By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Notes on Railroad Accidents
Author: Adams, Charles Francis
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Notes on Railroad Accidents" ***

produced from images generously made available by The
Internet Archive)

Transcriber's Note:

Italic text is denoted by _underscores_ and bold text by
=equal signs=.

Small capital text has been replaced with all capitals.

Minor typographical and punctuation errors have been corrected
without note. Irregularities and inconsistencies in the text have
been retained as printed.

Mismatched quotes are not fixed if it's not sufficiently clear where
the missing quote should be placed.

[Illustration: cover]

[Illustration: title page]












  CHAPTER.                                   PAGE.

     I THE DEATH OF MR. HUSKISSON                3


   III THE WOLLASTON ACCIDENT                   20



    VI THE VERSAILLES ACCIDENT                  58

   VII TELEGRAPHIC COLLISIONS                   66

  VIII OIL-TANK ACCIDENTS                       72

    IX DRAW-BRIDGE DISASTERS                    82

     X THE NORWALK ACCIDENT                     89

    XI BRIDGE ACCIDENTS                         98

   XII THE PROTECTION OF BRIDGES               111


   XIV THE REVERE CATASTROPHE                  125

    XV REAR-END COLLISIONS                     144

    XVI NOVEL APPLIANCES                       153


  XVIII INTERLOCKING                           182

    XIX THE WESTINGHOUSE BRAKE                 199

     XX THE BATTLE OF THE BRAKES               216

           DEATH                               230

   XXII THE RAILROAD DEATH-RATE                241

           RAILROAD ACCIDENTS                  250


This volume makes no pretence whatever of being either an exhaustive
or a scientific study of the subject to which it relates. It is,
on the contrary, merely what its title signifies,--a collection of
notes on railroad accidents. In the course of ten years service as
one of the railroad commissioners of Massachusetts, I was called
upon officially to investigate two very serious disasters,--that
at Revere in 1871, and that at Wollaston in 1878,--besides many
others less memorable. In connection with these official duties I
got together by degrees a considerable body of information, which
I was obliged to extract as best I could from newspapers and other
contemporaneous sources. I have felt the utmost hesitation in
publishing so crude and imperfect a performance, but finally decide
to do so for the reason that, so far as I know, there is nothing
relating to this subject in print in an accessible form, and it
would, therefore, seem that these notes may have a temporary value.

During my term of public service, also, there have been four
appliances, either introduced into use or now struggling for
American recognition, my sense of the value of which, in connection
with the railroad system, to both the traveling and general public,
I could not easily overstate. These appliances are the MILLER
and ELECTRIC SIGNAL SYSTEMS. To bring these into more general use
through reports on railroad accidents as they occurred was one
great aim with me throughout my official life. I am now not without
hopes that the printing of this volume may tend to still further
familiarize the public with these inventions, and thus hasten their
more general adoption.

  C. F. A. JR.

  _Quincy, October 1, 1879._




It is a melancholy fact that there are few things of which either
nature or man is, as a rule, more lavish than human life;--provided
always that the methods used in extinguishing it are customary
and not unduly obtrusive on the sight and nerves. As a necessary
consequence of this wastefulness, it follows also that the results
which ordinarily flow from the extinguishment of the individual
life are pitiably small. Any person curious to satisfy himself as
to the truth of either or both of these propositions can do so
easily enough by visiting those frequent haunts in which poverty and
typhoid lurk in company; or yet more easily by a careful study of
the weekly bills of mortality of any great city. Indeed, compared
with the massive battalions daily sacrificed in the perpetual
conflict which mankind seems forever doomed to wage against
intemperance, bad sewerage and worse ventilation, the victims of
regular warfare by sea and land count as but single spies. The worst
of it is, too, that if the blood of the martyrs thus profusely
spilled is at all the seed of the church, it is a seed terribly
slow of germination. Each step in the slow progress is a Golgotha.

In the case of railroad disasters, however, a striking exception is
afforded to this rule. The victims of these, at least, do not lose
their lives without great and immediate compensating benefits to
mankind. After each new "horror," as it is called, the whole world
travels with an appreciable increase of safety. Both by public
opinion and the courts of law the companies are held to a most rigid
responsibility. The causes which led to the disaster are anxiously
investigated by ingenious men, new appliances are invented, new
precautions are imposed, a greater and more watchful care is
inculcated. And hence it has resulted that each year, and in obvious
consequence of each fresh catastrophe, travel by rail has become
safer and safer, until it has been said, and with no inconsiderable
degree of truth too, that the very safest place into which a man can
put himself is the inside of a first-class railroad carriage on a
train in full motion.

The study of railroad accidents is, therefore, the furthest possible
from being a useless one, and a record of them is hardly less
instructive than interesting. If carried too far it is apt, as
matter for light reading, to become somewhat monotonous; though,
none the less, about these, as about everything else, there is
an almost endless variety. Even in the forms of sudden death on
the rail, nature seems to take a grim delight in an infinitude of



With a true dramatic propriety, the ghastly record, which
has since grown so long, began with the opening of the first
railroad,--literally on the very morning which finally ushered
the great system into existence as a successfully accomplished
fact, the eventful 15th of September, 1830,--the day upon which
the Manchester & Liverpool railroad was formally opened. That
opening was a great affair. A brilliant party, consisting of the
directors of the new enterprise and their invited guests, was to
pass over the road from Liverpool to Manchester, dine at the latter
place and return to Liverpool in the afternoon. Their number was
large and they filled eight trains of carriages, drawn by as many
locomotives. The Duke of Wellington, then prime minister, was the
most prominent personage there, and he with his party occupied the
state car, which was drawn by the locomotive _Northumbrian_, upon
which George Stephenson himself that day officiated as engineer. The
road was laid with double tracks, and the eight trains proceeded in
two parallel columns, running side by side and then again passing
or falling behind each other. The Duke's train gaily led the race,
while in a car of one of the succeeding trains was Mr. William
Huskisson, then a member of Parliament for Liverpool and eminent
among the more prominent public men of the day as a financier and
economist. He had been very active in promoting the construction of
the Manchester & Liverpool road, and now that it was completed he
had exerted himself greatly to make its opening a success worthy
an enterprise the far-reaching consequences of which he was among
the few to appreciate. All the trains had started promptly from
Liverpool, and had proceeded through a continued ovation until at
eleven o'clock they had reached Parkside, seventeen miles upon
their journey, where it had been arranged that the locomotives
were to replenish their supplies of water. As soon as the trains
had stopped, disregarding every caution against their so doing,
the excited and joyous passengers left their carriages and mingled
together, eagerly congratulating one another upon the unalloyed
success of the occasion. Mr. Huskisson, though in poor health and
somewhat lame, was one of the most excited of the throng, and among
the first to thus expose himself. Presently he caught the eye of the
Duke of Wellington, standing at the door of his carriage. Now it so
happened that for some time previous a coolness had existed between
the two public men, the Duke having as premier, with the military
curtness for which he was famed, dismissed Mr. Huskisson from the
cabinet of which he had been a member, without, as was generally
considered, any sufficient cause, and in much the same way that he
might have sent to the right-about some member of his staff whose
performance of his duty was not satisfactory to him. There had in
fact been a most noticeable absence of courtesy in that ministerial
crisis. The two now met face to face for the first time since the
breach between them had taken place, and the Duke's manner evinced
a disposition to be conciliatory, which was by no means usual
with that austere soldier. Mr. Huskisson at once responded to the
overture, and, going up to the door of the state carriage, he and
his former chief shook hands and then entered into conversation.
As they were talking, the Duke seated in his car and Mr. Huskisson
standing between the tracks, the _Rocket_ locomotive--the same
famous _Rocket_ which a year previous had won the five hundred
pounds prize, and by so doing established forever the feasibility
of rapid steam locomotion--came along upon the other track to
take its place at the watering station. It came up slowly and so
silently that its approach was hardly noticed; until, suddenly, an
alarm was given, and, as every one immediately ran to resume his
place, some commotion naturally ensued. In addition to being lame,
Mr. Huskisson seemed also under these circumstances to be quite
agitated, and, instead of quietly standing against the side of the
carriage and allowing the _Rocket_ to pass, he nervously tried to
get around the open carriage door, which was swinging out across
the space between the two tracks in such a way that the approaching
locomotive struck it, flinging it back and at the same time throwing
Mr. Huskisson down. He fell on his face in the open space between
the tracks, but with his left leg over the inner of the two rails
upon which the _Rocket_ was moving, so that one of its wheels ran
obliquely up the limb to the thigh, crushing it shockingly. As if to
render the distressing circumstances of the catastrophe complete, it
so happened that the unfortunate man had left his wife's side when
he got out of his carriage, and now he had been flung down before
her eyes as he sought to reënter it. He was immediately raised, but
he knew that his hurt was mortal and his first exclamation was,
"I have met my death!" He was at once placed on one of the state
carriages, to which the _Northumbrian_ locomotive was attached,
and in twenty-five minutes was carried to Eccles, a distance of
seventeen miles, where medical assistance was obtained. He was far
beyond its reach, however, and upon the evening of the same day,
before his companions of the morning had completed their journey,
he was dead. Some time after this accident a great public dinner
was given at Liverpool in honor of the new enterprise. Brougham was
then at the height of an unbounded popularity and just taking the
fatal step of his life, which led him out of the House of Commons to
the wool-sack and the Lords. Among the excursionists of the opening
day he had on the 16th, occasion to write a brief note to Macvey
Napier, editor of the _Edinburgh Review_, in which he thus alluded
to the fatal accident which had marred its pleasure:--"I have come
to Liverpool only to see a tragedy. Poor Huskisson is dead, or must
die before to-morrow. He has been killed by a steam carriage. The
folly of seven hundred people going fifteen miles an hour, in six
carriages, exceeds belief. But they have paid a dear price." He
was one of the guests at the subsequent dinner, and made a speech
in which there was one passage of such exquisite oratorical skill,
that to read it is still a pleasure. In it he at once referred to
the wonders of the system just inaugurated, and to the catastrophe
which had saddened its opening observances. "When," he said, "I
saw the difficulties of space, as it were, overcome; when I beheld
a kind of miracle exhibited before my astonished eyes; when I saw
the rocks excavated and the gigantic power of man penetrating
through miles of the solid mass, and gaining a great, a lasting, an
almost perennial conquest over the powers of nature by his skill
and industry; when I contemplated all this, was it possible for
me to avoid the reflections which crowded into my mind, not in
praise of man's great success, not in admiration of the genius and
perseverance he had displayed, or even of the courage he had shown
in setting himself against the obstacles that matter afforded to his
course--no! but the melancholy reflection, that these prodigious
efforts of the human race, so fruitful of praise but so much more
fruitful of lasting blessings to mankind, have forced a tear from my
eye by that unhappy casualty which deprived me of a friend and you
of a representative!"

Though wholly attributable to his own carelessness, the death of so
prominent a character as Mr. Huskisson, on such an occasion, could
not but make a deep impression on the public mind. The fact that
the dying man was carried seventeen miles in twenty-five minutes
in search of rest and medical aid, served rather to stimulate the
vague apprehension which thereafter for a time associated itself
with the new means of transportation, and converted it into a
dangerous method of carriage which called for no inconsiderable
display of nerve on the part of those using it. Indeed, as respects
the safety of travel by rail there is an edifying similarity between
the impressions which prevailed in England forty-five years ago and
those which prevail in China now; for, when as recently as 1875 it
was proposed to introduce railroads into the Celestial Empire, a
vigorous native protest was fulminated against them, in which, among
other things scarcely less astounding, it was alleged that "in all
countries where railroads exist they are considered a very dangerous
mode of locomotion, and, beyond those who have very urgent business
to transact, no one thinks of using them."

On this subject, however, of the dangers incident to journeys by
rail, a writer of nearly half a century back, who has left us one
of the earliest descriptions of the Manchester & Liverpool road,
thus reassured the public of those days, with a fresh quaintness
of style which lends a present value to his words: "The occurrence
of accidents is not so frequent as might be imagined, as the great
weight of the carriages" (they weighed about one-tenth part as
much as those now in use in America) "prevents them from easily
starting off the rails; and so great is the momentum acquired by
these heavy loads moving with such rapidity, that they easily pass
over considerable obstacles. Even in those melancholy accidents
where loss of life has been sustained, the bodies of the unfortunate
sufferers, though run over by the wheels, have caused little
irregularity in the motion, and the passengers in the carriages have
not been sensible that any impediment has been encountered on the

Indeed, from the time of Mr. Huskisson's death, during a period of
over eleven years, railroads enjoyed a remarkable and most fortunate
exemption from accidents. During all that time there did not occur
a single disaster resulting in any considerable loss of life; an
immunity which seems to have been due to a variety of causes.
Those early roads were, in the first place, remarkably well and
thoroughly built, and were very cautiously operated under a light
volume of traffic. The precautions then taken and the appliances in
use would, it is true, strike the modern railroad superintendent as
both primitive and comical; for instance, they involved the running
of independent pilot locomotives in advance of all night passenger
trains. Through all the years between 1830 and 1841, nevertheless,
not a single really serious railroad disaster had to be recorded.
This happy exemption was, however, quite as much due to good fortune
as to anything else, as was well illustrated in the first accident
at all serious in its character, which occurred,--an accident in its
every circumstance, except loss of life, almost an exact parallel to
the famous Revere disaster which happened nearly forty years later
in Massachusetts. It chanced on the Manchester & Liverpool Railway
on December 23, 1832. The second-class morning train had stopped
at the Rainhill station to take in passengers, when those upon it
heard through the dense fog another train, which had left Manchester
forty-five minutes later, coming towards them at a high rate of
speed. When it first became visible it was but one hundred and fifty
yards off, and a collision was inevitable. Those in charge of the
stationary train, however, succeeded in getting it under a slight
headway, and in so much diminished the shock of the collision; but,
notwithstanding, the last five carriages were injured, the one at
the end being totally demolished. Though quite a number of the
passengers were cut and bruised, and several were severely hurt, one
only, strange to say, was killed.

