Well before he photographed the Group of Mexican Wax Work, B. W. Kilburn extensively documented Mount Washington in his native New Hampshire. There are many excellent views floating around from his time there – and then there’s this oddball:
So if one were to not think terribly hard, and to just pop this into a scope and give it a look-see, one would probably be quite impressed. The stereography is excellent, which is par for the course with Kilburn’s work. The scene is dramatic – an early railroad image with a locomotive pushing a single car up an incredible incline. But this was around 1870 – a decade before the Shay locomotive was patented and produced – and it’s hard to imagine what kind of engine could deal with this sort of dramatic angle.
But wait… dramatic angle… there’s an even more dramatic angle that shows in several places upon closer inspection:
Yep. Either everybody on this train was standing at a very improbable angle – or the camera was tilted to create the drama, and the train was at a much less crazy incline. So let’s go back to geometry class – it’s time for good ‘ole taking the inverse SIN of the base over the hypotenuse – in this case, almost exactly 33º for the base of the train were it level:
At this rotation, we’ve gone a little far:
So the train was clearly on an incline, just not the incline portrayed. Using Photoshop, let’s try to get the guys straight, and see what the train is looking like:
Here – with the incline still at an impressive 17º – we have an honest image of the scene. It’s perhaps less impressive, but Kilburn was in the business of selling stereoviews – not in the business of documentary photography. So why not take the photo without the two guys in the corner? He did, in a sense – here are links to two similar trains… with the same number and caption: Wikimedia – MFA Boston
So it looks like not only was this goofball view printed, but it was replaced in whatever series it belonged to at least twice – with similarly dishonest images. But hey, take a look at the anaglyph (if you haven’t free-viewed it already) – dishonest or not, it’s a damn cool view: