1897: Wuppertal Suspension Electric Railway by Eugen Langen

The Wuppertaler Schwebebahn (Wuppertal Suspension Railway) is a suspension railway in Wuppertal, Germany. Its original name is Einschienige Hängebahn System Eugen Langen (Monorail overhead conveyor system Eugen Langen).
  • It is the oldest electric elevated railway with hanging cars in the world and is a unique system in Germany.
  • In 1887 the cities of Elberfeld and Barmen formed a commission for the construction of an elevated railway or Hochbahn.
  • In 1894 they chose the system of the engineer Eugen Langen of Cologne, and in 1896 the order was licensed by the City of Düsseldorf.
  • Designed by Eugen Langen, the installation with elevated stations was built in Barmen, Elberfeld and Vohwinkel between 1897 and 1903; the first track opened in 1901.
  • Wuppertal Suspension Railway
Eugen Langen
Eugen Langen.jpg

1833-1895

Carl Eugen Langen was a German entrepreneur, engineer and inventor, involved in the development of the petrol engine and the Wuppertal Suspension Railway.
  • In 1857 he worked in his father's sugar factory, JJ Langen & Söhne, and after extensive technical training at the Polytechnic institute in Karlsruhe, patented a method for producing sugar cubes.
  • In 1864, Langen met Nicolaus August Otto who was working to improve to the gas engine invented by Belgian Etienne Lenoir.
  • The technically-trained Langen recognized the potential of Otto's development, and one month after the meeting, founded the first engine factory in the world, NA Otto & Cie.
  • At the 1867 Paris World Exhibition, their improved engine received the Grand Prize.
  • In the field of rail transport equipment, Langen was co-owner and engineer of the Cologne Waggonfabrik van der Zypen & Charlier.
    • He started the suspension railway system in Wuppertal in 1894.
NOTE: Eugen Langen died in 1895. Construction activities did not start until, at least, 1897. Poor guy never got to see what he designed. Sounds familiar?

Construction
Per the narrative, the construction of this suspension electric railway started some time in, or after 1897. Let's see if we can find any photographs of the construction process. Here is what I was able to find.
  • Employees of construction companies for a souvenir photo in 1898 as a part of the car was suspended in the station Varresbeck.
Schwebebahn-construction2.jpg

Source
  • Construction of the monorail around 1899 in the amount Wall/Schloßbleiche. A scaffold portion is transported to the prepared site on the Islandufer.
Schwebebahn-construction3.jpg

Source
  • Construction of the station Alexanderbrücke in 1898 (now Ohligsmühle).
Schwebebahn-construction4.jpg

Source
  • Construction of the Schwebebahn, 1900
Schwebebahn-construction.jpg

Source
KD: Well, basically, that's it. I am not sure if any of the above photographs could qualify for being called construction photographs. What do you think?

Photographs of this Schwebebahn
These will not be in any particular chronological order. I simply google-searched for the photographs of this contraption. If you need links, please help yourself.

Schwebebahn-construction-1-15.jpg

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In 1950, a three-year-old elephant named Tuffi was forced to ride a public monorail in Wuppertal, Germany. The animal was loaded aboard as a promotion for the Althoff Circus. This ride was supposed to be a lighthearted affair, but the world quickly learned that pachyderms and monorails simply do not mix.

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Today
The railway line is credited with growth of the original cities and their eventual merger into Wuppertal. The Schwebebahn is still in use as a normal means of local public transport, moving 25 million passengers annually, per the 2008 annual report. New rail cars were ordered in 2015, called Generation 15, and the first new car went into service in December 2016.
  • The Schwebebahn runs along a route of 13.3 kilometres (8.3 mi), at a height of about 12 metres (39 ft) above the River Wupper between Oberbarmen and Sonnborner Straße (10 kilometres or 6.2 miles) and about 8 metres (26 ft) above the valley road between Sonnborner Straße and Vohwinkel (3.3 kilometres or 2.1 miles).
Schwebebahn-construction-1-11.jpg

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KD: Well, this is what we get from the PTB. Why would they need something like this in 1890s? Did their population numbers support the need for such a contraption? I could see something like this being built to avoid traffic congestion on the ground, but we are not aware of any “rush hours” back then.
  • Could this be one additional example of the technology belonging to some phantom (19th century) time period we are not allowed to know about?
 
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The thing is jd, look at the very first photographs. I could see this thing getting built within the current historical narrative if it was a progressively developed structure. We get multiple of these “one and done” inventors all over the place during that time frame. Today, developing a system similar to this suspension railway would require an entire bureau of engineers based on the amount of tasks involved. Think about the amount of different parts they had to develop and order.

As it stands, one guy dreamed this up and it happened in this perfect finished state.
It’s obvious the thing was built, but I think we are not being shown the infrastructure behind
 
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  • jd755

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    Again I agree. There is a great deal missing that seems to be taken for granted as 'being done' by those who talk about the things in mainstream corridors. I do not think anything is gained by a comparison with the way things are done today. These days are so full of rules and regulations about how things must be done its illogical and unreal with stifling innovation and improvement as the reason, to me.

