MP-19188.8.131.52 | Consolidated Engine No. 403, C. P. R. Pacific Division, BC, about 1887
Consolidated Engine No. 403, C. P. R. Pacific Division, BC, about 1887
A. B. Thom
About 1887, 19th century
Silver salts on paper mounted on card - Albumen process
18.4 x 23.5 cm
Gift of the Estate of M. Omer Lavallée
© McCord Museum
Keywords: Photograph (77678) , rail (370) , Transportation (2517)
Keys to History
Photography met the new demand for pictures of a society fascinated by machines and acceleration. The 19th century was the age of steam, instant photography, electricity, moving pictures--everything that contributed to the "history of acceleration." On December 28, 1895, in the cellar of the Grand Café on the Boulevard des Capucines, in Paris, the first public show in the history of cinema took place. One of the films shown was L'arrivée d'un train en gare de La Ciotat by the Lumière brothers, in which a locomotive rushes headlong towards the viewer. The image of a moving train has never since produced such wonder and awe.
The history of photography is the history of acceleration. While in the 1840s subjects had to pose for minutes on end, by the turn of the century it took only a fraction of a second to produce a clear image.
On November 7, 1885, the last spike of the Canadian Pacific Railway was driven home at Craigellachie, BC. Alexander Ross took a few shots of the event. One of them is now a national icon, embodying the principle of a country bound together by the railway.
Trains have a special relationship with time. It became essential to co ordinate train departures and arrivals across the country by standardizing time through the use of time zones. At noon on November 18, 1883, Canada and the United States adopted standard time.
Canadian civil engineer Sandford Fleming was the man responsible for standard time. Fleming was standing beside Donald Smith in the famous photo taken on November 7, 1885, when the CPR was inaugurated.