This “flying train” film footage shows a fascinating look into 1902 Germany with incredible detail

In Wuppertal, Germany in 1902 the “flying train” was about to open. Of course, the train didn’t really fly, it is suspended from above. construction of the Wuppertaler Schwebebahn began in 1898 but it didn’t begin to open until in 1901. It’s actually still in operation today, despite having shut down briefly after damage during World War II.

This video was shot during 1902 and shows an incredibly high level of detail and quality, even by relatively recent standards. According to the Museum of Modern Art, the film was shot on Biograph 68mm film stock, which offers up a huge frame for capturing a lot of detail.

Even knowing the huge size of the film stock used, which is much larger than the standard 35mm and 16mm film stocks used in the years leading up to the “digital revolution”, the level of detail captured in the film is quite striking. According to MoMA’s description of the video…

“The Flying Train” depicts a ride on a suspended railway in Germany in 1902. The footage is almost as impressive as the feat of engineering it captures. 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.

Today, Wuppertal Schwebebahn moves around almost 30 million passengers annually (outside of global pandemics) and runs along a route of 8.3 miles (13.3 kilometres). It’s a fascinating look into history, and one of the commenters on the YouTube video even found one of the views (36 secs in) as it looks today on Google Maps, showing some of the exact same buildings still around, despite the roads around them changing quite drastically over the past century or more.

Incredible footage and an incredible feat of engineering, especially considering construction began over 130 years ago. Why don’t we have more of these around the world today?

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