Indeed, the luck--for it was nothing else--of those earlier times
was truly amazing. Thus on this same Manchester & Liverpool road,
as a first-class train on the morning of April 17, 1836, was moving
at a speed of some thirty miles an hour, an axle broke under the
first passenger coach, causing the whole train to leave the track
and throwing it down the embankment, which at that point was twenty
feet high. The cars were rolled over, and the passengers in them
tumbled about topsy-turvey; nor, as they were securely locked in,
could they even extricate themselves when at last the wreck of
the train reached firm bearings. And yet no one was killed. Here
the corporation was saved by one chance in a thousand, and its
almost miraculous good fortune has since received numerous and
terrible illustrations. Among these two are worthy of a more than
passing mention. They happened one in America and one in England,
though with some interval of time between them, and are curious
as illustrating very forcibly the peculiar dangers to which those
travelling by rail in the two countries are subjected under almost
precisely similar circumstances. The American accident referred to
was that popularly known on account of its exceptionally harrowing
details as the "Angola horror," of December 18, 1867, while the
English accident was that which occurred at Shipton-on-Cherwell on
December 24, 1874.



On the day of the Angola accident the eastern bound express train
over the Lake Shore road, as it was then called, consisted of a
locomotive, four baggage, express and mail cars, an emigrant and
three first-class passenger coaches. It was timed to pass Angola, a
small way station in the extreme western part of New York, at 1.30
P.M., without stopping; but on the day in question it was two hours
and forty-five minutes late, and was consequently running rapidly.
A third of a mile east of the station there is a shallow stream,
known as Big Sister creek, flowing in the bottom of a ravine the
western side of which rises abruptly to the level of the track,
while on the eastern side there is a gradual ascent of some forty
or fifty rods. This ravine was spanned by a deck bridge of 160
feet in length, at the east end of which was an abutment of mason
work some fifty feet long connecting with an embankment beyond.
It subsequently appeared that the forward axle in the rear truck
of the rear car was slightly bent. The defect was not perceptible
to the eye, but in turning round the space between the flanges of
the wheels of that axle varied by three-fourths of an inch. As long
as the car was travelling on an unbroken track, or as long as the
wheels did not strike any break in the track at their narrowest
point, this slight bend in the axle was of no consequence. There was
a frog in the track, however, at a distance of 600 feet east of the
Angola station, and it so happened that a wheel of the defective
axle struck this frog in such a way as to make it jump the track.
The rear car was instantly derailed. From the frog to the bridge was
some 1200 feet. With the appliances then in use the train could not
be stopped in this space, and the car was dragged along over the
ties, swaying violently from side to side. Just before the bridge
was reached the car next to the last was also thrown from the track,
and in this way, and still moving at considerable speed, the train
went onto the bridge. It was nearly across when the last car toppled
off and fell on the north side close to the abutment. The car next
to the rear, more fortunate, was dragged some 270 feet further, so
that when it broke loose it simply slid some thirty feet down the
embankment. Though this car was badly wrecked, but a single person
in it was killed. His death was a very singular one. Before the
car separated from the train, its roof broke in two transversely;
through the fissure thus made this unfortunate passenger was partly
flung, and it then instantly closed upon him.

The other car had fallen fifty feet, and remained resting on its
side against the abutment with one end inclined sharply downward. It
was mid-winter and cold, and, as was the custom then, the car was
heated by two iron stoves, placed one at each end, in which wood was
burned. It was nearly full of passengers. Naturally they all sprang
from their seats in terror and confusion as their car left the
rails, so that when it fell from the bridge and violently struck on
one of its ends, they were precipitated in an inextricable mass upon
one of the overturned stoves, while the other fell upon them from
above. A position more horrible could hardly be imagined. Few, if
any, were probably killed outright. Some probably were suffocated;
the greatest number were undoubtedly burned to death. Of those in
that car three only escaped; forty-one are supposed to have perished.

This was a case of derailment aggravated by fire. It is safe to say
that with the improved appliances since brought into use, it would
be most unlikely to now occur under precisely the same circumstances
on any well-equipped or carefully operated road. Derailments, of
course, by broken axles or wheels are always possible, but the
catastrophe at Angola was primarily due to the utter inability of
those on the train to stop it, or even greatly to check its speed
within any reasonable distance. Before it finally stood still the
locomotive was half a mile from the frog and 1,500 feet from the
bridge. Thus, when the rear cars were off the track, the speed
and distance they were dragged gave them a lateral and violently
swinging motion, which led to the final result. Though under similar
circumstances now this might not happen, there is no reason why,
circumstances being varied a little, the country should not again
during any winter day be shocked by another Angola sacrifice.
Certainly, so far as the danger from fire is concerned, it is an
alarming fact that it is hardly less in 1879 than it was in 1867.
This accumulative horror is, too, one of the distinctive features
of American railroad accidents. In other countries holocausts like
those at Versailles in 1842 and at Abergele in 1868 have from time
to time taken place. They are, however, occasioned in other ways,
and, as their occurrence is not regularly challenged by the most
risky possible of interior heating apparatus, are comparatively
infrequent. The passenger coaches used on this side of the Atlantic,
with their light wood-work heavily covered with paint and varnish,
are at best but tinder-boxes. The presence in them of stoves,
hardly fastened to the floor and filled with burning wood and coal,
involves a degree of risk which no one would believe ever could
willingly be incurred, but for the fact that it is. No invention yet
appears to have wholly met the requirements of the case. That they
will be met, and the fearful possibility which now hangs over the
head of every traveller by rail, that he may suddenly find himself
doomed without possibility of escape to be roasted alive, will be at
least greatly reduced hardly admits of question.

Turning now from the American to the English accident, it is
singular to note how under very similar circumstances much the same
fatality resulted from wholly different causes. It happened on the
day immediately preceding Christmas, and every train which at that
holiday season leaves London is densely packed, for all England
seems then to gather away from its cities to the country hearths.
Accordingly, the ten o'clock London express on the Great Western
Railway, when it left Oxford that morning, was made up of no less
than fifteen passenger carriages and baggage vans, drawn by two
powerful locomotives and containing nearly three hundred passengers.
About seven miles north of Oxford, as the train, moving at a speed
of some thirty to forty miles an hour, was rounding a gentle curve
in the approach to the bridge over the little river Cherwell, the
tire of one of the wheels of the passenger coach next behind the
locomotive broke, throwing it off the track. For a short distance
it was dragged along in its place; but almost immediately those in
charge of the locomotives noticed that something was wrong, and,
most naturally and with the very best of intensions, they instantly
did the very worst thing which under the circumstances it was in
their power to do,--they applied their brakes and reversed their
engines; their single thought was to stop the train. With the train
equipped as it was, however, had these men, instead of crowding on
their brakes and reversing their engines, simply shut off their
steam and by a gentle application of the brakes checked the speed
gradually and so as to avoid any strain on the couplings, the
carriages would probably have held together and remained upon the
road-bed. Instead of this, however, the sudden checking of the two
ponderous locomotives converted them into an anvil, as it were, upon
which the unfortunate leading carriage already off the rails was
crushed under the weight and impetus of those behind it. The train
instantly zig-zagged in every direction under the pressure, the
couplings which connected it together snapping, and the carriages,
after leaving the rails to the right and left and running down the
embankment of about thirteen feet in height, came to a stand-still
at last, several of them in the reverse order from that which they
had held while in the train. The first carriage was run over and
completely destroyed; the five rear ones were left alone upon the
road-bed, and of these two only were on the rails; of the ten which
went down the embankment, two were demolished. In this disaster
thirty-four passengers lost their lives, and sixty-five others,
besides four employés of the company, were injured.

At the time it occurred the Shipton accident was the subject
of a good deal of discussion, and both the brake system and
method of car construction in use on English roads were sharply
criticised. It was argued, and apparently with much reason, that
had the "locomotives and cars been equipped with the continuous
train-brakes so generally in use in America, the action of the
engine drivers would have checked at the same instant the speed of
each particular car, and probably any serious accident would have
been averted." Yet it required another disaster, not so fatal as
that at Shipton-on-Cherwell but yet sufficiently so, to demonstrate
that this was true only in a limited degree,--to further illustrate
and enforce the apparently obvious principle that, no matter how
heavy the construction may be, or what train-brake is in use, to
insure safety the proportion between the resisting strength of
car construction and the train-weight momentum to which it may be
subjected must be carefully preserved.

On this point of the resisting power of modern car construction,
indeed, it seemed as if a result had been reached which did away
with the danger of longitudinal crushing. Between 1873 and 1878 a
series of accidents had occurred on the American roads of which
little was heard at the time for the simple reason that they
involved no loss of life,--they belonged in the great category of
possible disasters which might have happened, had they not been
prevented. Trains going in opposite directions and at full speed
had come in collision while rounding curves; trains had run into
earth-slides, and had been suddenly stopped by derailment; in every
such case, however, the Westinghouse brake and the Miller car
construction had, when in use, proved equal to the emergency and
the passengers on the trains had escaped uninjured. The American
mechanic had accordingly grown firm in his belief that, so far as
any danger from the crushing of cars was concerned,--unless indeed
they were violently thrown down an embankment or precipitated into
an abyss,--the necessary resisting strength had been secured and the
problem practically solved. That such was not the case in America
in 1878 any more than in England in 1875, except within certain
somewhat narrow limits, was unexpectedly proven by a disaster which
occurred at Wollaston near Boston, on the Old Colony road, upon the
evening of October 8, 1878.



A large party of excursionists were returning from a rowing match
on a special train consisting of two locomotives and twenty-one
cars. There had been great delay in getting ready for the return,
so that when it neared Wollaston the special was much behind the
time assigned for it. Meanwhile a regular freight train had left
Boston, going south and occupying the outward track. At Wollaston
those in charge of this train had occasion to stop for the purpose
of taking up some empty freight cars, which were standing on a
siding at that place; and to reach this siding it was necessary
for them to cross the inward track, temporarily disconnecting
it. The freight train happened to be short-handed, and both its
conductor and engineer supposed that the special had reached Boston
before they had started out. Accordingly, in direct violation of
the rules of the road and with a negligence which admitted of no
excuse, they disconnected the inward track in both directions and
proceeded to occupy it in the work of shunting, without sending out
any signals or taking any precautions to protect themselves or any
incoming train. It was after dark, and, though the switches were
supplied with danger signals, these were obscured by the glare of
the locomotive head-light. Under these circumstances the special
neared the spot. What ensued was a curious illustration of those
narrow escapes through which, by means of improved appliances or
by good luck, railroad accidents do not happen; and an equally
curious illustration of those trifling derangements which now and
again bring them about. In this case there was no collision, though
a freight train was occupying the inward track in front of the
special. There should have been no derailment, though the track was
broken at two points. There would have been no accident, had there
been no attempt made to avert one. Seeing the head-light of the
approaching special, while yet it was half a mile off, the engineer
of the freight train realizing the danger had put on all steam, and
succeeded, though by a very narrow margin, in getting his locomotive
and all the cars attached to it off of the inward track and onto the
outward, out of the way of the special. The inward track was thus
clear, though broken at two points. The switches at those points
were, however, of the safety pattern, and, if they were left alone
and did their work, the special would simply leave the main track
and pass into the siding, and there be stopped. Unfortunately the
switches were not left alone. The conductor of the freight train
had caught sight of the head-light of the approaching locomotive at
about the same time as the engineer of that train. He seems at once
to have realized the possible consequences of his reckless neglect
of precautions, and his one thought was to do something to avert
the impending disaster. In a sort of dazed condition, he sprang
from the freight car on which he was standing and ran to the lever
of the siding switch, which he hastened to throw. He apparently did
not have time enough within perhaps five seconds. Had he succeeded
in throwing it, the train would have gone on to Boston, those upon
it simply knowing from the jar they had received in passing over
the first frog that a switch had been set wrong. Had he left it
alone, the special would have passed into the siding and there
been stopped. As it was, the locomotive of the special struck the
castings of the switch just when it was half thrown--at the second
when it was set neither the one way nor the other--and the wreck
followed. It was literally the turning of a hand.

As it approached the point where the disaster occurred the special
train was running at a moderate rate of speed, not probably
exceeding twenty miles an hour. The engineer of its leading
locomotive also perceived his danger in time to signal it and
to reverse his engine while yet 700 feet from the point where
derailment took place. The train-brake was necessarily under the
control of the engineer of the second locomotive, but the danger
signal was immediately obeyed by him, his locomotive reversed
and the brake applied. The train was, however, equipped with the
ordinary Westinghouse, and not the improved automatic or self-acting
brake of that name. That is, it depended for its efficiency on
the perfectness of its parts, and, in case the connecting tubes
were broken or the valves deranged, the brake-blocks did not close
upon the wheels, as they do under the later improvements made by
Westinghouse in his patents, but at best remained only partially
set, or in such positions as they were when the parts of the
brake were broken. As is perfectly well understood, the original
Westinghouse does not work quickly or effectively through more than
a certain number of cars. Twelve is generally regarded as the limit
of practical simultaneous action. The 700 feet of interval between
the point where the brakes were applied and that where the accident
occurred,--a distance which, at the rate at which the train was
moving, it could hardly have passed over in less than twenty-two
seconds,--should have afforded an ample space within which to stop
the train. When the derailment took place, however, it was still
moving at a considerable rate of speed. Both locomotives, the
baggage car and six following passenger cars left the rails. The
locomotives, after going a short distance, swung off to the left
and toppled over, presenting an insuperable barrier to the direct
movement of the cars following.

