The Flying Train: A 1902 Film Captures a Futuristic Ride on a Suspended Railway in Germany

We’ve been focus­ing a lot recent­ly on old films from the turn of the cen­tu­ry that a small group of enthu­si­asts have been “remas­ter­ing” using AI, smooth­ing out the herky-jerky fram­ing, upping the frame rate by inter­po­lat­ing between-frames, and more.

So what a sur­prise to find a recent look at a film in the Muse­um of Mod­ern Art’s film col­lec­tion from 1902 that already has the fideli­ty and smooth­ness, no AI need­ed.

The above footage is tak­en from the Wup­per­taler Schwe­be­bahn, the sus­pen­sion rail­way built in the Ger­man city of Bar­men in 1901. The Bio­graph pro­duc­tion company—best known to film stu­dents as the place where D.W. Grif­fiths got his start—was one of the most pop­u­lar of the ear­ly film com­pa­nies, and pro­duced mini-docs like these, called Muto­scopes.

The Muto­scope used 68mm film, a film stock twice as large as most films at the time. (70mm film real­ly only came into its own dur­ing the 1950s.) The 30 frames per sec­ond shoot­ing rate was also faster than the usu­al 18fps or 24fps, which means the illu­sion of real­i­ty is clos­er to the video rate of today. The Muto­scope was also the name of the company’s view­er, where the frames were print­ed on cards and could be watched through a viewfind­er. So we are watch­ing a film that was nev­er meant to be pro­ject­ed. (If you’re think­ing that the Muto­scope was also used for pri­vate view­ings of What the But­ler Saw, you are cor­rect.)

Despite the fideli­ty our favorite upscaler Denis Shiryaev still had a go at improv­ing the footage and adding col­or and sound. (There’s also a com­peti­tor work­ing on their own upscale and col­oriza­tion ver­sion called Upscaled Stu­dio). Which one is bet­ter, do you think? And how much was the expe­ri­ence improved?

And in case you’re won­der­ing, the Wup­per­tal Schwe­be­bahn still oper­ates to this day, look­ing very much like it did back in 1902. The total route is just over eight miles long and fol­lows the riv­er Wup­per for a lot of it, and ser­vices 82,000 com­muters a day. (Less so dur­ing COVID of course.) You can check out footage below. It def­i­nite­ly looks fun fun fun on the Schwe­be­bahn.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Icon­ic Film from 1896 Restored with Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence: Watch an AI-Upscaled Ver­sion of the Lumière Broth­ers’ The Arrival of a Train at La Cio­tat Sta­tion

Revis­it Scenes of Dai­ly Life in Ams­ter­dam in 1922, with His­toric Footage Enhanced by Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence

A Trip Through New York City in 1911: Vin­tage Video of NYC Gets Col­orized & Revived with Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the FunkZone Pod­cast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at and/or watch his films here.

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the Notes from the Shed pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, and/or watch his films here.

by | Permalink | Comments (3) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (3)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.