Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Locomotive 119, May 10th 1869 ... [or the "Mystery of the Backward Nine"]

From: "Travis Hunsaker"

Hello, my name is Travis Hunsaker. I work at the Golden Spike National Historic Site at Promontory Summit Utah.

I am looking for any photos taken of the Locomotive 119 from the west side (back side) on May 10th 1869.

One of the rangers that works here (Jess Herbert) found a picture taken by Alfred A. Hart of the 119 from the west side (back Side) on May 10th 1869. It shows one of the nines backwords. We want to be as historically correct as possible, and on our replica 119 both the nines on that side of the locomotive are the right way.

We just need other photos to prove this, or proof that this photo has not been altered in any way.

If you know of any other photos from either Alfred A. Hart, or proof of the authenticity of this photo, or any other photographs that would show this view of the 119 would you please let me know. ...

—Travis Hunsaker, GOSP Manager, Golden Spike Site

Hart 359. 'Monarch of the East.'
Alfred A. Hart Stereoview #359. "The Monarch of the East."
[detail above; same image more magnified below]
Courtesy of Travis Hunsaker.

Hart 359. 'Monarch of the East.'

Hart 359. 'Monarch of the East.'
Alfred A. Hart Stereoview #359. "The Monarch of the East."
[magnified detail from another copy]
Courtesy of Wendell Huffman.


Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Kevin Bunker"

Over the last 25 years I have sharply studied as many of the extant photos of both CP60 and UP119 at the Last Spike ceremony at Promontory, and never have I observed any incorrectly painted or "backwards" numerals on the 119. It would be most helpful if you would post the suspicious photo in question so that we might all take a real hard look at it and then comment one way or the other. My gut says someone's been fooling with the visual record such as you describe. Rogers was a class-act builder (as were most of the others) and I really cannot believe that such an error would have escaped notice and correction before any locomotive or tender left the factory, especially in the fastidious 19th century when craft was seen as art.

–Kevin V. Bunker, Portland, OR

7/04/2012 9:57 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Wendell Huffman"

You say "one of the nines [is] backwards". Which one?

UP locomotive no. 119 appears in only a couple of Hart photographs. Image no. 359 shows the righthand side of the locomotive. As this was the side away from the more common "gold spike" views, I presume this is what you mean by the "back" side. I see only one numeral "9" on the locomotive in that view--on the panel below the engineer's window. And it is in its proper orientation. The tender is cropped off in the view that I have, and the sand dome is hidden behind people. There were likely numerals in both of those locations. The full legend on the cab panel reads "No. 119". I can imagine that someone is "reading" the underlined "o" in "No" as a backwards 9. Is that the case?

—Wendell Huffman

7/04/2012 10:00 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Kyle K. Wyatt"

I'd like to second Kevin Bunker's comments. Given all the study of photos of Union Pacific #119, it would be surprising (although not impossible) that such a mistake on the number would have escaped notice all this time. I would be extremely interested in seeing a (scanned) copy of the photo – or at least tell us which Hart stereo number it is.

I note that Hart also has photos of UP #117, and other photographers shot images of other sister locomotives, including UP #116.

—Kyle Wyatt

7/05/2012 2:38 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...


Thank you for your response. Attached is the photo in question.

The name of the photo is "Monarch of the East" or "Hart 23". Notice the blocked numbers under the cab, the nine is backwards.

I would like to know for sure if the photo has been tampered with, or if there is any other photos of the 119 on May 10th 1869 that shows this same view?

I do not know if the nine in question was painted on, or was an attached piece of wood, and maybe fell off, and was put back on backwards by accident or perhaps on purpose by someone messing around.

Please take a look at the attached photo, and get back to me with your thoughts, and any information you may find.

Thanks again,
Travis Hunsaker
WNPA Manager
Golden Spike National Historic Site

7/19/2012 11:24 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Wendell Huffman"

There is considerable variation from one stereo card to another, and it could be that the image you have is damaged or was deliberately altered. Attached is a scan of the key segment of that same photograph – very likely from a different card. It clearly shows a "9", and I am confident that the locomotive was correctly marked.


7/19/2012 4:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Suspect that this is an optical illusion caused by noise which is also contributed to by photographic grain, scanning, and jpeg artifacts. A random darkening fluctuation comparable in magnitude to those present all over the image affecting the bottom right side of the "9" makes it look reversed. Recommend rescanning the original image to a 16 bit tiff file at 2400 dpi and also photographing it using a 10x microscope to see if the apparent "9" reversal holds up with better quality digitization.

7/19/2012 4:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This image of UP 119 is Hart #359, not Hart #23.

7/19/2012 5:04 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Kevin Bunker"

In re-reviewing the murky stereo half image against the clearer version supplied by Wendell Huffman, I am going to go out on a limb and suggest the photo as supplied by Travis Hunsaker is an altered image, although the topic raised initially suggests that more than a few historic original stereoscopic images of this scene should be very thoroughly examined. Only that way might we form a more reasoned opinion as to whether a forgery has been done, about when time-wise and how far it might have extended inside the extant record.

Kyle Wyatt's cogent comments about the historic uses of metal numerals and alpha characters for engine cabs' name panels is perfect, but I am still (for now) sticking to my earlier suggestion that Rogers Locomotive & machine Works would not have let the No.119 or her sisters outside of their plant with such an obvious installation error as suggested by the single, possibly altered, photograph of the right (engineer's side). Neither can I see a proud locomotive engineer (who would typically have been assigned to a single engine and therefore be responsible for its basic care and grooming) let a backwards letter or numeral stay that way.

—Kevin Bunker

7/19/2012 9:03 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Kyle Wyatt"

My thought is that the copy at Golden Spike [National Historic Site] is from a copy negative several generations removed from the original – with image degradations and increase of contrast at each step. Plus there are wide variations in image quality among various originals. Plus damage to some originals over time before they were copied. Plus the original negative by Hart had a somewhat soft focus.

I firmly believe that all these factors have resulted in a [part] of the "9" being tipped out (replaced by underlying white), and then being copied, where increased contrast runs the opening of the "9" together, collectively leaving what appears to be a "6". This is all accidental, not intentional.

Conclusion – other copies of that stereo card conclusively prove that the metal "9" was correctly applied to the cab by Rogers, and that it remained that way when Hart took his photograph. (Besides Wendell's copy, I also have a copy that shows the "9" is correct.) The apparent "6" seen on the Golden Spike copy is merely a visual artifact from a combination of damage to an earlier print (original or otherwise) combined by the increased contrast introduced through several generations of copy negatives. Perhaps compounded by a poor quality original Hart print to begin with.

The numbers on the locomotive all read "119" – there is no "116" on that locomotive.


7/19/2012 11:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The optical illusion is that the nine appears left to right mirrored, not that it appears upside down as a six.

What seems to be happening is that the right part of the downstroke has been lost in the first copy.

If you compare the first copy with the second, the damaged nine is missing in part making it look reversed, but the remaining part of the numeral seems identical with the second true copy that looks like a "9".

7/19/2012 11:22 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...


Thanks for all your time, and information.


7/20/2012 8:24 AM  

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