When Did Railroad Photography Become Trendy?
Railroad photography was trendy long before engaged couples and high school graduates thought to use train tracks as rustic backdrops in photo shoots.
Locomotive photography was actually spurred by the first and last spikes ceremoniously driven into the Union Pacific Railroad in 1869. The extraordinary rail system stitched Utah, Omaha, and Sacramento together. It also offered safe passage to and through the rugged terrain of the of the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada.
Union Pacific Photographers: the original influencers
Like most people of the era, photographers were fascinated with the Union Pacific. But fascination alone didn't compel every photographer documenting the groundbreaking advance in transcontinental travel. Many photographers who covered the development of the Union Pacific had been commissioned by the railroad company to publicize the way it would revolutionize American travel. In this way, Union Pacific photographers were among the nation's first influencers.
Photographers instilled the desire to see in person the wonders reproduced on a stereo card or in a print and the railroads offered the means to reach them.
-Library of Congress
Beyond documentation, the photos published in a wide range of mediums were central in acquiring financial support from banks, shareholders, and Congress. But the railroad companies weren't the only ones benefiting from the deal. The railroads were like a gift to photographers!
The railways were a boon to photographers, as well, offering easier access to previously inaccessible areas and facilitating transport of cumbersome equipment and supplies needed to produce the images. Railroad companies would be recurrent patrons of photographers through the nineteenth-century as additional lines were built to traverse new routes across the country and connect to existing networks.
-Library of Congress
Union Pacific Rethinks Railroad Photos
More than 100 years later, however, Union Pacific has a radically different stance on railway photography. To be honest, it makes total sense to us!
Scroll on to see why in the gallery below.