Before the Niagara river plunges along the Canada–United States border to create the mesmerizing Niagara Falls, it cuts a 11 km long gorge through the hard dolomite rocks of the Niagara Escarpment.
This gorge has been a popular scene for sightseers ever since Niagara welcomed its first tourists more than a hundred years ago.
Back then, the gorge was home to another attraction—a narrow-gauge railroad running along the shoreline at the bottom of the gorge.The Niagara Gorge Railroad was the dream of Civil War veteran Captain John M. Brinker, who was one of Buffalo’s foremost citizens.
It was Captain Brinker’s idea to build an electric rail road through the Niagara Gorge. His proposal was at first met with incredulity, but his earnestness compelled attention. It was, however, not an original idea.
Prior to Captain Brinker, the Niagara Falls and Whirlpool Company made a half hearted attempt to construct a railroad within the Niagara gorge, but legal obstacles prevented the company from executing the plan.
Actually the East Coast Railway Victorian Express locomotive, not the London Necropolis Railway, but it looks creepy.
Here’s a properly creepy image to get you into the spirit of Halloween:
From 1854 to 1941, London had a railway line just for the transportation of the dead and the mourning.
It was appropriately named the London Necropolis Railway—the most ominous ticket stub imaginable.
Amanda Ruggeri—who previously wrote about the London Underground and its supposed relationship to the city’s ancient plague pits—explores the history of this very real railway, which was dedicated to ferrying the deceased (as well as anybody who missed them and wanted a visit) from the city to Surrey’s Brookwood Cemetery.
By the middle of the 1800s, London’s burial grounds were gruesomely close to bursting at the seams, necessitating the creation of suburban cemeteries like Brookwood.
But they had to make them practical for Londoners to use—hence, the railway.
Steam trains have had a lasting romantic appeal, especially for photographers.
In the new book Smoke Over Steamtown, published by Schiffer Publishing, Ltd., Dennis A. Livesey documents the steam trains and the people who run them at Steamtown National Historic Site, in Scranton, Pennsylvania, a working railroad museum dedicated to the history of steam trains in the United States.
Livesey is a train photographer whose work has appeared in magazines including Trains and Railfan & Railroad.
Along with shots of locomotives passing through snowy landscapes framed by billowing clouds, Smoke Over Steamtown also focuses on life in the maintenance shop and yard, recording images and stories from the people who work as mechanics and crew for the site’s steam locomotives, diesel-electric locomotives, passenger cars and freight cars.
“My first visits here were made as a photographer, inspired by such greats as O. Winston Link and Richard Steinheimer, who tried to capture the steam train experience on film.”
But he eventually “stepped through the looking glass,” as he puts it, and began working on the trains as a volunteer, in addition to photographing them. “Having undergone rigorous training, I serve as a Steamtown trainman and railroader myself.
Instead of capturing the action of others on camera, I am now the one throwing track switches, hooking up air hoses, turning locomotives on the ninety-foot turntable, and giving hand signals to the engineer who stops and starts the locomotive on my say-so.”
The result is an insider’s view of the work of running the site and its trains. Writes Livesey,
“This participation has not only been a new personal experience, it has invigorated my photography, providing a new perspective and lending an authenticity that it did not possess before.”
The discovery of steam power just 200 years ago powered the Industrial Revolution but like all one-time technological breakthroughs, the world long ago shunted most steam trains onto the sidelines of history.
Yet despite cleaner, more efficient and cheaper forms of transport having taken over, in a small corner of rural Australia the sights, sounds and smells of the Industrial Revolution are still alive.
Puffing Billy is Australia’s last full time railway employing steam engines at its main source of power.
Set in the picturesque Dandenong Ranges on the eastern outskirts of Melbourne, this narrow gauge experiment was born from dour economic times in the 1890s.
For Puffing Billy driver Steve Holmes, whose life has been immersed in its soot and steel since he was painting carriages as a nine-year-old boy, steam, as much as blood, runs through his veins.
“I grew up at the end of the steam era, I’ve been around the engines all my life,” said Holmes, who became a driver in 2005.
The short railway – just 18 miles long and built in 16 months – boasted Victoria’s tightest railway curve and the maximum allowable speed was a mere 15 mph.
These days, Puffing Biily still attracts thousands of visitors a year.
Cass Scenic Railroad State Park operates along the same rails brought to the area in 1901 to service West Virginia Pulp and Paper’s company town to haul lumber, product, and services to and from the mill at Cass.
Today, the same steam-powered engines that have run the line for over a century transport delighted passengers up and down scenic Back Allegheny Mountain, across land that has changed very little over time.
The heritage railway at Cass is home to the largest collection of Shay locomotives still in existence in the world.
Its fleet of legendary turn-of-the-century locomotives incluces eight Shays, one Heisler, and one Climax, all of which are property of the West Virginia State Parks Division explicitly for the purpose of public education and enjoyment.
From the vantage point of refurbished logging cars, passengers are transported 11 miles up to the peak of Bald Knob, the third-highest point in West Virginia, a feat unto itself thanks to the old locomotives’ unique gearing .
Thick black smoke pours from the locomotive’s stacks, and the train passes a still functioning locomotive repair shop is passed along the way, where the engines continue to be repaired to this day.
Back in the town of Cass, visitors find restored company houses and a mill, while no longer in operation, that remains largely unchanged from its days of prime operation.
The cumulative effect is one of taking a ride back in time to a world apart, one where steam locomotives never died, and company towns don’t look half as bad as they probably were.