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Kodachrome: I Miss Yew

June 11, 2017

Yes, this has nothing to do with trains or railroads, but I can’t resist posting about this video that YouTube, in all its wisdom, thought I might enjoy. It’s a scene from a 1955 movie entitled “Strategic Air Command”. Simply put, it’s the most amazing aircraft take-off scene I’ve ever seen. The fact that it’s of a Convair B-36 bomber (6 props & 4 jets) makes it better. Of course, 1955 was just about the best time ever to be a railfan: still good amounts of steam and early diesels galore!

But the most compelling thing for me as a photographer in this video is just how beautiful Kodachrome imagery can be. Yes, movie film back in the day was Kodachrome. Check out the richness and depth of the images. Today’s technology is seemingly miraculous, but we lost something very special when we lost Kodachrome. Check out these two stills from the film. Can you say “Kodachrome skies”? 

But I’m not done gushing about this video. As soon as the video starts you’ll be treated to an “in your face” shot as the B-36 lines up to take off. About 1:50 into the video, you’ll see the aircraft roll and rotate from a camera aboard a B-25 that’s pacing the B-36. It’s just an amazing piece of work. To be fair, something like this is no big deal for the CGI crowd, but to be even more fair, this was shot “in real life!” I wonder how many takes were required to get this down right? During the height of the cold war, the U.S. military would go to great lengths to accommodate the filmmakers. I’m glad they did. (Make sure you play the video full screen)

More about the B-36:

The Convair B-36 “Peacemaker” was a strategic bomber built by Convair and operated solely by the United States Air Force (USAF) from 1949 to 1959. The B-36 was the largest mass-produced piston engine aircraft ever made. It had the longest wingspan of any combat aircraft ever built, at 230 ft (70.1 m). The B-36 was the first bomber capable of delivering any of the nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenal from inside its four bomb bays without aircraft modifications. With a range of 10,000 mi (16,000 km) and a maximum payload of 87,200 lb (39,600 kg), the B-36 was the world’s first manned bomber capable of intercontinental flight without refueling.

Entering service in 1948, the B-36 was the primary nuclear weapons delivery vehicle of the Strategic Air Command (SAC) until it was replaced by the jet-powered Boeing B-52 Stratofortress from 1955. All but five examples were scrapped in the 1950’s.

The B-36 set the standard for range and payload for subsequent U.S. intercontinental bombers.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Marc Montray permalink
    June 12, 2017 6:29 am

    Yes always, I still miss the rich fullness of Kodachrome. I shot about 60,000 K64 images before grudgingly moving to digital. But the take off scene… I saw a documentary that featured this because of the unprecedented access to this somewhat secretive plane. Watch this on a big screen with surround sound cranked up, and the crisp vivid images put you there. WOW!

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