For the Ferroequinologists (and Boat People, Too)
Original LoC caption:
Exhibits the surface of a pair of barges, showing the tracks for loading and unloading cars, also the movable bridges by which the tracks on the floats are connected with those on the wharf
These are ramps used for loading and off-loading railroad cars, ferried across a waterway on barges. The date and location aren’t given, but it’s at a sizable town, perhaps one where the rail bridges had been destroyed and this is a temporary attempt to provide transportation across the stream.
The locomotive shown here is a bit long-in-the-tooth, dating at least to the early 1850s, and maybe a little older. It’s been relegated to switching duties, as evidenced by the removal of the pilot (“cowcatcher”) at the front, replaced by a regular, link-and-pin coupler. I think the tender carries the letters U.S.M.R.R. (U.S. Military Rail Road), but it’s hard to make out. High-res image here.