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


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?

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.

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

  • Construction of the station Alexanderbrücke in 1898 (now Ohligsmühle).

  • Construction of the Schwebebahn, 1900

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.








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.






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).




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?
From its dimensions relative to the bloke stood in front of is my guess is it is either a rope walk, building where the machines and expertise within create woven ropes or just a tad more likely a wire walk so too speak where small wires are wound and woven into larger diameter cables. Essentially the same end result of the large diameter rope and steel hawsers and cables.
There are what appear to be cable drums stood just by the far end of the building. The quality in the upscaling video is crap so cannot see clearly enough to be certain but all in all my money is on what I've just described.
Reason its no longer there is the production of rope/steel cables went elsewhere. Buildings with a single specific use are no longer of any use when the process that went on within ends. Being obviously made of wood it would be demolished quite quickly after the process ended or possibly soldiered on for a few years as a storage warehouse.

You would think that there would be German speaking researchers looking into the buildings and the companies/people who were around when this film was claimed to have been taken. Trade directories, mergers, takeovers, accidents etc would all throw some light on what was what and when using the 365 calendar but it seems no-one is interested or maybe they are but are doing it for their own reasons or haven't posted it online.
Perhaps anyone who can read German could have a ratch around the German interwebs and let us non German readers/speakers know what they find.
I found an anomaly in the video where the surface tram that makes a brief cameo near the end of the original film disappears and doesn't cross the open area between the obstruction and the aerial pylon to the right and then magically reappears from the other side of the pylon! IMHO this is impossible to have this occur as the film would have picked up the trams visual image crossing from the box like obstruction to the pylon. The light from the sun is illuminating the plaza brightly behind the aerial tram, so there is no visual obstruction there. See for yourself.
Start at 1:30 and slow the speed down to .25 and look beneath the aerial tram to see the land tram move left to right. Then it disappears behind a concrete pillar(?) and crosses the open plaza without being seen and magically reappears at 1:34. It disappears for a full second or so. The plaza which extends in the background is well lit and one can see the shading of perspective on both side of the aerial tram girder. Is this a manipulation of the original film? I wanted to add if the surface tram was artificially placed in the film then the observation that people walking in the streets that did not look up as the aerial tram came by may mean they were put into the scene to make it look more populated than it really was at that time. We have seen people added to photographs to make it appear there were many more people than the original photograph shows.
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It is not surprising to see anomalies in the upscaled video as upscaling basically tries to fill in the gaps so too speak with digital information which simply isn't available from the original.

This statement is rather odd.
Emphasis is mine.

Edit to add the source, I forgot again! Film Vault Summer Camp, Week One
For many years our curators believed our Mutoscope rolls were slightly shrunken 70mm film, but they were actually shot on Biograph’s proprietary 68mm stock. Formats like Biograph’s 68mm and Fox’s 70mm Grandeur are of particular interest to researchers visiting the Film Study Center because the large image area affords stunning visual clarity and quality, especially compared to the more standard 35mm or 16mm stocks.
So firstly we are meant to believe that these film curators didn't know what film stock they had and yet
The Biograph Collection was acquired by our first film curator, Iris Barry, between 1938 and 1939. A cache of more than 2,000 films, business papers, ledgers, title cards, and other production materials, the collection is the primary source for scholars interested in early cinema production practices. When film history students hear “Biograph Company,” they most likely think of “D. W. Griffith,” who joined the studio in 1908 and became its most prolific director. But Biograph was a wildly successful production company for more than a decade before Griffith signed on, releasing hundreds of shorts every year.
Among these offerings were Mutoscopes (named for the images that could be printed on cards to be used in a Mutoscope viewer, or onto celluloid for projection), which presented audiences with spectacles from around the globe, from waterfalls and rollercoasters to elephants in India and the canals of Venice.
Not clear if the Wuppertal is one of the Mutoscope sources, seems so but not clear.

It seems these rolls are the 'master' of their day used to create Mutoscope reels for Mutoscope machines and Celluloid film for backlit projection. You would think that the curator who acquired them would actually measure the stock and recognise it to be 68 mm and this likely Biograph stock or at least one of her assistants would carry out this simple action.

Seems very dubious doesn't it. Conveniently dubious one might say.
None of which explains why the digitised version of the film is crap. Perhaps there are answers as to how the film was digitised, by what equipment and where etc in the German language internet.
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That story is hilarious, jd. At face value, I guess we're supposed to assume that for years they just assumed they bought a bunch of deformed 70mm film until someone actually read the companion paperwork. They must have felt pretty stupid... Always read the instructions, guys! (Or like you said, get a ruler).
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.
That wasn't me. It was Atlantis.

That mudpile on the sidewalk is strange though, with how tidy everything is.

Another odd bit is the giant hills between some of the houses at the beginning.

Also at the beginning, what's with the Enormous houses/buildings and almost nothing around them.
That wasn't me. It was Atlantis.
Opps, my bad. Apologies.

