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A builder's photo of an ACF refrigerator car from before 1911. The wheel rims and truck sideframes were painted white to highlight their outlines in the photograph.

​Builder's photo of Virginian No. 410, a 2-8-2 Mikado.​

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A Brief Builder's Photo Slideshow.

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A builder's photo of "Old Maude", the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad's (B&O) mallet locomotive, circa 1900. This post card was made to promote the B&O showing what was the largest locomotive in the world at the time the photograph was made.

A builder's photo of an ACF refrigerator car from before 1911.
​Builder's photo of Virginian No. 410, a 2-8-2 Mikado.​
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Builder's Photo
A builder's photo, also called an official photo, is a specific type of photograph that is typically made by rail transport rolling stock manufacturers to show a vehicle that has been newly built or rebuilt. The builder's photo is meant to show an overview of the basic exterior form of a unit of rolling stock. Photographs made by railfans that show similar features to builder's photos are sometimes informally referred to as roster shots. Builder's photos were also made by some automobile manufacturers to show a representative sample of new models they produced.

Prints of builder's photos were also often made for executives of the manufacturers and railroad companies to hang in their offices. Builder's photos were also reproduced as post cards as well as reprinted in advertisements to promote the railroad companies or manufacturers depicted therein. In the United Kingdom, steam locomotives were often temporarily painted in photographic grey color schemes so they would photograph well in black and white images. Some details in darker-colored areas of the subject were also sometimes painted in a high-contrast bright color to ensure that they would be visible in the photograph. Historians and preservationists use builder's photos as official references to show the equipment as-built.

Builder's photos are commonly shot from an angle that shows one end, often the designated front end, and a full side of the car or locomotive. The rolling stock is normally positioned on a section of track with no other rolling stock coupled to it for the photograph. Sometimes the photograph was further processed to reduce the contrast of or even entirely remove the background to further highlight the rolling stock that was photographed.

Many builder's photos can be seen throughout the Classic Streamliners site.

A builder's photo of a sugarcane car built by Gregg Company and used in an advertisement for the manufacturer. The background was removed from the photograph before it was used in the advertisement.

A builder's photo of a sugarcane car built by Gregg Company and used in an advertisement for the manufacturer.
Shop for Trains and Railroad Collectibles on eBay
Shop for Railroad and Train Collectibles on eBay