Denis Shiryaev,“The Flying Train”, 1902, Cinematographer Unknown, 2015 Stabilized and Colorized Version
The German cities of Elberfeld and Barmen formed a commission in 1887 for the construction of an elevated railway or Hochbaln. In 1894, the commission chose the system by inventor and engineer Eugen Langen. In addition to his work in the development of the petrol engine, Langen was co-owner and engineer of the railway company Cologne Waggonfabrik van der Zypen & Charlier. Two years later, the order was licensed by the City of Dusseldorf, the capital city of North Rhine-Westphalia.
The suspended transport system, or monorail, was chosen to efficiently traverse the region’s hilly terrain and to circumvent the flood-prone river and high groundwater levels that impeded construction of traditional land-based transportation. Construction on the actual suspension railway began in 1898 and was overseen by the government’s master builder Wilhelm Feldmann. Built at a time when steel engineering was still a fairly new concept, this elevated transport system was the first to feature vehicles made entirely of steel.
Approximately nineteen-thousand tons of steel were used to produce the supporting framework and the railway stations; the total cost of the construction was sixteen-million gold marks. The railway was closed owing to severe damage during World War II but was reopened again in 1946. The Schwebabahn is famous for a 1950 incident when a young elephant, given a ride as a stunt, fell out a window and dropped twelve meters into the river below. The elephant survived with just a scrape and lived until the age of forty-three.
Now the world’s oldest operating monorail system, the Wuppertal Schwebebahn system was officially opened on the first day of March in 1901, only three years after construction began. Kaiser Wilhelm II and his entourage rode in its “Imperial Carriage” during the very first test run of the system. The thirteen kilometer, electrical powered transport linked the small cities and towns of Elberfeld, Barmen, Ronsdorf, Cronenberg and Vohwinkel. The cities were united originally in 1929 under the name of Barmen-Elberfield; however, in 1930 the name was changed to Wuppertal (Wupper Valley) as all the cities were situated around the Wupper River.
The original 1902 “The Flying Train” is a two-minute black and white documentary of a journey on the newly established Schwebebahn suspended rail system. It was shot on Biograph’s 68mm film stock, a format whose large image area afforded exceptional visual clarity and quality. The original black and white film is housed in the Film Collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
The video featured above is a version of the original 1902 “The Flying Train” that has been restored and updated by Denis Shiryaev, a Russian digital artist, currently based in Poland, known for his restoration of old videos from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He uses different computer processes to upscale the videos to 4K, increase the frame rate to sixty frames per second, and add color.
Shiryaev is the CEO and product director of the software service company Neutral Love as well as the project Manager of KMTT.
Note: Three versions of “The Flying Train”, that being the original 1902 film, Denis Shiryaev’s stabilized and colorized 2015 version, and a side by side comparison of the two versions, can be found at the online art magazine COLOSSAL located at: https://www.thisiscolossal.com/2020/08/the-flying-train-moma/