Edges of Empire

KNW 2399: Edges of Empire

Differences in Trains


The first photo was taken by William Johnson in India during the years of 1855 and 1862. The photo shows the building of a railroad by the Indian people. The photograph is part of three volumes of “Photographs of Western India” and is called “On the Bhore Ghaut – Laying down the rails” and the picture was taken in Maharashtra, India. The image that Johnson took is a panoramic view of the railroad being built by the Indians. The Bhore Ghaut project looks seriously difficult as the construction and engineering during that time period required plenty of arduous labor. The barren land and what looks to be hundreds of laborers are working hard to complete a railroad. The railroad benefits both the Indian people and the British and the harsh labor used in India is similar to the building of railroads in the New World. The irony about the picture is that although the Indian people benefit economically from the railroad, the British use the railroad for their economic benefit by draining India of valuable resources and subsequently utilize the railroad to transport the military and helped Britain keep solid control over the state.


The second photo, called Puente de Wimer F.C.M, or Bridge of Wimer is part of a 1 volume grouping of photos that shows railroads and similar projects in Maltrata, the Veracruz state in Mexico. The F.C.M. stands for Ferrocarril Mexicano, or the Mexican Railway, one of the first pre-nationalization railway companies in Mexico. The Wimer Bridge photo shows an expansive valley with a large suspended bridge constructed with what seems to be a European dressed man standing on top of the bridge, somewhat of an eerie illustration of the power that the Europeans had over the New World. This idea coincides with the construction of the Wimmer Bridge through the Maltrata Valley because it was completed with the labor of many Mexicans, similar to the use of Indian natives building bridges in India. Although the Mexicans of the last generations did not want to help and were reluctant “to give support that might facilitate invasion from the north” (Powell, 103) the “need for railroads was acknowledged” (Powell, 103) but only projects that opened up communication between the Gulf, Pacific and to develop the interior had more bi-partisan support. As the technological power of Mexicans during the late 1800s was much less than it is today, the engineering feat that was accomplished by building elevated platforms for trains and tunneled into a mountain shows the skills and the amount of difficult labor that was required.


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