My Father's old negatives

I was going through a pile of old stuff that I had saved when we were cleaning out at my mother's house, and I found a couple of files of negatives that my father (who was a keen photographer) had taken during the 1920s and 1930s. He had his own darkroom, but I do not recall him ever using it (he died many years ago when I was 11).

However, the world has now moved on, and the digital darkroom is a reality. I purchased (at Costco) an Epson Perfection 2400 Photo scanner -- which includes a 35mm transparency adapter. Of course, the negatives that I have are not 35mm, but an assortment of sizes. If someone could identify them (and the type of camera that used them), I'd be interested.

Size of Image Size of Film
56mm×56mm 60mm×60mm
56mm×40mm 68mm×44mm
80mm×56mm 88mm×63mm

It turns out that when scanning with the 2400, the software does not allow you to see quite the full size of the transparency adapter, so some of the larger negatives have bits cut off.

It is a real challenge to get a clean scan -- there is a lot of dust around, and the negatives themselves have many scratches and other problems.

The first few that I have done any work on are shown below.

Le Petit Train du Côtes-du-Nord: Viaduc de Souzain - East

Corpet-Louvet #39 on the Souzain viaductThis is a Corpet-Louvet # 39 on the Souzain viaduct. Of course, the original negative had no information, but the Internet being what it is, a quick search on Google brought me to the page of the association that knows about the CdN railway (which is in French). My schoolboy french leaves a lot to be desired, so a quick use of the translate feature, leads to the home page for the ACFCdN.

They identified the engine type (Corpet-Louvet) and the location almost instantly. The viaduct was built in 1905 and has since been demolished (in 1995).

It turns out that CdN #36 still exists in running order, see this picture, or this set.

A very large version of this image is available. If anybody knows how to remove the horizontal scratches, I would be interested. The standard dust removal tool doesn't work as the scratches are too faint, but they are visible as there is a lot of horizontal correlation.

Viaduc de Souzain - West

CdN Train StationFurther searching through the negatives, and I found this one. The steam engine is hardly visible through the clouds of steam (smoke?) but is another Corpet-Louvet engine. The other vehicle is a De Dion Bouton KG rail car. Apparently, the CdN ordered three of these in 1926 and put them in service in 1928 -- so this photograph must be after that date. 

A quick google for pianos gaudu shows a rare book that mentions this piano store in Saint-Brieuc. Happily, this is also mentioned on the ACFCdN web page.

A quick search for mafart quincaillerie shows that they are still a hardware store in Saint-Brieuc. Their website shows a thoroughly modern set of buildings. They are now a large hardware distribution company.

A very large version of this image is available.

Viaduc de Souzain

Viaduc de SouzainThe viaduct was built by Harel de la Noë for the CdN and also carried car traffic and people on foot. This was the largest viaduct constructed for the CdN. This image shows (I assume) the car that my father was travelling in. The track is visible in the bottom right hand corner.

The viaduct was 280m long and 30m high -- a pretty impressive undertaking. There are a couple of pictures on a website dedicated to the builder.


I must thank Louis Jourdan of the ACFCdN for much of the train specific information included on this page. He identified the locations, the trains, pretty much everything!

Other Images

My father was a car fanatic, and many of the negatives have race cars in them.

General Thoughts

It impresses me that you can still recover a usable image from a negative after 75 years. My digital camera (a Nikon Coolpix 990) records onto compact flash, then copied onto a hard drive, and then archived onto CDR. I think that the current life estimates for CDRs are about 10 years. Compact flash is not a long term storage medium, and hard disks are prone to catastrophic failure.

It is not clear how my grandchildren will be able to extract the pictures that I am taking today. One solution is to print them onto photographic paper (using your local digital minilab) and keep them somewhere safe. The print outs from most color printers today fades very rapidly unless the image is stored properly. Check out the Wilhelm Imaging Research web site for more than you want to know about this issue!

Last Updated: 9th January 2003
All images © Wilfred (Peter) Gladstone 1920-1940, © Philip Gladstone 2003
Contact: Philip Gladstone
Back to the Pond