Those cars were of the most approved form of American construction,
but here, as at Shipton, the violent application of the train-brakes
and reversal of the locomotives had greatly checked the speed of the
forward part of the train, while the whole rear of it, comparatively
free from brake pressure, was crowding heavily forward. Including
its living freight, the entire weight of the train could not have
been less than 500 tons. There was no slack between its parts; no
opportunity to give. It was a simple question of the resisting power
of car construction. Had the train consisted of ten cars instead
of twenty-two a recent experience of a not dissimilar accident on
this very road affords sufficient evidence of how different the
result would have been. On the occasion referred to,--October 13,
1876,--a train consisting of two locomotives and fourteen cars,
while rounding a curve before the Randolph station at a speed of
thirty miles an hour came in sudden collision with the locomotive
of a freight train which was occupying the track, and while doing
so, in that case also as at Wollaston, had wholly neglected to
protect it. So short was the notice of danger that the speed of
the passenger train could not at the moment of collision have
been less than twenty miles an hour. The freight train was at the
moment fortunately backing, but none the less it was an impassable
obstacle. The three locomotives were entirely thrown from the track
and more or less broken up, and three cars of the passenger train
followed them, but the rest of it remained in line and on the rails,
and was so entirely uninjured that it was not found necessary to
withdraw one of the cars from service for even a single trip. Not a
passenger was hurt. This train consisted of fourteen cars: but at
Wollaston, the fourteen forward cars were, after the head of the
train was derailed, driven onward not only by their own momentum but
also by the almost unchecked momentum of eight other cars behind
them. The rear of the train did not leave the rails and was freely
moving along them. By itself it must have weighed over 200 tons.
The result was inevitable. Something had to yield; and the six
forward cars were accordingly either thrown wholly to the one side
or the other, or crushed between the two locomotives and the rear
of the train. Two of them in fact were reduced into a mere mass of
fragments. The disaster resulted in the death of 19 persons, while a
much greater number were injured, more than 50 seriously. In this as
in most other railroad disasters the surprising thing was that the
list of casualties was not larger. Looking at the position of the
two cars crushed into fragments it seemed almost impossible that any
person in them could have escaped alive. Indeed that they did so was
largely due to the fact that the season for car-warming had not yet
arrived, while, in some way impossible to explain, all four of the
men in charge of the locomotives, though flung violently through the
air into the trees and ditch at the side of the road were neither
stunned nor seriously injured. They were consequently able, as soon
as they could gather themselves up, to take the measures necessary
to extinguish the fires in their locomotives which otherwise would
speedly have spread to the _débris_ of the train. Had they not done
so nothing could have saved the large number of passengers confined
in the shattered cars.



The four accidents which have been referred to, including that of
April 17, 1836, upon the Manchester & Liverpool road, belong to one
class. Though they covered a period of forty-two years they were all
due to the same cause, the sudden derailment of a portion of the
train, and its subsequent destruction because of the insufficient
control of those in charge of it over its momentum. In the three
earlier cases the appliances in use were much the same, for between
1836 and 1874 hardly any improvement as respects brakes had either
forced its own way, or been forced by the government, into general
acceptance in Great Britain. The Wollaston disaster, on the other
hand, revealed a weak point in an improved appliance; the old
danger seemed, indeed, to take a sort of pleasure in baffling
human ingenuity. The Shipton accident, however, while one of the
most fatal which ever occurred was also one of the most fruitful
in results. This, and the accident of April 17, 1836, upon the
Manchester & Liverpool road were almost precisely similar, though no
less than thirty-eight years intervened between them. In the case
of the first, however, no one was killed and consequently it was
wholly barren of results; for experience has shown that to bring
about any considerable reform, railroad disasters have, as it were,
to be emphasized by loss of life. This, however, implies nothing
more than the assertion that those responsible for the management of
railroads do not differ from other men,--that they are apt, after
some hair-breadth escape, to bless their fortunate stars for the
present good rather than to take anxious heed for future dangers.

At the time the Shipton accident occurred the success of the modern
train-brake, which places the speed of each of the component parts
of the train under the direct and instantaneous control of him who
is in charge of the locomotive, had for years been conceded even
by the least progressive of American railroad managers. The want
of such a brake and the absence of proper means of communication
between the parts of the train had directly and obviously caused the
murderous destructiveness of the accident. Yet in the investigation
which ensued it appeared that the authorities of the Great Western
Railway, being eminently "practical men," still entertained as
respected the train-brake "very grave doubts of the wisdom of
adopting [it] at all;" while at the same time, as respected a means
of communication between the parts of the train, it appeared that
the associated general managers of the leading railways "did not
think that any [such] means of communication was at all required, or
likely to be useful or successful."

Though quite incomprehensible, there is at the same time something
superb in such an exhibition of stolid conservatism. It is British.
It is, however, open to but one description of argument, the _ultima
ratio_ of railroad logic. So long as luck averted the loss of
life in railroad disasters, no occasion would ever have been seen
for disturbing time-honored precautions or antiquated appliances.
While, how ever, a disaster like that of December 24, 1874, might
not convince, it did compel: in spite of professed "grave doubts,"
incredulity and conservatism vanished, silenced, at least, in
presence of so frightful a row of corpses as on that morning made
ghastly the banks of the Cherwell. The general, though painfully
slow and reluctant, introduction of train-brakes upon the railways
of Great Britain may be said to have dated from that event.

In the matter of communication between those in the train and those
in charge of it, the Shipton corpses chanced not to be witnesses
to the precise point. Accordingly their evidence was, so to speak,
ruled out of the case, and neither the utility nor the success of
any appliance for this purpose was held to be yet proven. What
further proof would be deemed conclusive did not appear, but the
history of the discussion before and since is not without value.
There is, indeed, something almost ludicrously characteristic in
the manner with which those interested in the railway management
of Great Britain strain at their gnats while they swallow their
camels. They have grappled with the great question of city travel
with a superb financial and engineering sagacity, which has left
all other communities hopelessly distanced; but, while carrying
their passengers under and over the ebb and flow of the Thames and
among the chimney pots of densest London to leave them on the very
steps of the Royal Exchange, they have never been able to devise any
satisfactory means for putting the traveller, in case of a disaster
to the carriage in which he happens to be, in communication with the
engine-driver of his train. An English substitute for the American
bell-cord has for more than thirty years set the ingenuity of Great
Britain at defiance.

As long ago as the year 1857, in consequence of two accidents to
trains by fires, a circular on this subject was issued to the
railway companies by the Board of Trade, in which it was stated
that "from the beginning of the year 1854, down to the present time
(December, 1857) there have been twenty-six cases in which either
the accidents themselves or some of the ulterior consequences of
the accidents would probably have been avoided had such a means of
communication existed."[1] As none of these accidents had resulted
in any considerable number of funerals the railway managers wholly
failed to see the propriety of this circular, or the necessity of
taking any steps in consequence of it. As, however, accidents from
this cause were still reported, and with increasing frequency, the
authorities in July, 1864, again bestirred themselves and issued
another circular in which it was stated that "several instances
have occurred of carriages having taken fire, or having been thrown
off the rails, the passengers in which had no means of making their
perilous situation known to the servants of the company in charge of
the train. Recent occurrences also of a criminal nature in passenger
railway trains have excited among the public a very general feeling
of alarm." The last reference was more particularly to the memorable
Briggs murder, which had taken place only a few days before on July
9th, and was then absorbing the public attention to the almost
entire exclusion of everything else.

  [1] The bell-cord in America, notwithstanding the theoretical
  objections which have been urged to its adoption in other countries,
  has proved such a simple and perfect protection against dangers
  from inability to communicate between portions of trains that
  accidents from this cause do not enter into the consideration of
  American railroad managers. Yet they do, now and again, occur. For
  instance, on February 28, 1874, a passenger coach in a west-bound
  accommodation train of the Great Western railroad of Canada took
  fire from the falling of a lamp in the closet at its forward end.
  The bell-cord was for some reason not connected with the locomotive,
  and the train ran two miles before it could be stopped. The coach
  in question was entirely destroyed and eight passengers were either
  burned or suffocated, while no less than thirteen others sustained
  injuries in jumping from the train.

As no better illustration than this can be found of the extreme
slowness with which the necessity for new railroad appliances is
recognized in cases where profit is not involved, and of the value
of wholesale slaughters, like those at Shipton and Angola, as a
species of motive force in the direction of progress, a digression
on the subject of English accidents due to the absence of bell-cords
may be not without value. In the opinion of the railway managers the
cases referred to by the Board of Trade officials failed to show
the existence of any necessity for providing means of communication
between portions of the train. A detailed statement of a few of
the cases thus referred to will not only be found interesting in
itself, but it will give some idea of the description of evidence
which is considered insufficient. The circumstances of the Briggs
murder, deeply interesting as they were, are too long for incidental
statement; this, however, is not the case with some of the other
occurrences. For instance, the Board of Trade circular was issued on
July 30th; on July 7th, a year earlier, the following took place on
the London & North Western road.

Two gentlemen took their seats at Liverpool in one of the
compartments of the express train to London. In it they found
already seated an elderly lady and a large, powerfully built
man, apparently Irish, respectably dressed, but with a lowering,
suspicious visage. Though one of the two gentlemen noticed this
peculiarity as he entered the carriage, he gave no thought to it,
but, going on with their conversation, he and his friend took their
seats, and in a few moments the train started. Scarcely was it out
of the station when the stranger changed his seat, placing himself
on the other side of the carriage, close to the window, and at the
same time, in a menacing way, incoherently muttering something to
himself. The other passengers looked at him, but felt no particular
alarm, and for a time he remained quietly in his seat. He then
suddenly sprang up, and, with a large clasp-knife in his hand,
rushed at one of the gentlemen, a Mr. Warland by name, and struck
him on the forehead, the knife sliding along the bone and inflicting
a frightful flesh wound. As he was in the act of repeating the blow,
Warland's companion thrust him back upon the seat. This seemed to
infuriate him, and starting to his feet he again tried to attack
the wounded man. A frightful struggle ensued. It was a struggle for
life, in a narrow compartment feebly lighted, for it was late at
night, on a train running at full speed and with no stopping place
for eighty miles. The passenger who had not been hurt clutched the
maniac by the throat with one hand and grasped his knife with the
other, but only to feel the blade drawn through his fingers, cutting
them to the bone. The unfortunate elderly woman, the remaining
occupant of the compartment, after screaming violently in her
terror for a few moments, fainted away and fell upon the floor.
The struggle nevertheless went on among the three men, until at
last, though blinded with blood and weak from its loss, the wounded
Mr. Warland got behind his assailant and threw him down, in which
position the two succeeded in holding him, he striking and stabbing
at both of them with his knife, shouting loudly all the time, and
desperately endeavoring to rise and throw them off. They finally,
however, got his knife away from him, and then kept him down until
the train at last drew up at Camdentown station. When the ticket
collector opened the compartment door at that place he found the
four passengers on the floor, the woman senseless and two of the
men holding the third, while the faces and clothing of all of them,
together with seats, floor, windows and sides of the carriage were
covered with blood or smeared with finger marks.

The assailant in this case, as it subsequently appeared upon his
commitment for an assault, was a schoolmaster who had come over
from Ireland to a competitive examination. He was insane, of
course, but before the magistrate he made a statement which had in
it something quite touching; he said that he saw the two gentlemen
talking together, and, as he thought, making motions towards him;
he believed them to be thieves who intended to rob him, and so he
thought that he could not do better than defend himself, "if only
for his dear little ones at home."

This took place before the Board of Trade circular was issued, but,
as if to give emphasis to it, a few days only after its issue, in
August, 1864, there was a not dissimilar occurrence in a third class
carriage between London and Peterborough. The running distance was
in this case eighty miles without a stop, and occupied generally an
hour and fifty minutes,--the rate being forty-three miles an hour.
In the compartment in question were five passengers, one of whom,
a tall powerful fellow, was dressed like a sailor. The train was
hardly out of London when this man, after searching his pockets for
a moment, cried out that he had been robbed of his purse containing
£17, and began violently to shout and gesticulate. He then tried
to clamber through the window, getting his body and one leg out,
and when his fellow passengers, catching hold of his other leg,
succeeded in hauling him back, he turned savagely upon them and
a desperate struggle ensued. At last he was gotten down by main
force and bound to a seat. Meanwhile, notwithstanding the speed at
which they were running, the noise of the struggle was heard in
the adjoining compartments, and almost frantic efforts were made
to stop the train. Word was passed from carriage to carriage for a
short distance, but it proved impossible to communicate with the
guard, or to do anything but thoroughly alarm the passengers. These
merely knew that something was the matter,--what, they could only
imagine,--and so the run to Peterborough was completed amid shouts
of "stop the train," interspersed with frantic female shrieks. The
man was suffering from _delirium tremens_.

