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Locomotive Briar Cliff

W. L. Bresse, American, active c. 1860

Made in United States, North and Central America

c. 1860

Oil on canvas

24 1/8 x 35 3/4 inches (61.3 x 90.8 cm)

Curatorial Department:
American Art

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Gift of Frank and Alice Osborn, 1966

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Unlike popular images of trains making their way through the American landscape, this image appears more as a "portrait" of the steam locomotive Briar Cliff. The engine seen here is the American type 4-4-0, originally designed for the Philadelphia, Germantown, and Norristown Railway in 1836. The great attention to the mechanical details suggests that Bresse may have worked from a technical print of an engine. Around mid-century, locomotives were typically ornamented with colorful paint schemes and decorative touches such as the flowers painted on the smoke box, the elaborate ironwork support for the headlight, and the American eagle on the side of the light itself.