Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Carleton Watkins Visits the S&C

Watkins's photo car with wagon attached to a long caboose as was found in several photos of the Watkins "train."
Carleton Watkins made a trip over the Stockton & Copperopolis the other day. Who is Carleton Watkins you might ask? He was the Ansel Adams of the nineteenth century taking photographs all over the west from Oregon to the Comstock to Arizona and Southern California. How does this concern we modelers of ancient railroads? He had a special car, such as it was, to carry his photographic wagon about and it shows up in numerous photos of his. It's almost always in the background but it's unmistakable and always accompanied by an old coach or long caboose. I've always enjoyed viewing his photos so I finally decided to build his car and photo wagon.
The Watkins prototype car with wagon and long caboose which was used for living quarters. Photo taken at Dos Palmas, California in the 1880s.
The car was a standard 29-foot flatcar built by the California Pacific RR with a room added at one end. I built the car out of strip styrene with scribed styrene walls for the room portion. The windows in the room area only have bars on them so this may have been where Watkins stabled his horse when traveling on a train or it might have just been a storage area.
The Watkins photographic wagon on the pier at San Francisco. 
The photo wagon was just a Jordan Products standard wagon kit with decals based on the photo of the prototype wagon. I don't know if Watkins ever traveled on the prototype S&C but he could very well have done so en route to Yosemite when he took photos there. I'd like to think that he did.


  1. Watkins owned (at least) two wagons. The dark colored one was the earlier one. He lost everything in the 1873 stock market crash. His new wagon was light in color. His name was misspelled on the stereo photo.

  2. The later (light colored) wagon would probably be more appropriate for my era but I liked the looks of the earlier one so I used that.

  3. The link above takes us here

    where you can scroll down to get a high resolution tif of View 2. After you download it, you can zoom in to get a close view of the wagon. This shows the white was a cloth covering over what may be the original black wagon. This could be modeled with white tissue and added as a slip on over your present model, so you can have both!

    I just received a copy of the Jordan kit. It is tiny! I am in admiration of your skill in making it. It has decals, but not for Watkins Gallery. Did you make your own decals?

  4. OK, I see in your post on the V&T Ormsby you say "Lettering for the engine was developed using Adobe Illustrator and then printed on decal paper."

    1. thanks for turning me onto that view. I had not seen it in high res before.