    The inference is Wuppertal just appeared as the final polished article out of the mind of one man and one man only and was installed flawlessly and worked perfectly from the get go. Everything from obtaining permission from the local government to names of suppliers to costs to patent authority the whole paper based side of things is missing. You know me well enough to know I feel that not everything that should or could be digitised and put online has been so possibly the paper may well be in existence but beyond our reach be that as it may this rail way did not just appear as the complete article decades after Palmers horse powered effort.
    It is literally a leap of faith to connect them, a leap the mainstream seems more than happy with pushing.

    Take the balancing of the two systems cars. They are chalk and cheese and it seems highly unlikely that Palmers side by side balancing act was the source of the underslung over one side balancing act evident in the Wuppertal. They both display a superb command of balance dynamics and to me it is inconceivable Palmer could have envisaged the Wuppertal system as workable if he had even thought it possible.
    The counterbalance method of the Wuppertal is more advanced than the Palmer system as it does not require a two cart system.
    Palmers could only go in one direction at a time whereas Wuppertal could go both ways simultaneously as being underslung the tracks could sit next to each other in one central 'track' suspended from the gantries. This is a severe limitation for the movement of passengers but not the movement of bricks from factory to jetty although had the brickworks become much busier than it was a second track adjacent to the first would have to have been built and looped at both ends to create a continuous system like Wuppertal.
    Perhaps this was the reason the German didn't develop his installation of Palmers system. He simply realised the one way at a time limitation as a bottleneck on his site so he just binned it in favour of something else.
    Speculation obviously but the fact remains there is much about the gap between the two installations missing from the record. Where to look though?
    German language books on google books might reveal a bit more but who knows.
     
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    Atlantis

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    Necessity is the mother of invention. There must have been an over reaching reason to design, build and invest in this technology in its original iteration at that time. The costs of such a project are going to be astronomically more expensive compared to surface transport costs so the choice to go this route must have had a mighty rationale. This tech that was installed in Wuppertal was from a different age which necessity required at that past time.

    Sonnborner_Eisenbahnbrücke_001.jpg
     
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    Wanted to bring the OP video up one more time.
    • What approximate time of day do you think it was when they filmed it?
    • What do you think about the observed local population numbers?
    • Do you see anything interesting worth mentioning?
     

    Alex12sb

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    1614260728423.jpg

    This railway reminded me of another miracle of technology, depicted in the drawing. A completely insane and irrational invention.... or was it just clumsily redone?.....
     

    Atlantis

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    At .08 weird railway signalling device on side of support beam. At .08 trees growing straight out of the concrete sidewalks without any space for absorbing water or growth of the trunk and mud flood windows here, also the doorways are 16 feet high. At 0.11 street empty with no garbage or activity except for two carriages with horses. At .04 there looks like an old farmhouse with land behind it open with lots of children with sheets hanging outside and socks. At 0.34 on the left is a hill(of mud) rising from the street. 0.37 electric wires below tram. Building 0.41 windows boarded or cemented shut and dissembled trains in the background. At 0.46 a peculiar long rectangular construction in the background. At 0.48 to left looks like 2 chimneys from an old factory. At 1.03 is a railway bridge which is made of brick like the canal sides and has highly engineered pylon support structures. At 1.06 there are T shaped pole structures in the left background: electric poles? At 1.08 on the left is aquitech steeples on a series of buildings. At 1:15 there is a sphere on top of a cupola at the aerial tram station. At 1.33 large tunnels diverting half the Wupple river underneath a large plaza. At 1.34 a street electric tram running. At 1.36 the scaffolding on buildings. There is no way that the low population density needed such an aerial tram system was necessary. The streets are spotless. There is no garbage, no garbage cans and there are no street vendors. The trees planted along the tram route seem to be 40-50 years old or so. Water levels have risen because the lower mud flood doors would be at the level of the canal river. I did not see any rust on the aerial tram, although it would be hard to discern unless it was severe. The planting of the trees along the tramway leads to a supposition that something happened a generation or four before the 50-year growth of the trees: 1860 or 1812? It looks like 10 am or 2 pm.
     
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  • Alex12sb

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    Yes. I'm sorry - I haven't seen this topic.))))))))))
    Wanted to bring the OP video up one more time.
    • What approximate time of day do you think it was when they filmed it?
    • What do you think about the observed local population numbers?
    • Do you see anything interesting worth mentioning?
    about the video. I am not an expert, but it seems to me that the speed (or rather the frequency) of the movement of the train and people are completely different. That is, people move somehow jerkily, but the camera on the car shoots quite smoothly.
     
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    I’m not an expert either, my friend :) In addition to some amazing observations done by @Aiahavezred, I wanted to mention the quality of this video. I don’t know if it was digitally remastered or what, but it looks amazing for being produced in 1902.
     

