Any photographer working today or during the turn of the last century would envy the career of the photographer William H. Rau. Today many examples of his photographs of world sites can be found as stereoviews for tourists in many antique shops throughout the United States, but his railroad photographs taken with a large format camera yielding 20 x 24 inch glass negatives are the technical and aesthetic highlight of his vast output. In 1895 Rau was the Lehigh Valley Railroad’s official photographer and during the 1890’s he also worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad. The Pennsylvania Railroad provided Mr. Rau with his own train and coach equipped with darkroom facilities for Rau to capture scenic views along the many routes of the PRR, he also captured views of outlying industries such as the Westinghouse Air Brake factory in Wilmerding, PA which provided for the first time safe braking of trains, interior design shots of the well appointed Pullman cars of the 1890’s, rural and city stations, tracks, semaphores and the long gone track pans. Any photographer interested in trains could not help but wish they could have had the experiences on the rails as William H. Rau had. I had a rare opportunity to view up close a collection of Rau’s Lehigh Valley Railroad prints; they were stunning, each albumen print captured views with unsurpassed sharpness and graphic quality. Don’t miss a chance to view an exhibition of Mr. Rau’s work, it will fill you with joy. This is a short introduction for this important photographer who will be featured in many posts over the coming years: stay tuned!
Train assigned to William H. Rau for his photographic excursions along the PRR lines.
William H. Rau in the studio and in the field along the Conemaugh River near Torrance, PA. Rau required two assistants to manage his very large and heavy camera, but getting the camera to the vantage point was just part of the process, prior to taking the picture a light sensitive plate had to be prepared and loaded in holders inside the darkroom of his train car. This light sensitive plate was manufactured of glass and in a very few cases it broke: some original prints exist today made from broken glass plates . The process for making prints involved placing the glass negative in contact with light sensitive paper, the flatness of the glass produced a level of sharpness yielding exquisite detail throughout the print.
The opening image for this blog includes my first Marklin Z loco: 8856, and logos representing various European railroads represented in my collection which will be featured in future posts. From left to right:
OBB: Osterreichische Bundesbahnen – Austrian Federal Railways
DB: Deutsche Bahn AG – German Railroad, Inc.
SBB CFF FFS (represented by two bold arrows flanking the Swiss flag): Schweizerische Bundesbahnen Chemins de fer fédéraux suisses Ferrovie federali svizzere – Swiss Federal Railways
NSB: Norges Statsbaner AS – Norwegian State Railways
DSB: Danske Statsbaner – Danish State Railways
*Please note: logos used in this blog are strictly for the purpose of education and research.
I spent my childhood growing up in three important railroad towns that was because my Father was a trainman, and we moved as several train systems consolidated over the course of his career. My Father’s name was Roscoe A. Graves, he was born and raised on a farm in Shongo alongside the Graves Road which is still unpaved in the Southern Tier region of New York State. As a young man he was a bit of a legend on the diamond, his prowess in the field included the ability to switch from right to left at bat, plus he was an ace 1st baseman. Upon returning from the South Pacific he met and married my Mother Betty L. Graves also from good farm stock. They left the farming way of life to brothers and sisters dedicated their lives to the railroad and raising their two daughters and me plus several beloved cats and dogs along the way. 1st stop was the East Rochester car-shops of the New York Central, my Father’s position was safety manager. Those buildings looked old and well worn, by the 1960’s New York Central had been in East Rochester since 1897. As safety manager he was charged with enforcing safety procedures and accident investigation, there was one particular machinist who seemed to lose a finger once a year, I remember going with my dad to the car-shops following one such accident; it was a day off, but the safety manager was always on call it seemed. The East Rochester car-shops were accessed by way of a tunnel under the mainline, I was there several years ago for a visit, the tunnel and most of the old buildings are long gone. When New York Central was consolidated into Penn Central we moved to Hollidaysburg, PA close to the former Pennsylvania Railroad terminus, my Father worked in Altoona not far from Hollidaysburg, his employment included working in materials management at Penn Central within the hollowed walls of the original PRR Juniata car-shops in Altoona which was and still is the largest of its kind in the world. Trains were not out of sight/out of mind in Altoona quite the contrary, they were everywhere and always moving through town, just to the west of Hollidaysburg is the famous Horseshoe Curve. The third and final stop in my dad’s railroad days was Reading, PA following the Penn Central consolidation with Conrail. In Reading, my Father was material manager, he oversaw the construction of cabooses and vip cars; he saved the railroad millions on overpriced fixtures. During the 70’s and 80’s the Reading car-shops were very small by comparison to Altoona with less vital railroad functions performed there, some buildings were not even being used (stay tuned for vintage pictures of these buildings), and today those buildings have since been used by retailers and other small businesses. Along the way as with many sons who want to be like their father, I quickly became fascinated with trains and train culture, an early gift from my parents was a book that featured trains of the world: “By Rail to the Ends of the Earth”, Kenneth Westcott-Jones, published 1967, A.S. Barnes & Company. This book now well worn inspired me with its pictures and text about the trains of the world, and it planted the seed that would later manifest itself into collecting Marklin Z. I dedicate this blog to my Father and my Mother who inspired me to look at the rails and travel by them most memorably from Rochester to Grand Central Station with a snack upon arrival at New York’s famous Horn and Hardart Automat.