About a year later, in December, 1865, a similar case occurred
which, however, had in it strong elements of the ludicrous. A
clergyman, laboring under great indignation and excitement, and
without the slightest sense of the ridiculous, recounted his
experience in a communication to the _Times_. He had found himself
alone in a compartment of an express train in which were also a
young lady and a man, both total strangers to him. Shortly after
the train started the man began to give unmistakable indications of
something wrong. He made no attempt at any violence on either of his
fellow passengers, but he was noisy, and presently he proceeded to
disrobe himself and otherwise to indulge in antics which were even
more indecent than they were extraordinary. The poor clergyman,--a
respected incumbent of the established church returning to the bosom
of his family,--was in a most distressing situation. At first he
attempted remonstrance. This, however, proved worse than unavailing,
and there was nothing for it but to have recourse to his umbrella,
behind the sheltering cover of which he protected the modesty of
the young lady, while over its edges he himself from time to time
effected observations through an apparently interminable journey of
forty and more miles.

These and numerous other cases of fires, murders, assaults and
indecencies had occurred and filled the columns of the newspapers,
without producing the slightest effect on the managers of the
railway companies. No attention was paid by them to the Board of
Trade circulars. At last Parliament took the matter up and in 1868
an act was passed, making compulsory some "efficient means of
communication between the passenger and the servants of the company
in charge" of railroad trains. Yet when six years later in 1874 the
Shipton accident occurred, and was thought to be in some degree
attributable to the absence of the very means of communication
thus made compulsory, it appeared, as has been seen, that the
associated general managers did not yet consider any such means of
communication either required or likely to be useful.

Meanwhile, as if in ironical comment on such measured utterances,
occurrences like the following, which took place as recently as the
early part of 1878, from time to time still meet the eye in the
columns of the English press:--

     "A burglar was being taken in a third-class carriage from
     London to Sheffield. When about twelve miles from Sheffield
     he asked that the windows might be opened. This was no sooner
     done than he took a dive out through the aperture. One of the
     warders succeeded in catching him by a foot, and for two miles
     he hung head downward suspended by one foot and making terrific
     struggles to free himself. In vain he wriggled, for although his
     captors were unable to catch the other foot, both held him as in
     a vise. But he wore spring-sided boots, and the one on which his
     fate seemingly depended came off. The burglar fell heavily on
     the foot-board of the carriage and rolled off on the railway.
     Three miles further on the train stopped, and the warders went
     back to the scene of the escape. Here they found him in the
     snow bleeding from a wound on the head. During the time he was
     struggling with the warders the warder who had one hand free and
     the passengers of the other compartments who were witnessing
     the scene from the windows of the train were indefatigable in
     their efforts to attract the attention of the guards by means of
     the communication cord, but with no result. For two miles the
     unfortunate man hung head downward, and for three miles further
     the train ran until it stopped at an ordinary resting place."

A single further example will more than sufficiently illustrate
this instance of British railroad conservatism, and indicate the
tremendous nature of the pressure which has been required to even
partially force the American bell-cord into use in that country. One
day, in the latter part of 1876, a Mr. A. J. Ellis of Liverpool had
occasion to go to Chester. On his way there he had an experience
with a lunatic, which he subsequently recounted before a magistrate
as follows:--

     "On Friday last I took the 10.35 A.M., train from Lime Street in
     a third-class carriage, my destination being Chester. At Edge
     Hill Station the prisoner and another man, whom I afterward
     understood to be the prisoner's father, got into the same
     compartment, no one else being in the same compartment. The
     other person was much under the influence of drink when he
     entered, and was very noisy during the journey. The prisoner
     had the appearance of having been drinking, but was quiet. I
     sat with my back to the engine, on the getting-out side of the
     carriage; prisoner was sitting on the opposite side, with his
     right arm to the window, and the other person was sitting on
     the same side as prisoner, about the middle of the seat. I was
     engaged reading, and did not exchange words with the prisoner.

     "After we had passed over Runcorn bridge and through the
     station, I perceived the prisoner make a start, and looking
     toward him saw a white-hafted knife in his hand, about five
     inches long, with the blade open. He held it in his right hand
     in a menacing manner. Drawing his left hand along the edge of
     the blade, he said, "This will have to go into some ----." At
     that moment he looked at me across the carriage; he was on his
     feet in an instant, and looking across to me, he said, "You
     ----, this will have to go into you," and made a bound toward
     me. The other jumped up and tried to prevent him. The prisoner
     threw him away; he made a plunge at my throat. I caught his
     wrist just as he advanced, and struggled with him, still holding
     fast to his wrist with both hands. We fell over and under one
     another two or three times, and eventually he overpowered me. I
     had fallen on my side on the seat, but still retained my hold
     upon his wrist. While lying in that position he held the knife
     down to within an inch of my throat. I called to the other man
     to hold the prisoner's hand back which contained the knife, and
     by that means he saved my life. I was growing powerless, and as
     the other man restrained the prisoner from using the knife, I
     jerked myself from his grasp, and knocked the knife out of the
     prisoner's hand with my left hand.

     "The prisoner eluded the grip of his father, and falling on his
     knees began to seek for his knife. Failing to find the knife,
     he was instantly on his feet, and made a spring upon me. If I
     recollect aright, he threw his arms around my neck, and in this
     manner we struggled together up and down the carriage for some
     minutes, during which time he got my left thumb (with a glove on
     at the time) in his mouth, and bit it. Still retaining my thumb
     in his mouth, the other man struck him under the chin, when he
     released it, and fell on his knees seeking the knife, which
     he did not find. He was immediately on his feet, and again
     made a spring upon me. We had then a very long and desperate
     struggle, when he overpowered me and pinned me in a corner of
     the compartment. At last he got my right thumb into his mouth,
     holding my hand to steady it with both his hands while he bit
     it. With a great effort he then bit my thumb off, clean to the
     bone. I had no glove on that hand. I called to the other man to
     help me, but he seemed stupefied. He called two or three times
     to the prisoner, 'Leave the poor man alone. The poor man has
     done thee no harm.' Though sitting within nine inches of my
     knees he rendered me no help.

     "When the prisoner bit my thumb off, he held it in his mouth; he
     pushed his head through the glass, spat the thumb into his hand
     and flung it out through the window. I then stood up and put my
     left hand in my pocket, took out my purse and cried out: 'If it
     is money you want take all I have.' He made a grab at the purse
     and flung it through the window, on the same side as the thumb
     was thrown out. From this act I inferred that I was struggling
     with a maniac. I retreated to the other end of the compartment,
     holding the other man between me and the prisoner, but he passed
     the other man by jumping over the seat and again got hold of me.
     Then he forced his head through the other window, breaking the
     glass, and, loosing me for a moment, with his fists smashed the
     remaining glass in the window. Addressing me he said: 'You ----,
     you will have to go over;' at the same time he flung both his
     arms around my waist. I put my leg behind his and threw him on
     his back. I called upon the other man to help me and he did so.

     "We held him down for some time, but he overpowered us and flung
     us back some distance. He then laid hold of my travelling rug
     and threw it through the window. Laying his hand on the bottom
     of the window he cried out, 'Here goes,' and made a leap through
     the window. I and the other man instantly laid hold of his legs
     as he was falling over. I got my four fingers into his right
     shoe, and, his father assisting me, we held him through the
     window, hanging head downward for about half a mile. I then
     fainted, and as I was losing my hold on his heels I have some
     faint recollection that the prisoner's father lost his hold at
     the same time, and I can't say what happened afterward. As I was
     coming to myself the train was stopping, and I heard the other
     man say, 'Oh, my son, my son.' When the train stopped I walked
     from the carriage to the station, and Dr. Robinson, who was sent
     for, came in about an hour and amputated my thumb further back."

While thus referring, however, to this instance of British railroad
conservatism, which with a stolid indifference seems to ignore
the teachings of every day life and to meet constantly recurring
experience with a calm defiance, it will not do for the American
railroad manager to pride himself too much on his own greater
ingenuity and more amenable disposition. The Angola disaster has
been referred to, as well as that at Shipton. If the absence of
the bell-cord had indeed any part in the fatality of the latter,
the presence in cars crowded with passengers of iron pots full of
living fire lent horrors before almost unheard of to the former.
The methods of accomplishing needed results which are usual to any
people are never easily changed, whether in Europe or in America;
but certainly the disasters which have first and last ensued from
the failure to devise any safe means of heating passenger coaches
in this country are out of all proportion to those which can be
attributed in England to the absence of means of communication
between the passengers on trains and those in charge of them. There
is an American conservatism as well as an English; and when it comes
to a question of running risks it would be strange indeed if the
greater margin of security were found west of the Atlantic. The
security afforded by the bell-cord assuredly has not as yet in this
country off-set the danger incident to red-hot stoves.



The period of exemption from wholesale railroad slaughters referred
to in a previous chapter and which fortunately marked the early days
of the system, seems to have lasted some eleven years. The record of
great catastrophes opened on the Great Western railway of England,
and it opened also, curiously enough, upon the 24th of December, a
day which seems to have been peculiarly unfortunate in the annals
of that corporation, seeing that it was likewise the date of the
Shipton-on-Cherwell disaster. Upon that day, in 1841, a train, while
moving through a thick fog at a high rate of speed, came suddenly
in contact with a mass of earth that had slid down upon the track
from the slope of the cutting. Instantly the whole rear of the train
was piled up on the top of the first carriage, which happened to
be crowded with passengers, eight of whom were killed on the spot
while seventeen others were more or less injured. The coroner's
jury returned a verdict of accidental death, and at the same time,
as if to give the corporation a forcible hint to look closer to the
condition of its roadway, a "deodand" of one hundred pounds was
levied on the locomotive and tender. This practice, by the way,
of levying a deodand in cases of railroad accidents resulting in
loss of life, affords a curious illustration of how seldom those
accidents must have occurred. The mere mention of it now as ever
having existed sounds almost as strange and unreal as would an
assertion that the corporations had in their earlier days been wont
to settle their differences by wager of battle. Like the wager of
battle, the deodand was a feature of the English common law derived
from the feudal period. It was nothing more nor less than a species
of fine, everything through the instrumentality of which accidental
death occurred being forfeited to the crown; or, in lieu of the
thing itself, its supposed money value as assessed by a coroner's
jury.[2] Accordingly, down to somewhere about the year 1847, when
the practice was finally abolished by act of Parliament, we find in
all cases of English railroad accidents resulting in death, mention
of the deodand assessed by coroner's juries on the locomotives.
These appear to have been arbitrarily fixed, and graduated in amount
as the circumstances of the particular accident seemed to excite
in greater or less degree the sympathies or the indignation of the
jury. In November, 1838, for instance, a locomotive exploded on
the Manchester & Liverpool road, killing its engineer and fireman:
and for this escapade a deodand of twenty pounds was assessed upon
it by the coroner's jury; while upon another occasion, in 1839,
where the locomotive struck and killed a man and horse at a street
crossing, the deodand was fixed at no less a sum than fourteen
hundred pounds, the full value of the engine. Yet in this last
case there did not appear to be any circumstances rendering the
corporation liable in civil damages. The deodand seems to have been
looked upon as a species of rude penalty imposed on the use of
dangerous appliances,--a sharp reminder to the corporations to look
closely after their locomotives and employés. As, however, accidents
increased in frequency it became painfully apparent that "crowner's
'quest law" was not in any appreciable degree better calculated to
command the public respect in the days of Victoria than in those of
Elizabeth, and the ancient usage was accordingly at last abolished.
Certainly the position of railroad corporations would now be even
more hazardous than it is, if, after every catastrophe resulting
in death, the coroner's jury of the vicinage enjoyed the power of
arbitrarily imposing on them such additional penalty not exceeding
the value of a locomotive, in addition to all other liabilities, as
might seem to it proper under the circumstances of the case.

  [2] "_Deodand._ By this is meant whatever personal chattel is
  the immediate occasion of the death of any reasonable creature:
  which is forfeited to the king, to be applied to pious uses, and
  distributed in alms by his high almoner; though formerly destined
  to a more superstitious purpose. * * * Wherever the thing is in
  motion, not only that part which immediately gives the wounds
  (as the wheel which runs over his body,) but all things which
  move with it and help to make the wound more dangerous, (as the
  cart and loading, which increase the pressure of the wheel) are
  forfeited."--_Blackstone, Book I, Chap. 8, XVI._

Recurring, however, to the accident of December 24, 1861, the
numerous casualties in that case were due to the crushing of the
rolling stock which was not strong enough to resist the shock of
the sudden stop. Under these circumstances the light, short English
carriages rode over each other and were broken to pieces; under
similar circumstances the longer and heavier cars then in use in
America would have "telescoped;" that is, the platforms between the
cars would have been broken off and the forward end of each car
riding slightly up on its broken coupling would have shot in over
the floor of the car before it, sweeping away the studding and other
light wood-work and crushing stoves, seats and passengers into one
inextricable mass, until, if the momentum was sufficiently great,
the several vehicles in the train would be enclosed in each other
somewhat like the slides of a partially shut telescope.

Crushing in other countries and telescoping in America were formerly
the greatest, if not the worst, dangers to which travel by rail
was liable. As respects crushing there is little to be said. It is
a mere question of proportions,--resisting strength opposed to
momentum. So long as trains go at great speed it is inevitable that
they will occasionally be brought to a dead-stand by running upon
unexpected obstacles. The simple wonder is that they do this so
infrequently. When, however, now and again, they are thus brought
to a dead-stand the safety of the passenger depends and can depend
on nothing but the strength of the car in which he is sitting as
measured by the force of the shock to which it is subjected. This
matter has already been referred to in connection with the Shipton
and Wollaston accidents,[3] the last of which was a significant
reminder to all railroad managers that no matter how strongly or
with how careful a regard to scientific principles cars may be
constructed, just so long as they are made by human hands it is easy
to load on weight sufficient, when combined with only a moderate
momentum, to crush them into splinters.

  [3] Ante pp. 18-19.