    Alex12sb

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    Wanted to bring the OP video up one more time.
    • What approximate time of day do you think it was when they filmed it?
    • What do you think about the observed local population numbers?
    • Do you see anything interesting worth mentioning?
    I also noticed that not a single person raised their head to look at the train. This is very strange. Even if you often see this miracle, you still have to involuntarily look. Maybe I just didn't notice it, but I've watched this video many times.


    I found this video in color. the quality is slightly better. More details can be seen
     
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    Atlantis

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    I also noticed that not a single person raised their head to look at the train. This is very strange. Even if you often see this miracle, you still have to involuntarily look. Maybe I just didn't notice it, but I've watched this video many times.


    I found this video in color. the quality is slightly better. More details can be seen
    In this video you can see the rust of the aerial tram support structures better. I do see people looking at the tram such as tram personnel and people in the tram platform and bridges. Much better video to see details.
     
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    In this video you can see the rust of the aerial tram support structures better. I do see people looking at the tram such as tram personnel and people in the tram platform and bridges. Much better video to see details.
    If this is digitally remastered, and the original was B&W, how can we be sure that this is rust we’re seeing? Making 4K out of some 1902 video is pretty interesting in itself.

    This urban footage reminded me some of the dystopian post apocalyptic movies I’ve seen. Cars would fit in there so much better than horses too.
     

    Atlantis

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    Holland Amsterdam in 1922 could have used the aerial tram. Look how crowded it is and notice all the children and babies at the end. I got an old Apple computer but the copy and paste doesn't work so watch the video maker on YouTube that Alex 12sb found and watch Amsterdam video...it's amazingly crowded in 1922!
     
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    Here is an interesting side by side.
    • It appears that population numbers for the area did not change that much. At least, that’s my understanding. In 1900 they allegedly had 300k and now it’s about 350k.
    • Wondering where all the horses and other things are at.
    1902 vs 2015
     
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  • Atlantis

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    At the end of the video the old stately buildings are replaced by modern architecture and flat windowed boxes!:(
     

    Banta

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    I'm guessing its an effect of upscaling/restoring the film, but the stuff in the far background, like to the right hand side, the hill and houses, looks very unnatural. Almost like they're being curved around the camera, sort of looks like a rear-projection of a painting. The water below when reflecting the bridge/building looks strange too. Definitely feels like a Disneyland ride...

    As to the picture quality:
    The Biograph Company was founded in 1895 by William Dickson and Herman Casler when the Motion Picture Patents Company ( or “Trust” ) legally prevented filming motion pictures with equipment that infringed upon Thomas Edison’s patent. This restriction forced Dickson and Casler to develop the 68/70mm Mutograph camera in 1895 and the 35mm Mutograph in 1899...

    ...In 1896 the company introduced the Biogaph projector which had superior image quality to the Edison’s Vitascope projector. The Biograph projected 68mm images versus Vitoscopes 35mm providing greater resolution.
    Just general detail about Biograph:
    Biograph Company, formerly American Mutoscope Company and American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, one of the major American motion-picture studios in the early days of filmmaking, founded as the American Mutoscope Company in 1895. It was known for many of its early production efforts, including filming U.S. presidential candidate William McKinley on the campaign trail in 1896, Pope Leo XIII at the Vatican in 1899, and U.S. Pres. Theodore Roosevelt at the White House in the early 20th century. The company’s most significant contribution to cinema came from the work of D.W. Griffith, the first great director, who developed the art of cinema during his five years at the studio.
    And catching us up to today:
    Herbert Yates acquired the Biograph Studios facilities and film laboratory in 1928. Biograph Studios facilities and film laboratory were made a subsidiary of his Consolidated Film Industries in 1928.The studio facilities and laboratory burned down in 1980.

    In 1939, Iris Barry, founder of the film department at the Museum of Modern Art, acquired 900 cans of film from the Actinograph Corp. Bronx Biograph studio and laboratory facitlies, which was closing its film vault and planning to destroy all the film. One uncompleted film, Lime Kiln Field Day (1913), with an all African American cast, was found among the many cans of film, and shown at MOMA in November 2014.
    Not seeing any obvious gap in the history (unlike other defunct studios where the film is magically recovered decades later), but it is interesting that the 1913 film took 100 years to be shown.

    This article goes into a lot more detail on Biograph and their output (have to register to read). This sort of stood out to me though:

    Screenshot_20210225-192827~3.jpg
    Sort of sounds like they filmed the assassination... that can't be the case though, right?

    Also, the "films of uncertain type" means that the author could not determine whether they were "actuality films" (like our video in this thread) or "entertainment". Rest assured, we've been blurring the line between fact and fiction since the dawn of film.
     

    Alex12sb

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    Here is an interesting side by side.
    • It appears that population numbers for the area did not change that much. At least, that’s my understanding. In 1900 they allegedly had 300k and now it’s about 350k.
    • Wondering where all the horses and other things are at.
    1902 vs 2015
    Somebody knows. what is this strange structure at 1.22 in this video??? And the question is where did it go in 2015? Filled in? I can't figure it out
     

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