible: L to R, Fort Dodge, Des Moines & Southern, Erie, and two that appear to be Boston & Albany.  According to the individual who posted this it is a true color Autochrome Plate.  I would be happy have my speculation that it might be the "earliest" color photo of freight cars proven wrong, and would enjoy seeing any supporting evidence.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/91981316@N06/50861430552

The following photo taken by Leslie Jones ca. 1930 shows the same wharf and is helpful visualizing the exact location in Boston.  That is the Atlantic Avenue Elevated on the left side of the photo, and long-departed component of what eventually became the present-day MBTA Orange Line.  This photo also has some interesting freight cars visible, including a NYNH&H double-sheathed wooden boxcar and an MDT reefer.
https://www.digitalcommonwealth.org/search/commonwealth:5h73s608r

Chris Barkan
Champaign, IL


Douglas Harding
 

And the Shackleton photos are stunning.

 

Doug Harding

www.iowacentralrr.org

 

From: main@RealSTMFC.groups.io <main@RealSTMFC.groups.io> On Behalf Of Tony Thompson
Sent: Sunday, February 14, 2021 2:38 PM
To: main@RealSTMFC.groups.io
Subject: Re: [RealSTMFC] Earliest Color Photo of US Freight Cars?

 

Chris Barkan wrote:



Peter, what you suggest is of course possible although I agree with Tony's point as well.  If you read what is said on the linked page, there is specific statement that it is a "true color Autochrome Plate" and he goes on to discuss the very high cost of that technology in that era.  I have no reason to doubt that the individual that posted it knows whereof he speaks.  Here are some links about the development of the Autochrome color process by the Lumière brothers in the first years of the 20th Century and some examples of its use from National Geographic's archives, not surprisingly an "early adopter".
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autochrome_Lumière
https://www.sharkandpalm.com/news/the-oldest-color-photos-discovered-in-the-national-geographic-archives

 

 I would just add that the Shackleton expedition in the Antarctic in 1914 included a photographer, Frank Hurley, who was taking color images using the Paget process, when actually in the Antarctic. Luckily they survived the harrowing later stages of that expedition.

 

Tony Thompson

 

 

 


Ted Schnepf
 

Hello,

I thought I remember reading Fort Dodge cars were grey in a early period.

Ted Schnepf
126 Will Scarlet,
Elgin, Ill. 60120


847=697-5353

On Sunday, February 14, 2021, 02:56:16 PM CST, Eric Hansmann <eric@...> wrote:


The Fort Dodge Line car seems like a very pale green to my eye.

 

 

Eric Hansmann

Murfreesboro, TN

 

From: main@RealSTMFC.groups.io <main@RealSTMFC.groups.io> On Behalf Of Peter Ness
Sent: Sunday, February 14, 2021 1:51 PM
To: main@RealSTMFC.groups.io
Subject: Re: [RealSTMFC] Earliest Color Photo of US Freight Cars?

 

My opinion only; it appears to be a colorized image as the box car on the extreme left has no color.

 

Peter Ness

 

From: main@RealSTMFC.groups.io [mailto:main@RealSTMFC.groups.io] On Behalf Of Chris Barkan
Sent: Sunday, February 14, 2021 2:10 PM
To: main@RealSTMFC.groups.io
Subject: [RealSTMFC] Earliest Color Photo of US Freight Cars?

 

This photo is said to have been taken ca.1910 at the Eastern Packet Pier looking at the Commercial Wharf in Boston, MA just off Atlantic Avenue.  Rail service at this location was provided by the Union Freight Railroad that connected the New Haven and the Boston & Maine via street trackage that skirted downtown Boston serving various wharves, industries, and warehouses along the waterfront.  Four boxcars are visible: L to R, Fort Dodge, Des Moines & Southern, Erie, and two that appear to be Boston & Albany.  According to the individual who posted this it is a true color Autochrome Plate.  I would be happy have my speculation that it might be the "earliest" color photo of freight cars proven wrong, and would enjoy seeing any supporting evidence.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/91981316@N06/50861430552

The following photo taken by Leslie Jones ca. 1930 shows the same wharf and is helpful visualizing the exact location in Boston.  That is the Atlantic Avenue Elevated on the left side of the photo, and long-departed component of what eventually became the present-day MBTA Orange Line.  This photo also has some interesting freight cars visible, including a NYNH&H double-sheathed wooden boxcar and an MDT reefer.
https://www.digitalcommonwealth.org/search/commonwealth:5h73s608r

Chris Barkan
Champaign, IL


akerboomk
 

The 2 “Boston &” cars look to be more “Boston & Maine” to me

But then I may be biased :-)

 

Ken


--
Ken Akerboom


Chris Barkan
 

Ken, Yes, I was unsure of those two as well.  I was just going off of what I thought I could see written on the side, not any knowledge of the cars' design.
Chris


Todd Sullivan
 

What fascinates me the most is that two masted fishing schooner tied up at the wharf.  She looks like she might have been a fast fisherman in her day.  (Boston and Gloucester were the principal homeports of the U.S. cod fishing sailing fleet from the mid 1800s to the mid 1930s.)