Telescoping, however, was an incident of crushing, and a peculiarly
American incident, which is not without a certain historical
interest; for the particular feature in car construction which
led directly to it and all its attendant train of grisly horrors
furnishes a singular and instructive illustration of the gross
violations of mechanical principles into which practical, as opposed
to educated, mechanics are apt constantly to fall,--and in which,
when once they have fallen, they steadily persist. The original
idea of the railroad train was a succession of stage coaches chained
together and hauled by a locomotive. The famous pioneer train of
August 9, 1831, over the Mohawk Valley road was literally made up
in this way, the bodies of stage coaches having been placed on
trucks, which "were coupled together with chains or chain-links,
leaving from two to three feet slack, and when the locomotive
started it took up the slack by jerks, with sufficient force to jerk
the passengers, who sat on seats across the tops of the coaches,
out from under their hats, and in stopping they came together with
such force as to send them flying from their seats." On this trip,
it will be remembered, the train presently came to a stop, when
the passengers upon it, with true American adaptability, set their
wits at once to the work of devising some means of remedying the
unpleasant jerks.[4] "A plan was soon hit upon and put in execution.
The three links in the couplings of the cars were stretched to their
utmost tension, a rail, from a fence in the neighborhood, was placed
between each pair of cars and made fast by means of the packing yarn
from the cylinders." Here was the incipient idea of couplers and
buffers improvised by practical men, and for a third of a century
it remained almost unimproved upon, except by the introduction
of a spring upon which coupler and buffer played. The only other
considerable change made in the earlier days of car construction
was by no means an improvement, inasmuch as it introduced the new
and wholly unnecessary danger of telescoping.

  [4] Railroads: their Origin and Problems, p. 49.

The original passenger cars, however frail and light they may have
been, were at least, when shackled together in a train, continuous
in their bearings on each other,--that is, their sills and floor
timbers were all on a level and in line, so that, if the cars were
suddenly pressed together, they met in such a way as to resist the
pressure to the extent of their resisting power, and the floor
of one did not quietly slide under or over that of another. The
bodies of these cars were about thirty-two inches from the rails.
This was presently found to be too low. In raising the bodies
of the cars, however, the mechanics of those days encountered a
practical difficulty. The couplings of the cars built on the new
model were higher than those of the old. They at once met, and,
as they thought, no less ingeniously then successfully overcame
this difficulty, by placing the couplings and draw-heads of their
new cars below the line of the sills. This necessitated putting
the platform which sustained the coupling also beneath the sills,
and in doing that they disregarded, without the most remote
consciousness of the fact, a fundamental law of mechanics. With a
possible pressure, both sudden and heavy to be resisted, the line
of resistance was no longer the line of greatest strength. During
thirty years this stupid blunder remained uncorrected. It was as
if the builders during that period had from force of habit insisted
upon always using as supports pillars which were curved or bent
instead of upright. At the close of those thirty years also the
railroad mechanics had become so thoroughly educated into their
false methods that it took yet other years and a series of frightful
disasters, the significance of which they seemed utterly unable to
take in, before they could be induced to abandon those methods.

The two great dangers of telescoping and oscillation were directly
due to this system of car construction and of train coupling,--and
telescoping and oscillation were probably the cause of one-half at
least of the loss of life and the injuries to persons incident to
the first thirty years of American railroad experience. The badly
built and loosely connected coaches of every train going at any
considerable rate of speed used then to swing and roll about and
hammer against each other after a fashion which made the infrequent
occurrence of serious disaster the only fair subject for surprise.
In case of a sudden stoppage or partial derailment, the train
stopped or went on, not as a whole, but as a succession of parts,
while the low platforms and slack couplings fearfully increased
the danger;--for, if the train held together, the cars in stopping
were likely to break off the platforms, making of what remained of
them a sort of inclined plane over which the car-bodies rode into
each other at different levels; or, if the couplings, as was more
probable, held and the train did not part, the swaying and swinging
of the loosely connected cars was almost sure to throw them from
the track and break them in pieces. The invention through which
this difficulty was at last overcome, simple and obvious as it was,
is fairly entitled, so far as America at least is concerned, to be
classed among the four or five really noticeable advances which
have of late years been made in railroad appliances. It contributed
unmistakably and essentially to the safety of every traveller. Known
as the Miller platform and buffer, from the name of the inventor,
it was, like all good work of the sort, a simple and intelligent
recurrence to correct mechanical principles. Miller went to work to
construct cars in such a way as to cause them to come in contact
with each other in the line of their greatest resisting power, while
in coupling them together in trains he introduced both tension and
compression;--that is he, in plain language, brought the ends of
the heavy longitudinal floor timbers of the separate cars exactly
on a line and directly bearing on each other, and then forced them
against each other until the heavy spring buffers which played
on those floor timbers were compressed, when the couplers sprung
together and the train then stood practically one solid body from
end to end. It could no more swing or crush than a single car could
swing or crush. It then only remained to increase the weight and to
perfect the construction of the vehicles to insure all the safety in
this respect of which travel by rail admitted.

Simple as these improvements were, and apparently obvious as the
mechanical principles on which they were based now seem, the
opposition for years offered to them by practical master-mechanics
and railroad men would have been ludicrous had it not been
exasperating. There was hardly a railroad in the country whose
officers did not insist that their method of construction was
exceptional, it was true, but far better than Miller's. It was
maintained that the slack couplings were necessary in order to
enable the locomotives to start the trains,--that a train made up
without the slack, on Miller's plan, could not be set in motion,
and that if it was set in motion it must twist apart at every sharp
curve etc. The ingenuity displayed in thus inventing theoretical
objections to the appliance far exceeded that required for inventing
it, and indeed no one who has not had official experience of it
can at all realize the objecting capacity of the typical practical
mechanic whose conceit as a rule is measured by his ignorance,
while his stupidity is unequalled save by his obstinacy. Even when
Miller's invention for one reason or another was not adopted, the
principles upon which that invention was founded,--the principles
of tension, cohesion and direct resistance,--at last forced their
way into general acceptance. The long-urged objection that the
thing was practically impossible was slowly abandoned in face of
the awkward but undeniable fact that it was done every day, and
many times a day. Consequently, as the result of much patient
arguing, duly emphasized by the regular recurrence of disaster,
it is not too much to assert that for weight, resisting power,
perfection of construction and equipment and the protection they
afford to travellers, the standard American passenger coach is now
far in advance of any other. As to comfort, convenience, taste
in ornamentation, etc., these are so much matters of habit and
education that it is unnecessary to discuss them. They do not affect
the question of safety.

A very striking illustration of the vast increase of safety secured
through this improved car construction was furnished in an accident,
which happened in Massachusetts upon July 15, 1872. As an express
train on the Boston & Providence road was that day running to Boston
about noon and at a rate of speed of some forty miles an hour, it
came in contact with a horse and wagon at a grade crossing in the
town of Foxborough. The train was made up of thoroughly well-built
cars, equipped with both the Miller platform and the Westinghouse
train-brake. There was no time in which to check the speed, and it
thus became a simple question of strength of construction, to be
tested in an unavoidable collision. The engine struck the wagon, and
instantly destroyed it. The horse had already cleared the rails when
the wagon was struck, but, a portion of his harness getting caught
on the locomotive, he was thrown down and dragged a short distance
until his body came in contact with the platform of a station close
to the spot of collision. The body was then forced under the cars,
having been almost instantaneously rolled and pounded up into a
hard, unyielding mass. The results which ensued were certainly
very singular. Next to the locomotive was an ordinary baggage and
mail car, and it was under this car, and between its forward and
its hind truck, that the body of the horse was forced; coming then
directly in contact with the truck of the rear wheels, it tore it
from its fastenings and thus let the rear end of the car drop upon
the track. In falling, this end snapped the coupling by its weight,
and so disconnected the train, the locomotive going off towards
Boston dragging this single car, with one end of it bumping along
the track. Meanwhile the succeeding car of the train had swept over
the body of the horse and the disconnected truck, which were thus
brought in contact with its own wheels, which in their turn were
also torn off; and so great was the momentum that in this way all of
the four passenger cars which composed that part of the train were
successively driven clean off their rolling gear, and not only did
they then slide off the track, but they crossed a railroad siding
which happened to be at that point, went down an embankment three or
four feet in height, demolished a fence, passed into an adjoining
field, and then at last, after glancing from the stump of a large
oak-tree, they finally came to a stand-still some two hundred feet
from the point at which they had left the track. There was not in
this case even an approach to telescoping; on the contrary, each car
rested perfectly firmly in its place as regarded all the others, not
a person was injured, and when the wheel-less train at last became
stationary the astonished passengers got up and hurried through the
doors, the very glass in which as well as that in the windows was
unbroken. Here was an indisputable victory of skill and science over
accident, showing most vividly to what an infinitesimal extreme the
dangers incident to telescoping may be reduced.

The vast progress in this direction made within twenty years can,
however, best perhaps be illustrated by the results of two accidents
almost precisely similar in character, which occurred, the one on
the Great Western railroad of Canada, in October, 1854, the other
on the Boston & Albany, in Massachusetts, in October, 1874. In the
first case a regular train made up of a locomotive and seven cars,
while approaching Detroit at a speed of some twenty miles an hour,
ran into a gravel train of fifteen cars which was backing towards
it at a speed of some ten miles an hour. The locomotive of the
passenger train was thrown completely off the track and down the
embankment, dragging after it a baggage car. At the head of the
passenger portion of the train were two second-class cars filled
with emigrants; both of these were telescoped and demolished,
and all their unfortunate occupants either killed or injured. The
front of the succeeding first-class car was then crushed in, and a
number of those in it were hurt. In all, no less than forty-seven
persons lost their lives, while sixty others were maimed or severely
bruised. So much for a collision in October, 1854. In October, 1874,
on the Boston & Albany road, the regular New York express train,
consisting of a locomotive and seven cars, while going during the
night at a speed of forty miles an hour, was suddenly, near the
Brimfield station, thrown by a misplaced switch into a siding upon
which a number of platform freight cars were standing. The train was
thoroughly equipped, having both Miller platform and Westinghouse
brake. The six seconds which intervened, in the darkness, between
notice of displacement and the collision did not enable the engineer
to check perceptibly the speed of his train, and when the blow came
it was a simple question of strength to resist. The shock must
have been tremendous, for the locomotive and tender were flung off
the track to the right and the baggage car to the left, the last
being thrown across the interval between the siding and the main
track and resting obliquely over the latter. The forward end of the
first passenger coach was thrown beyond the baggage car up over
the tender, and its rear end, as well as the forward end of the
succeeding coach, was injured. As in the Foxborough case, several
of the trucks were jerked out from under the cars to which they
belonged, but not a person on the train was more than slightly
bruised, the cars were not disconnected, nor was there even a
suggestion of telescoping.



Going back once more to the early days, a third of a century
since, before yet the periodical recurrence of slaughter had
caused either train-brake or Miller platform to be imagined as
possibilities, before, indeed, there was yet any record of what
we would now consider a regular railroad field-day, with its long
train of accompanying horrors, including in the grisly array death
by crushing, scalding, drowning, burning, and impalement,--going
back to the year 1840, or thereabouts, we find that the railroad
companies experienced a notable illustration of the truth of the
ancient adage that it never rains but it pours; for it was then
that the long immunity was rudely broken in upon. After that time
disasters on the rail seemed to tread upon one another's heels
in quick and frightful succession. Within a few months of the
English catastrophe of December 24, 1841, there happened in France
one of the most famous and most horrible railroad slaughters
ever recorded. It took place on the 8th of May, 1842. It was the
birthday of the king, Louis Philippe, and, in accordance with the
usual practice, the occasion had been celebrated at Versailles by a
great display of the fountains. At half past five o'clock these had
stopped playing, and a general rush ensued for the trains then about
to leave for Paris. That which went by the road along the left bank
of the Seine was densely crowded, and so long that two locomotives
were required to draw it. As it was moving at a high rate of speed
between Bellevue and Meudon, the axle of the foremost of these
two locomotives broke, letting the body of the engine drop to the
ground. It instantly stopped, and the second locomotive was then
driven by its impetus on top of the first, crushing its engineer and
fireman, while the contents of both the fire-boxes were scattered
over the roadway and among the _débris_. Three carriages crowded
with passengers were then piled on top of this burning mass and
there crushed together into each other. The doors of these carriages
were locked, as was then and indeed is still the custom in Europe,
and it so chanced that they had all been newly painted. They blazed
up like pine kindlings. Some of the carriages were so shattered that
a portion of those in them were enabled to extricate themselves, but
the very much larger number were held fast; and of these such as
were not so fortunate as to be crushed to death in the first shock
perished hopelessly in the flames before the eyes of a throng of
lookers-on impotent to aid. Fifty-two or fifty-three persons were
supposed to have lost their lives in this disaster, and more than
forty others were injured; the exact number of the killed, however,
could never be ascertained, as the piling-up of the cars on top of
the two locomotives had made of the destroyed portion of the train
a veritable holocaust of the most hideous description. Not only did
whole families perish together,--in one case no less than eleven
members of the same family sharing a common fate,--but the remains
of such as were destroyed could neither be identified nor separated.
In one case a female foot was alone recognizable, while in others
the bodies were calcined and and fused into an indistinguishable
mass. The Academy of Sciences appointed a committee to inquire
whether Admiral D'Urville, a distinguished French navigator, was
among the victims. His body was thought to be found, but it was so
terribly mutilated that it could be recognized only by a sculptor,
who chanced some time before to have taken a phrenological cast of
the skull. His wife and only son had perished with him.