What I find ironic, today, 120 years later, it will take forever for my local rail expansion to happen.
  • It takes a lot of work to bring a transit project into service. Major projects often take years of public involvement, planning, engineering and analysis. Learn about the typical life cycle of a light rail project.
  • System expansion | Sound Transit
So, I sort of think that Biograph the company deserves its own study, and maybe this doesn't exactly apply here, but since I posted about the Biograph 68/70mm format, I've come to learn that most "modern" 70mm formats don't use all 70mm of film for the image... generally, a portion (5mm is common) is allotted for the audio tracks.

I bring this up because we never see any films from this era with audio incorporated. Indeed, if you watch this video, it shows that they've been digitally scanning 68mm film (which they directly say is the size that they're working off of) and there is clearly no audio, just images:

However, there are multiple sources stating that Biograph used a 68 or 70 mm format (see my earlier posts in the thread). So, what's going on here? Did they simply film images in two different formats? Or have the 2mm of audio tracks been removed?

The article below asserts that sound would not be incorporated onto the film stock until much later into the 20th century, but again cites Biograph's technology as being 68/70mm. Again, maybe I'm off base, but it seems silly that if you're just capturing video that you would vary the format by two millimeters. Nor have I seen an example of Biograph's 70mm image-only film.

The article starts by recounting the re-discovery of perhaps the first audio on film:
Although Lauste did much of his early sound-recording experimentation at the London laboratory of his longtime friend, W.K.L. Dickson – of whom, more anon – the clip on the History Detectives program “was almost certainly done at Lauste’s own lab, which was in Brixton, in south London. It’s not clear exactly when it was made but my guess would be about 1910, 1911, or 1912,” says Paul Spehr, a respected historian of early film who appeared on the program.
Dickson, being the founder of Biograph... as for those experiments into syncing audio and video:
This short film was a test for Edison's "Kinetophone" project, the first attempt in history to record sound and moving image in synchronization.

This was an experiment by William Dickson to put sound and film together either in 1894 or 1895. Unfortunately, this experiment failed because they didn't understand synchronization of sound and film. The large cone on the left hand side of the frame is the "microphone" for the wax cylinder recorder (off-camera).

The Library of Congress had the film. The wax cylinder soundtrack, however, was believed lost for many years. Tantalizingly, a broken cylinder labeled "Violin by WKL Dickson with Kineto" was catalogued in the 1964 inventory at the Edison National Historic Site. In 1998, Patrick Loughney, curator of Film and Television at the Library of Congress, retrieved the cylinder and had it repaired and re-recorded at the Rodgers and Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound, Lincoln Center, New York.

Since the Library did not possess the necessary synchronizing technology, Loughney - at the suggestion of producer Rick Schmidlin - sent multi-Oscar winner Walter Murch a videotape of the 17 seconds of film and an audiocassette of 3 minutes and 20 seconds of sound with a request to marry the two. By digitizing the media and using digital editing software, Murch was able to synchronize them and complete the failed experiment 105 years later.

So we have the gentleman whose company pioneered the 68/70 mm format experimenting with audio on film prior and the remaining film appears to be all 68 mm with no audio...
Insufficient historical research is part of the problem. “Until recently, there has not been a lot of attention paid to the early years,” says Spehr, the former assistant chief of the Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division at the Library of Congress. Once they did look into that history, “most film historians looked at movies as having started some time after World War I. They were happy to start cinema with D.W. Griffith,” he says.

That's convenient. I wonder if those film historians were also respected at the time, like Mr. Spehr.

Here's a link to the Library of Congress's collection of Biograph films:
The films that they don't have uploaded are almost as interesting as the ones that they do. For instance:
Re-enacted by the students of St. John's Military Academy...

...Summary: Depicts the Battle of Yalu, in the Russo-Japanese War, which took place at the Yalu River, on the border of China and Korea between April 25, 1904 and May 1, 1904.
No. 1: The Russians are shown on the crest of a hill where they are attacked by the Japanese, consisting of infantry and machine guns. The Japanese storm the hill but are forced to retreat when the Russians bring up reinforcements in the shape of heavy battery field artillery, and when the action is finished the ground is covered with the dead and wounded (0:20 min.) -- No. 2: Shows the Russian battery coming up at a gallop and getting into action for the bombardment of the Japanese position on the hill (1:45 min.) -- No. 3: Shows the attack by the Japanese on the Russian outpost in front of the blockhouse. The blockhouse is fired by bursting shells, and in the midst of the confusion the Japanese make a fierce charge, dislodging the Russians and capturing the position (0:59 min.) -- No. 4: Shows the capture of the battery by the Japanese after a spirited charge and hand-to-hand conflict (1:42 min.).
The film seems to have a date of 1904 as well. Is it commonplace to re-enact battles almost immediately after they took place?

I wish I could see that to compare the quality to the 1906 San Francisco fire simulation.

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