Spotted this scooper on the underbelly of a Central Railroad of NJ car # 592:

I like to look at things in museums and galleries and figure them out for myself, but was eventually spoiled by one of the B&O Railroad Museum attendants who informed me that the scooper was used for picking up water while the car was moving – without having to stop. I saw that scooper nearly two years ago, and still think about it from time to time, as both an engineering marvel and something lost to history.

And with the recent launch of the National Screening Room initiative by the Library of Congress sure enough here’s a video circa 1905 – shot by Thomas Edison no less – of an Empire State Express train scooping up water. It’s not highly detailed or close-up but you can see the trough, filled with still water, and rippling water after the train passes by. The video’s caption reads,

“The second Empire State Express, behind a 4-4-2 Atlantic locomotive, demonstrates how to take water on the fly by scooping it out of a pan set between the railroad tracks”–George Kleine Collection…catalog, p. 35.