It is not easy now to conceive the excitement and dismay which this
catastrophe caused throughout France. The railroad was at once
associated in the minds of an excitable people with novel forms
of imminent death. France had at best been laggard enough in its
adoption of the new invention, and now it seemed for a time as if
the Versailles disaster was to operate as a barrier in the way of
all further railroad development. Persons availed themselves of the
steam roads already constructed as rarely as possible, and then in
fear and trembling, while steps were taken to substitute horse for
steam power on other roads then in process of construction.

The disaster was, indeed, one well calculated to make a deep
impression on the popular mind, for it lacked almost no attribute of
the dramatic and terrible. There were circumstances connected with
it, too, which gave it a sort of moral significance,--contrasting
so suddenly the joyous return from the country _fête_ in the
pleasant afternoon of May, with what De Quincey has called the
vision of sudden death. It contained a whole homily on the familiar
text. As respects the number of those killed and injured, also,
the Versailles accident has not often been surpassed; perhaps
never in France. In this country it was surpassed on one occasion,
among others, under circumstances very similar to it. This was the
accident at Camphill station, about twelve miles from Philadelphia,
on July 17, 1856, which befell an excursion train carrying some
eleven hundred children, who had gone out on a Sunday-school picnic
in charge of their teachers and friends.

It was the usual story. The road had but a single track, and the
train, both long and heavy, had been delayed and was running behind
its schedule time. The conductor thought, however, that the next
station could yet be reached in time to meet and there pass a
regular train coming towards him. It may have been a miscalculation
of seconds, it may have been a difference of watches, or perhaps
the regular train was slightly before its time; but, however it
happened, as the excursion train, while running at speed, was
rounding a reverse curve, it came full upon the regular train, which
had just left the station. In those days, as compared with the
present, the cars were but egg-shells, and the shock was terrific.
The locomotives struck each other, and, after rearing themselves
up for an instant, it is said, like living animals, fell to the
ground mere masses of rubbish. In any case the force of the shock
was sufficient to hurl both engines from the track and lay them side
by side at right angles to, and some distance from it. As only the
excursion train happened to be running at speed, it alone had all
the impetus necessary for telescoping; three of its cars accordingly
closed in upon each other, and the children in them were crushed;
as in the Versailles accident, two succeeding cars were driven upon
this mass, and then fire was set to the whole from the ruins of the
locomotives. It would be hard to imagine anything more thoroughly
heart-rending, for the holocaust was of little children on a party
of pleasure. Five cars in all were burned, and sixty-six persons
perished; the injured numbered more than a hundred.[5]

  [5] A collision very similar to that at Camphill occurred upon the
  Erie railway at a point about 20 miles west of Port Jervis on the
  afternoon of July 15, 1864. The train in this case consisted of
  eighteen cars, in which were some 850 Confederate soldiers on their
  way under guard to the prisoner's camp at Elmira. A coal train
  consisting of 50 loaded cars from the hanch took the main line at
  Lackawaxen. The telegraph operator there informed its conductor that
  the track was clear, and, while rounding a sharp reversed curve,
  the two trains came together, the one going at about twelve and the
  other at some twenty miles an hour. Some 60 of the soldiers, besides
  a number of train hands were killed on the spot, and 120 more were
  seriously injured, some of them fatally.

  This disaster occurred in the midst of some of the most important
  operations of the Rebellion and excited at the time hardly any
  notice. There was a suggestive military promptness in the subsequent
  proceedings. "T. J. Ridgeway, Esq., Associate Judge of Pike County,
  was soon on the spot, and, after consultation with Mr. Riddle [the
  superintendent of the Erie road] and the officer in command of the
  men, a jury was impanneled and an inquest held; after which a large
  trench was dug by the soldiers and the railway employés, 76 feet
  long, 8 feet wide and 6 feet deep, in which the bodies were at once
  interred in boxes, hastily constructed--one being allotted to four
  rebels, and one to each Union soldier." There were sixteen of the
  latter killed.

Of this disaster nothing could be said either in excuse or in
extenuation; it was not only one of the worst description, but
it was one of that description the occurrence of which is most
frequent. An excursion train, while running against time on a
single-track road, came in collision with a regular train. The
record is full of similar disasters, too numerous to admit of
specific reference. Primarily of course, the conductors of the
special trains are as a rule in fault in such cases. He certainly
was at Camphill, and felt himself to be so, for the next day he
committed suicide by swallowing arsenic. But in reality in these
and in all similar cases,--both those which have happened and those
hereafter surely destined to happen,--the full responsibility
does not rest upon the unfortunate or careless subordinate;--nor
should the weight of punishment be visited upon him. It belongs
elsewhere. At this late day no board of directors, nor president,
nor superintendent has any right to operate a single track road
without the systematic use of the telegraph in connection with its
train movements. That the telegraph can be used to block, as it is
termed, double-track roads, by dividing them into sections upon no
one of which two trains can be running at the same time, is matter
of long and daily experience. There is nothing new or experimental
about it. It is a system which has been forced on the more crowded
lines of the world as an alternative to perennial killings. That
in the year 1879 excursion trains should rush along single-track
roads and hurl themselves against regular trains, just as was done
twenty-three years ago at Camphill, would be deemed incredible were
not exactly similar accidents still from time to time reported.
One occurred near St. Louis, for instance, on July 4, 1879. The
simple fact is that to now operate single-track roads without the
constant aid of the telegraph, as a means of blocking them for every
irregular train, indicates a degree of wanton carelessness, or an
excess of incompetence, for which adequate provision should be made
in the criminal law. Nothing but this appeal to the whipping-post,
as it were, seems to produce the needed mental activity; for it is
difficult to realize the stupid conservatism of ordinary men when
brought to the consideration of something to which they are not
accustomed. On this very point of controlling the train movement
of single-track roads by telegraph, for instance, within a very
recent period the superintendent of a leading Massachusetts road
gravely assured the railroad commissioners of that state, that he
considered it a most dangerous reliance which had occasioned many
disasters, and that he had no doubt it would be speedily abandoned
as a practice in favor of the old time-table and running-rules
system, from which no deviations would be allowed. This opinion
was expressed, also, after the Revere disaster of 1871, it might
have been supposed, had branded into the record of the state the
impossibility of safely running any crowded railroad in a reliance
upon the schedule.[6] Such men as this, however, are not accessible
to argument or the teachings of experience, and the gentle stimulant
of a criminal prosecution seems to be the only thing left.

  [6] Chapter XIV, XVI.



And yet, even with the wires in active use, collisions will
occasionally take place. They have sometimes, indeed, even been
caused by the telegraph, so that railroad officials at two adjacent
stations on the same road, having launched trains at each other
beyond recall, have busied themselves while waiting for tidings of
the inevitable collision in summoning medical assistance for those
sure soon to be injured. In such cases, however, the mishap can
almost invariably be traced to some defect in the system under which
the telegraph is used;--such as a neglect to exact return messages
to insure accuracy, or the delegating to inexperienced subordinates
the work which can be properly performed only by a principal. This
was singularly illustrated in a terrible collision which took place
at Thorpe, between Norwich and Great Yarmouth, on the Great Eastern
Railway in England, on the 10th of September, 1874. The line had
in this place but a single track, and the mail train to Norwich,
under the rule, had to wait at a station called Brundell until the
arrival there of the evening express from Yarmouth, or until it
received permission by the telegraph to proceed. On the evening of
the disaster the express train was somewhat behind its time, and
the inspector wrote a dispatch directing the mail to come forward
without waiting for it. This dispatch he left in the telegraph
office unsigned, while he went to attend to other matters. Just then
the express train came along, and he at once allowed it to proceed.
Hardly was it under way when the unsigned dispatch occurred to him,
and the unfortunate man dashed to the telegraph office only to learn
that the operator had forwarded it. Under the rules of the company
no return message was required. A second dispatch was instantly sent
to Brundell to stop the mail; the reply came back that the mail was
gone. A collision was inevitable.

The two trains were of very equal weight, the one consisting of
fourteen and the other of thirteen carriages. They were both drawn
by powerful locomotives, the drivers of which had reason for putting
on an increased speed, believing, as each had cause to believe, that
the other was waiting for him. The night was intensely dark and
it was raining heavily, so that, even if the brakes were applied,
the wheels would slide along the slippery track. Under these
circumstances the two trains rushed upon each other around a slight
curve which sufficed to conceal their head-lights. The combined
momentum must have amounted to little less than sixty miles an
hour, and the shock was heard through all the neighboring village.
The smoke-stack of the locomotive drawing the mail train was swept
away as the other locomotive seemed to rush on top of it, while
the carriages of both trains followed until a mound of locomotives
and shattered cars was formed which the descending torrents alone
hindered from becoming a funeral pyre. So sudden was the collision
that the driver of one of the engines did not apparently have an
opportunity to shut off the steam, and his locomotive, though forced
from the track and disabled, yet remained some time in operation in
the midst of the wreck. In both trains, very fortunately, there were
a number of empty cars between the locomotives and the carriages in
which the passengers were seated, and they were utterly demolished;
but for this fortunate circumstance the Thorpe collision might well
have proved the most disastrous of all railroad accidents. As it
was, the men on both the locomotives were instantly killed, together
with seventeen passengers, and four other passengers subsequently
died of their injuries; making a total of twenty-five deaths,
besides fifty cases of injury.

It would be difficult to conceive of a more violent collision
than that which has just been described; and yet, as curiously
illustrating the rapidity with which the force of the most severe
shock is expended, it is said that two gentlemen in the last
carriage of one of the trains, finding it at a sudden standstill
close to the place to which they were going, supposed it had stopped
for some unimportant cause and concluded to take advantage of a
happy chance which left them almost at the doors of their homes.
They accordingly got out and hurried away in the rain, learning
only the next morning of the catastrophe in which they had been
unconscious participants.

The collision at Thorpe occurred in September, 1874. Seven months
later, on the 4th of April, 1875, there was an accident similar
to it in almost every respect, except fatality, on the Burlington
& Missouri road in Iowa. In this case the operator at Tyrone had
telegraphic orders to hold the east-bound passenger express at that
point to meet the west-bound passenger express. This order he failed
to deliver, and the train accordingly at once went on to the usual
passing place at the next station. It was midnight and intensely
dark, with a heavy mist in the air which at times thickened to rain.
Both of the trains approaching each other were made up in the way
usual with through night trains on the great western lines, and
consisted of locomotives, baggage and smoking cars, behind which
were the ordinary passenger cars of the company followed by several
heavy Pullman sleeping coaches. Those in charge of the east-bound
train, knowing that it was behind time, were running it rapidly,
so as to delay as little as possible the west-bound train, which,
having received the order to pass at Tyrone was itself being run at
speed. Both trains were thus moving at some thirty-five miles an
hour, when suddenly in rounding a sharp curve they came upon each
other. Indeed so close were they that the west-bound engineer had no
time in which to reverse, but, jumping straight from the gangway,
he afterwards declared that the locomotives came together before he
reached the ground. The engineer of the east-bound train succeeded
both in reversing his locomotive and in applying his airbrake, but
after reversal the throttle flew open. The trains came together,
therefore, as at Thorpe, with their momentum practically unchecked,
and with such force that the locomotives were completely demolished,
the boilers of the two, though on the same line of rails, actually,
in some way, passing each other. The baggage-cars were also
destroyed, and the smoking cars immediately behind them were more
or less damaged, but the remaining coaches of each train stood
upon the tracks so wholly uninjured that four hours later, other
locomotives having been procured but the track being still blocked,
the passengers were transferred from one set of cars to the other,
and in them were carried to their destinations. So admirably did
Miller's construction serve its purpose in this case, that, while
the superintendent of the road, who happened to be in the rear
sleeping car of one of the trains, merely reported that he "felt the
shock quite sensibly," passengers in the rear coaches of the other
train hardly felt it at all.

At Tyrone the wrecks of the trains caught fire from the stoves
thrown out of the baggage cars and from the embers from the
fire-boxes of the locomotives, but the flames were speedily
extinguished. Of the train hands three were killed and two injured,
but no passenger was more than shaken or slightly bruised. This
was solely due to strength of car construction. Heavy as the shock
was,--so heavy that in the similar case at Thorpe the carriages were
crushed like nut-shells under it,--the resisting power was equal to
it. The failure of appliances at one point in the operation of the
road was made good by their perfection at another.



Similar in some of its more dramatic features to the Versailles
accident, though originating from a wholly different cause, was the
Abergele disaster, which at the time occupied the attention of the
British public to the exclusion of everything else. It occurred
in 1868, and to the "Irish mail," perhaps the most famous train
which is run in England, if, indeed, not in the world. Leaving
London shortly after 7 A.M., the Irish mail was then timed to make
the distance to Chester, 166 miles, in four hours and eighteen
minutes, or at the rate of 40 miles an hour. For the next 85 miles,
completing the run to Holyhead, the speed was somewhat increased,
two hours and five minutes only being allowed for it. Abergele is a
point on the sea-coast of Wales, nearly midway between Chester and
Holyhead. On the day of the accident, August 20, 1868, the Irish
mail left Chester as usual. It was made up of thirteen carriages
in all, which were occupied, as the carriages of that train usually
were, by a large number of persons whose names at least were widely
known. Among these, on this particular occasion, was the Duchess of
Abercorn, wife of the then Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, with five
children. Under the running arrangements of the London & North
Western road a freight, or as it is there called a goods train, left
Chester half an hour before the mail, and was placed upon the siding
at Llanddulas, a station about a mile and a half beyond Abergele,
to allow the mail to pass. From Abergele to Llanddulas the track
ascended by a gradient of some sixty feet to the mile. On the day of
the accident it chanced that certain wagons between the engine and
the rear end of the goods train had to be taken out to be left at
Llanddulas, and in doing this it became necessary to separate the
train and to leave five or six of the last wagons in it standing on
the tracks of the main line, while those which were to be left were
backed onto a siding. The employé, whose duty it was, neglected to
set the brakes on the wagons thus left standing, and consequently
when the engine and the rest of the train returned for them, the
moment they were touched and before a coupling could be effected,
the jar set them in motion down the incline towards Abergele. They
started so slowly that a brakeman of the train ran after them,
fully expecting to catch and stop them, but as they went down the
grade they soon outstripped him and it became clear that there was
nothing to check them until they should meet the Irish mail, then
almost due. It also chanced that the cars thus set in motion were
oil cars.

