Calm waters fill the foreground of the image, action takes place in the middle ground, and an empty sky fills the upper third of this print. William Rau often used such a three-part arrangement in his formally composed photographs.
Though the purpose of the photograph was to document the Lehigh Valley Railroad's coal piers, an engineering innovation, Rau also captured two sailing vessels. On the left, a small boat moves away from the shore. On the right, the three tall masts of a larger docked ship extend past the top of the coal pier. While it illustrates the new, mechanized form of transportation that evolved during the industrial revolution, the image also presents a traditional form of sea travel.