Todd Sullivan


ed_mines
 

The description says it is a glass negative.

I was an engineer (chemical engineer) at the plate manufacturing department of Eastman Kodak from 1973-78.  We manufactured photographic glass plates which were glass plates coated with traditional silver halide based photographic emulsion.

Color photographic film has several layers of emulsion, each responsible for a different color..

I can say with certainty that photographic glass plates were never covered with multiple layers of emulsion up until the time I left.


Thomas Evans
 

If you download the image & enlarge it a lot, you'll see the colored starch grains mentioned in the linked descriptions of the Autochrome process.
I was doubtful at first, but I think that this proves it to be authentic & not a colorized B&W print.

Tom E.


Douglas Harding
 

The Earliest Color Photo in question was not taken in 1910. The Fort Dodge Des Moines & Southern was formed in 1906. But it did not have any boxcars numbered in the 7000 series until later. Checking online ORERs, there are no FDDM&S boxcars with that number series in the Feb 1913 ORER. The line did have some new boxcars in the Oct 1914 ORER, but the boxcar numbers end at 7000. The next ORER I could find was Dec 1915, which lists boxcars 7002-7998. So the earliest the photo was taken was 1915.

 

Doug Harding

www.iowacentralrr.org

 

From: main@RealSTMFC.groups.io <main@RealSTMFC.groups.io> On Behalf Of Thomas Evans via groups.io
Sent: Sunday, February 14, 2021 9:35 PM
To: main@RealSTMFC.groups.io
Subject: Re: [RealSTMFC] Earliest Color Photo of US Freight Cars?

 

If you download the image & enlarge it a lot, you'll see the colored starch grains mentioned in the linked descriptions of the Autochrome process.
I was doubtful at first, but I think that this proves it to be authentic & not a colorized B&W print.

Tom E.


Dave Parker
 

Not much freight-car content in this nugget I'm afraid, but I thought this was an interesting read about a Boston-area brewery that I had never head of until now:

https://forgottennewengland.com/2020/01/21/harvard-brewery-a-lowell-tale-of-fires-wartime-enemy-sympathizers-and-prohibition-raids/

It survived quite awhile after Prohibition, but struggled mightily to do so.
--
Dave Parker
Swall Meadows, CA


Chris Barkan
 

Doug,  Thank you for the info about the FtD,DM,&S car series.  That does indeed indicate that the photo was taken rather later than "ca. 1910" as stated on the Flickr page.

As I stated in my original message, I think it would be interesting to see other very early color photos of freight cars.

Chris Barkan
Champaign, IL


akerboomk
 

I’m not too familiar with that pier.

Does anyone know if the buildings are/were brick or stone?

 

If stone (I’m thinking this is likely), it still might be an original color image

If brick, I’m thinking the buildings should be a different color, so the image is colorized.

 

It’s too fuzzy to tell much about mortar lines

Ken


--
Ken Akerboom


Tim O'Connor
 


I tried finding out about that Harvard Brewing Company on the wharf behind the cars, but all I can
find is about the company's main brewery location in Lowell MA - and the Germans' social life that
revolved around it circa 1900.


On 2/15/2021 12:31 AM, Douglas Harding wrote:

The Earliest Color Photo in question was not taken in 1910. The Fort Dodge Des Moines & Southern was formed in 1906. But it did not have any boxcars numbered in the 7000 series until later. Checking online ORERs, there are no FDDM&S boxcars with that number series in the Feb 1913 ORER. The line did have some new boxcars in the Oct 1914 ORER, but the boxcar numbers end at 7000. The next ORER I could find was Dec 1915, which lists boxcars 7002-7998. So the earliest the photo was taken was 1915.

 

Doug Harding

www.iowacentralrr.org

 

From: main@RealSTMFC.groups.io <main@RealSTMFC.groups.io> On Behalf Of Thomas Evans via groups.io
Sent: Sunday, February 14, 2021 9:35 PM
To: main@RealSTMFC.groups.io
Subject: Re: [RealSTMFC] Earliest Color Photo of US Freight Cars?

 

If you download the image & enlarge it a lot, you'll see the colored starch grains mentioned in the linked descriptions of the Autochrome process.
I was doubtful at first, but I think that this proves it to be authentic & not a colorized B&W print.

Tom E.


--
Tim O'Connor
Sterling, Massachusetts


spsalso
 

Here's another early color photograph, from 1910:

https://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/prokc.20533/?co=prok

Zlatoust Station, somewhere in Russia, by Prokudin-Gorski.

It's a different process than the one under discussion.  It was done using three exposures through three colored filters.  You can see that, while the result is quite a bit sharper, it does not tolerate movement in the subject.


Ed

Edward Sutorik