The track of the North Western road between Abergele and Llanddulas
runs along the sides of the picturesque Welsh hills, which rise
up to the south, while to the north there stretches out a wide
expanse of sea. The mail train was skirting the hills and laboring
up the grade at a speed of thirty miles an hour, when its engineer
suddenly became aware of the loose wagons coming down upon it around
the curve, and then but a few yards off. Seeing that they were oil
cars he almost instinctively sprang from his locomotive, and was
thrown down by the impetus and rolled to the side of the road-bed.
Picking himself up, bruised but not seriously hurt, he saw that
the collision had already taken place, that the tender had ridden
directly over the engine, that the colliding cars were demolished,
and that the foremost carriages of the train were already on fire.
Running quickly to the rear of the train he succeeded in uncoupling
six carriages and a van, which were drawn away from the rest, before
the flames extended to them, by an engine which most fortunately was
following the train. All the other carriages were utterly destroyed,
and every person in them perished.

The Abergele was probably the solitary instance of a railroad
accident in which but a single survivor sustained any injury. There
was no maiming. It was death or entire escape. The collision was
not a particularly severe one, and the engineer of the mail train
especially stated that at the moment it occurred the loose cars were
still moving so slowly that he would not have sprung from his engine
had he not seen that they were loaded with oil. The very instant
the collision took place, however, the fluid seemed to ignite and
to flash along the train like lightning, so that it was impossible
to approach a carriage when once it caught fire. The fact was that
the oil in vast quantities was spilled upon the track and ignited by
the fire of the locomotive, and then the impetus of the mail train
forced all of its leading carriages into the dense mass of smoke and
flame. All those who were present concurred in positively stating
that not a cry, nor a moan, nor a sound of any description was heard
from the burning carriages, nor did any one in them apparently make
an effort to escape.

The most graphic description of this extraordinary and terrible
catastrophe was that given by the Marquis of Hamilton, the eldest
son of the Duke of Abercorn whose wife and family, fortunately
for themselves, occupied one of those rear carriages which were
unshackled and saved. In this account the Marquis of Hamilton
said:--"We were startled by a collision and a shock which, though
not very severe, were sufficient to throw every one against his
opposite neighbor. I immediately jumped out of the carriage,
when a fearful sight met my view. Already the whole of the three
passengers' carriages in front of ours, the vans, and the engine
were enveloped in dense sheets of flame and smoke, rising fully
twenty feet high, and spreading out in every direction. It was the
work of an instant. No words can convey the instantaneous nature
of the explosion and conflagration. I had actually got out almost
before the shock of the collision was over, and this was the
spectacle which already presented itself. Not a sound, not a scream,
not a struggle to escape, not a movement of any sort was apparent
in the doomed carriages. It was as though an electric flash had
at once paralyzed and stricken every one of their occupants. So
complete was the absence of any presence of living or struggling
life in them that as soon as the passengers from the other parts
of the train were in some degree recovered from their first shock
and consternation, it was imagined that the burning carriages were
destitute of passengers; a hope soon changed into feelings of horror
when their contents of charred and mutilated remains were discovered
an hour afterward. From the extent, however, of the flames, the
suddenness of the conflagration, and the absence of any power to
extricate themselves, no human aid would have been of any assistance
to the sufferers, who, in all probability, were instantaneously
suffocated by the black and fetid smoke peculiar to paraffine, which
rose in volumes around the spreading flames."

Though the collision took place before one o'clock, in spite
of the efforts of a large gang of men who were kept throwing
water on the tracks, the perfect sea of flame which covered the
line for a distance of some forty or fifty yards could not be
extinguished until nearly eight o'clock in the evening; for the
petroleum had flowed down into the ballasting of the road, and the
rails themselves were red-hot. It was therefore small occasion
for surprise that, when the fire was at last gotten under, the
remains of those who lost their lives were in some cases wholly
undistinguishable, and in others almost so. Among the thirty-three
victims of the disaster the body of no single one retained any
traces of individuality; the faces of all were wholly destroyed,
and in no case were there found feet, or legs, or anything at all
approaching to a perfect head. Ten corpses were finally identified
as those of males, and thirteen as those of females, while the sex
of ten others could not be determined. The body of one passenger,
Lord Farnham, was identified by the crest on his watch; and, indeed,
no better evidence of the wealth and social position of the victims
of this accident could have been asked for than the collection of
articles found on its site. It included diamonds of great size
and singular brilliancy; rubies, opals, emeralds, gold tops of
smelling-bottles, twenty-four watches, of which but two or three
were not gold, chains, clasps of bags, and very many bundles of
keys. Of these the diamonds alone had successfully resisted the
intense heat of the flame; the settings were nearly all destroyed.

Of the causes of this accident little need or can be said. No human
appliances, no more ingenious brakes or increased strength of
construction, could have averted it or warded off its consequences
once it was inevitable. It was occasioned primarily by two things,
the most dangerous and the most difficult to reach of all the
many sources of danger against which those managing railroads
have unsleepingly to contend:--a somewhat defective discipline,
aggravated by a little not unnatural carelessness. The rule of
the company was specific that all the wagons of every goods train
should be out of the way and the track clear at least ten minutes
before a passenger train was due; but in this case shunting was
going actively on when the Irish-mail was within a mile and a half.
A careless brakeman then forgot for once that he was leaving his
wagons close to the head of an incline; a blow in coupling, a little
heavier perhaps than usual, sufficed to set them in motion; and they
happened to be loaded with oil.

A catastrophe strikingly similar to that at Abergele befell an
express train on the Hudson River railroad, upon the night of the
6th of February, 1871. The weather for a number of days preceding
the accident had been unusually cold, and it is to the suffering
of employés incident to exposure, and the consequent neglect of
precautions on their part, that accidents are peculiarly due. On
this night a freight train was going south, all those in charge of
which were sheltering themselves during a steady run in the caboose
car at its rear end. Suddenly, when near a bridge over Wappinger's
Creek, not far from New Hamburg, they discovered that a car in the
centre of the train was off the track. The train was finally stopped
on the bridge, but in stopping it other cars were also derailed,
and one of these, bearing on it two large oil tanks, finally rested
obliquely across the bridge with one end projecting over the up
track. Hardly had the disabled train been brought to a stand-still,
when, before signal lanterns could in the confusion incident to the
disaster be sent out, the Pacific express from New York, which was
a little behind its time, came rapidly along. As it approached the
bridge, its engineer saw a red lantern swung, and instantly gave the
signal to apply the brakes. It was too late to avoid the collision;
but what ensued had in it, so far as the engineer was concerned,
an element of the heroic, which his companion, the fireman of the
engine, afterwards described on the witness stand with a directness
and simplicity of language which exceeded all art. The engineer's
name was Simmons, and he was familiarly known among his companions
as "Doc." His fireman, Nicholas Tallon, also saw the red light swung
on the bridge, and called out to him that the draw was open. In
reply Simmons told him to spring the patent brake, which he did,
and by this time they were alongside of the locomotive of the
disabled train and running with a somewhat slackened speed. Tallon
had now got out upon the step of the locomotive, preparatory to
springing off, and turning asked his companion if he also proposed
to do the same:--"'Doc' looked around at me but made no reply, and
then looked ahead again, watching his business; then I jumped and
rolled down on the ice in the creek; the next I knew I heard the
crash and saw the fire and smoke." The next seen of "Doc" Simmons,
he was dragged up days afterwards from under his locomotive at the
bottom of the river. But it was a good way to die. He went out
of the world and of the sight of men with his hand on the lever,
making no reply to the suggestion that he should leave his post, but
"looking ahead and watching his business."

Dante himself could not have imagined a greater complication of
horrors than then ensued: liquid fire and solid frost combined to
make the work of destruction perfect. The shock of the collision
broke in pieces the oil car, igniting its contents and flinging them
about in every direction. In an instant bridge, river, locomotive,
cars, and the glittering surface of the ice were wrapped in a sheet
of flame. At the same time the strain proved too severe for the
trestlework, which gave way, precipitating the locomotive, tender,
baggage cars, and one passenger car onto the ice, through which they
instantly crushed and sank deep out of sight beneath the water.
Of the remaining seven cars of the passenger train, two, besides
several of the freight train, were destroyed by fire, and shortly,
as the supports of the remaining portions of the bridge burned away,
the superstructure fell on the half-submerged cars in the water and
buried them from view.

Twenty-one persons lost their lives in this disaster, and a large
number of others were injured; but the loss of life, it will be
noticed, was only two-thirds of that at Abergele. The New Hamburg
catastrophe also differed from that at Abergele in that, under
its particular circumstances, it was far more preventable, and,
indeed, with the appliances since brought into use it would surely
be avoided. The modern train-brake had, however, not then been
perfected, so that even the hundred rods at which the signal was
seen did not afford a sufficient space in which to stop the train.



It is difficult to see how on double track roads, where the
occurrence of an accident on one line of tracks is always liable to
instantly "foul" the other line, it is possible to guard against
contingencies like that which occurred at New Hamburg. At the time,
as is usual in such cases, the public indignation expended itself
in vague denunciation of the Hudson River Railroad Company, because
the disaster happened to take place upon a bridge in which there was
a draw to permit the passage of vessels. There seemed to be a vague
but very general impression that draw-bridges were dangerous things,
and, because other accidents due to different causes had happened
upon them, that the occurrence of this accident, from whatever
cause, was in itself sufficient evidence of gross carelessness. The
fact was that not even the clumsy Connecticut rule, which compels
the stopping of all trains before entering on any draw-bridge,
would have sufficed to avert the New Hamburg disaster, for the
river was then frozen and the draw was not in use, so that for the
time being the bridge was an ordinary bridge; and not even in the
frenzy of crude suggestions which invariably succeeds each new
accident was any one ever found ignorant enough to suggest the
stopping of all trains before entering upon every bridge, which, as
railroads generally follow water-courses, would not infrequently
necessitate an average of one stop to every thousand feet or so.
Only incidentally did the bridge at New Hamburg have anything to
do with the disaster there, the essence of which lay in the sudden
derailment of an oil car immediately in front of a passenger train
running in the opposite direction and on the other track. Of course,
if the derailment had occurred long enough before the passenger
train came up to allow the proper signals to be given, and this
precaution had been neglected, then the disaster would have been
due, not to the original cause, but to the defective discipline
of the employés. Such does not appear to have been the case at
New Hamburg, nor was that disaster by any means the first due to
derailment and the throwing of cars from one track in front of a
train passing upon the other;--nor will it be the last. Indeed, an
accident hardly less destructive, arising from that very cause, had
occurred only eight months previous in England, and resulted in
eighteen deaths and more than fifty cases of injury.

A goods train made up of a locomotive and twenty-nine wagons was
running at a speed of some twenty miles an hour on the Great
Northern road, between Newark and Claypole, about one hundred miles
from London, when the forward axle under one of the wagons broke. As
a result of the derailment which ensued the train became divided,
and presently the disabled car was driven by the pressure behind it
out of its course and over the interval, so that it finally rested
partly across the other track. At just this moment an excursion
train from London, made up of twenty-three carriages and containing
some three hundred and forty passengers, came along at a speed of
about thirty-five miles an hour. It was quite dark, and the engineer
of the freight train waved his arm as a signal of danger; one of
the guards, also, showed a red light with his hand lantern, but his
action either was not seen or was misunderstood, for without any
reduction of speed being made the engine of the excursion train
plunged headlong into the disabled goods wagon. The collision was
so violent as to turn the engine aside off the track and cause it
to strike the stone pier of a bridge near by, by which it was flung
completely around and then driven up the slope of the cutting, where
it toppled over like a rearing horse and fell back into the roadway.
The tender likewise was overturned; but not so the carriages. They
rushed along holding to the track, and the side of each as it passed
was ripped and torn by the projecting end of the goods wagon.
Of the twenty-three carriages and vans in the train scarcely one
escaped damage, while the more forward ones were in several cases
lifted one on top of the other or forced partly up the slope of
the cutting, whence they fell back again, crushing the passengers
beneath them.

This accident occurred on the 21st of June, 1870; it was very
thoroughly investigated by Captain Tyler on behalf of the Board of
Trade, with the apparent conclusion that it was one which could
hardly have been guarded against. The freight cars, the broken
axle of which occasioned the disaster, did not belong to the Great
Northern company, and the wheels of the train had been properly
examined by viewing and tapping at the several stopping-places; the
flaw which led to the fracture was, however, of such a nature that
it could have been detected only by the removal of the wheel. It did
not appear that the employés of the company had been guilty of any
negligence; and it was difficult to avoid the conclusion that the
accident was due to one of those defects to which the results of
even the most perfect human workmanship must ever remain liable, and
this had revealed itself under exactly those conditions which must
involve the most disastrous consequences.

The English accident did, however, establish one thing, if nothing
else; it showed the immeasurable superiority of the system of
investigation pursued in the case of railroad accidents in England
over that pursued in this country. There a trained expert after
the occurrence of each disaster visits the spot and sifts the
affair to the very bottom, locating responsibility and pointing out
distinctly the measures necessary to guard against its repetition.
Here the case ordinarily goes to a coroner's jury, the findings of
which as a rule admirably sustain the ancient reputation of that
august tribunal. It is absolutely sad to follow the course of these
investigations, they are conducted with such an entire disregard of
method and lead to such inadequate conclusions. Indeed, how could it
be otherwise?--The same man never investigates two accidents, and,
for the one investigation he does make, he is competent only in his
own esteem.

Take the New Hamburgh accident as an example. Rarely has any
catastrophe merited a more careful investigation, and few
indeed have ever called forth more ill-considered criticism or
crude suggestions. Almost nothing of interest respecting it was
elicited at the inquest, and now no reliable criticism can be
ventured upon it. The question of responsibility in that case,
and of prevention thereafter, involved careful inquiry into at
least four subjects:--First, the ownership and condition of the
freight car, the fractured axle of which occasioned the disaster,
together with the precautions taken by the company, usually and in
this particular case, to test the wheels of freight cars moving
over its road, especially during times of severe cold.--Second,
the conduct of those in charge of the freight train immediately
preceding and at the time of the accident; was the fracture of the
axle at once noticed and were measures taken to stop the train, or
was the derailment aggravated by neglect into the form it finally
took?--Third, was there any neglect in signaling the accident on
the part of those in charge of the disabled train, and how much
time elapsed between the accident and the collision?--Fourth, what,
if any, improved appliances would have enabled those in charge
of either train to have averted the accident?--and what, if any,
defects either in the rules or the equipment in use were revealed?

No satisfactory conclusion can now be arrived at upon any of these
points, though the probabilities are that with the appliances since
introduced the train might have been stopped in time. In this case,
as in that at Claybridge, the coroner's jury returned a verdict
exonerating every one concerned from responsibility, and very
possibly they were justified in so doing; though it is extremely
questionable whether Captain Tyler would have arrived at a similar
conclusion. There is a strong probability that the investigation
went off, so to speak, on a wholly false issue,--turned on the
draw-bridge frenzy instead of upon the question of care. So far
as the verdict declared that the disaster was due to a collision
between a passenger train and a derailed oil car, and not to the
existence of a draw in the bridge on which it happened to occur, it
was, indeed, entitled to respect, and yet it was on this very point
that it excited the most criticism. Loud commendation was heard
through the press of the Connecticut law, which had been in force
for twenty years, and, indeed, still is in force there, under which
all trains are compelled to come to a full stop before entering
on any bridge which has a draw in it,--a law which may best be
described as a useless nuisance. Yet the grand jury of the Court of
Oyer and Terminer of New York city even went so far as to recommend,
in a report made by it on the 23d of February, 1871,--sixteen days
after the accident,--the passage by the legislature then in session
at Albany of a similar legal absurdity. Fortunately better counsels
prevailed, and, as the public recovered its equilibrium, the matter
was allowed to drop.

The Connecticut law in question, however, originated in an accident
which at the time had startled and shocked the community as much
even as that at Versailles did before or that at Abergele has since
done. It occurred to an express train on the New York & New Haven
road at Norwalk, in Connecticut, on the 6th of May, 1853.



The railroad at Norwalk crosses a small inlet of Long Island Sound
by means of a draw-bridge, which is approached from the direction
of New York around a sharp curve. A ball at the mast-head was in
1853 the signal that the draw was open and the bridge closed to
the passage of trains. The express passenger train for Boston,
consisting of a locomotive and two baggage and five passenger cars,
containing about one hundred and fifty persons, left New York as
usual at eight o'clock that morning. The locomotive was not in
charge of its usual engine-driver but of a substitute named Tucker;
a man who some seven years before had been injured in a previous
collision on the same road, for which he did not appear to have
been in any way responsible, but who had then given up his position
and gone to California, whence he had recently returned and was now
again an applicant for an engineer's situation. This was his third
trip over the road, as substitute. In approaching the bridge at
Norwalk he apparently wholly neglected to look for the draw-signal.
He was running his train at about the usual rate of speed, and
first became aware that the draw was open when within four hundred
feet of it and after it had become wholly impossible to stop the
train in time. He immediately whistled for brakes and reversed his
engine, and then, without setting the brake on his tender, both he
and the fireman sprang off and escaped with trifling injuries. The
train at this time did not appear to be moving at a speed of over
fifteen miles an hour. The draw was sixty feet in width; the water
in the then state of the tide was about twelve feet deep, and the
same distance below the level of the bridge. Although the speed
of the train had been materially reduced, yet when it came to the
opening it was still moving with sufficient impetus to send its
locomotive clean across the sixty foot interval and to cause it to
strike the opposite abutment about eight feet below the track; it
then fell heavily to the bottom. The tender lodged on top of the
locomotive, bottom up and resting against the pier, while on top
of this again was the first baggage car. The second baggage car,
which contained also a compartment for smokers, followed, but in
falling was canted over to the north side of the draw in such a way
as not to be wholly submerged, so that most of those in it were
saved. The first passenger car next plunged into the opening; its
forward end crushed in, as it fell against the baggage car in front
of it, while its rear end dropped into the deep water below; and
on top of it came the second passenger car, burying the passengers
in the first beneath the _débris_, and itself partially submerged.
The succeeding or third passenger car, instead of following the
others, broke in two in the middle, the forward part hanging down
over the edge of the draw, while the rear of it rested on the track
and stayed the course of the remainder of the train. Including those
in the smoking compartment more than a hundred persons were plunged
into the channel, of whom forty-six lost their lives, while some
thirty others were more or less severely injured. The killed were
mainly among the passengers in the first car; for, in falling, the
roof of the second car was split open, and it finally rested in such
a position that, as no succeeding car came on top of it, many of
those in it were enabled to extricate themselves; indeed, more than
one of the passengers in falling were absolutely thrown through the
aperture in the roof, and, without any volition on their part, were
saved with unmoistened garments.

Shocking as this catastrophe was, it was eclipsed in horror by
another exactly similar in character, though from the peculiar
circumstances of the case it excited far less public notice, which
occurred eleven years later on the Grand Trunk railway of Canada.
In this case a large party of emigrants, over 500 in number and
chiefly Poles, Germans and Norwegians of the better class, had
landed at Quebec and were being forwarded on a special train to
their destination in the West. With their baggage they filled
thirteen cars. The Grand Trunk on the way to Montreal crosses the
Richelieu river at Beloeil by an iron bridge, in the westernmost
span of which was a draw over the canal, some 45 feet below it. Both
by law and under the running rules of the road all trains were to
come to a dead stand on approaching the bridge, and to proceed only
when the safety signal was clearly discerned. This rule, however,
as it appeared at the subsequent inquest, had been systematically
disobeyed, it having been considered sufficient if the train was
"slowed down." In the present case, however--the night of June 29,
1864,--though the danger signal was displayed and in full sight
for a distance of 1,600 feet, the engine-driver, unfamiliar with
the road and its signals, failed to see it, and, without slowing
his train even, ran directly onto the bridge. He became aware of
the danger when too late to stop. The draw was open to permit the
passage of a steamer with six barges in tow, one of which was
directly under the opening. The whole train went through the draw,
sinking the barge and piling itself up in the water on top of it.
The three last cars, falling on the accumulated wreck, toppled over
upon the west embankment and were thus less injured than the others.
The details of the accident were singularly distressing. "As soon
as possible a strong cable was attached to the upper part of the
piling, and by this means two cars, the last of the ill-fated train,
were dragged onto the wharf under the bridge. Their removal revealed
a horrible sight. A shapeless blue mass of hands and heads and feet
protruded among the splinters and frame-work, and gradually resolved
itself into a closely-packed mass of human beings, all ragged and
bloody and dinted from crown to foot with blue bruises and weals
and cuts inflicted by the ponderous iron work, the splinters and
the enormous weight of the train. * * * A great many of the dead
had evidently been asleep; the majority of them had taken off their
boots and coats in the endeavor to make themselves as comfortable
as possible. They lay heaped upon one another like sacks, dressed
in the traditional blue clothing of the German people. * * * A
child was got at and removed nine hours after the accident, being
uninjured in its dead mother's arms."

The accident happened at 2 A.M., and before sundown of the next day
86 bodies had been taken out of the canal; others were subsequently
recovered, and yet more died from their hurts. The injured were
numbered by hundreds. It was altogether a disaster of the most
appalling description, in extenuation of which nothing was to
be said. It befell, however, a body of comparatively friendless
emigrants, and excited not a tithe of the painful interest which yet
attaches to the similar accident to the Boston express at Norwalk.

These terrible disasters were both due, not alone to the
carelessness of the two engine-drivers, but to the use of a crude
and inadequate system of signals. It so happened, however, that
the legislature of Connecticut was unfortunately in session at the
time of the Norwalk disaster, and consequently the public panic
and indignation took shape in a law compelling every train on
the railroads of that state to come to a dead stand-still before
entering upon any bridge in which there was a draw. This law is
still in force, and from time to time, as after the New Hamburg
catastrophe, an unreasoning clamor is raised for it in other
states. In point of fact it imposes a most absurd, unnecessary and
annoying delay on travel, and rests upon the Connecticut statute
book a curious illustration of what usually happens when legislators
undertake to incorporate running railroad regulations into the
statutes-at-large. It is of a par with another law, which has for
more than twenty-five years been in force in Connecticut's sister
state of Massachusetts, compelling in all cases where the tracks of
different companies cross each other at a level the trains of each
company to stop before reaching the crossing, and then to pass over
it slowly. The danger of collision at crossings is undoubtedly much
greater than that of going through open draws. Precautions against
danger in each case are unquestionably proper and they cannot be
too perfect, but to have recourse to stopping either in the one
case or the other simply reveals an utter ignorance of the great
advance which has been made in railroad signals and the science of
interlocking. In both these cases it is, indeed, entitled to just
about the same degree of respect as would be a proposal to recur to
pioneer engines as a means of preventing accidents to night trains.

The machinery by means of which both draws and grade crossings
can be protected, will be referred to in another connection,[7]
meanwhile it is a curious fact that neither at grade crossings
nor at draws has the mere stopping of trains proved a sufficient
protection. Several times in the experience of Massachusetts' roads
have those in charge of locomotives, after stopping and while moving
at a slow rate of speed, actually run themselves into draws with
their eyes open, and afterwards been wholly unable to give any
satisfactory explanation of their conduct. But the insufficiency
of stopping as a reliable means of prevention was especially
illustrated in the case of an accident which occurred upon the
Boston & Maine railroad on the morning of the 21st of November,
1862, when the early local passenger train was run into the open
draw of the bridge almost at the entrance to the Boston station. It
so happened that the train had stopped at the Charlestown station
just before going onto the bridge, and at the time the accident
occurred was moving at a speed scarcely faster than a man could
walk; and yet the locomotive was entirely submerged, as the water
at that point is deep, and the only thing which probably saved the
train was that the draw was so narrow and the cars were so long that
the foremost one lodged across the opening, and its forward end only
was beneath the water. At the rate at which the train was moving
the resistance thus offered was sufficient to stop it, though, even
as it was, no less than six persons lost their lives and a much
larger number were more or less injured. Here all the precautions
imposed by the Connecticut law were taken, and served only to
reveal the weak point in it. The accident was due to the neglect of
the corporation in not having the draw and its system of signals
interlocked in such a way that the movement of the one should
automatically cause a corresponding movement of the other; and this
neglect in high quarters made it possible for a careless employé to
open the draw on a particularly dark and foggy morning, while he
forgot at the same time to shift his signals. An exactly similar
instance of carelessness on the part of an employé resulted in the
derailment of a train upon the Long Branch line of the Central Road
of New Jersey at the Shrewsbury river draw on August 9, 1877. In
this case the safety signal was shown while the draw fastening had
been left unsecured. The jar of the passing train threw the draw
slightly open so as to disconnect the tracks; thus causing the
derailment of the train, which subsequently plunged over the side
of the bridge. Fortunately the tide was out, or there would have
been a terrible loss of life; as it was, some seventy persons were
injured, five of whom subsequently died. This accident also, like
that on the Boston & Maine road in 1862, very forcibly illustrated
the necessity of an interlocking apparatus. The safety signal was
shown before the draw was secured, which should have been impossible.

  [7] Chapters XVII and XVIII.

Prior to the year 1873 there is no consecutive record of this or
any other class of railroad accidents occurring in America, but
during the six years 1873-8 there occurred twenty-one cases of
minor disaster at draws, three only of them to passenger trains.
Altogether, excluding the Shrewsbury river accident, these resulted
in the death of five employés and injury to one other. No passenger
was hurt. In Great Britain not a single case of disaster of any
description has been reported as occurring at a draw-bridge since
the year 1870, when the present system of official Board of Trade
reports was begun. The lesson clearly to be drawn from a careful
investigation of all the American accidents reported would seem to
be that a statute provision making compulsory the interlocking of
all draws in railroad bridges with a proper and infallible system
of signals might have claims on the consideration of an intelligent
legislature; not so an enactment which compels the stopping of
trains at points where danger is small, and makes no provision as
respects other points where it is great.



Great as were the terrors inspired by the Norwalk disaster in those
comparatively early days of railroad experience, and deep as the
impression on the public memory must have been to leave its mark
on the statute book even to the present time, that and the similar
disaster at the Richelieu river are believed to have been the only
two of great magnitude which have occurred at open railroad draws.
That this should be so is well calculated to excite surprise,
for the draw-bridge precautions against accident in America are
wretchedly crude and inadequate, amounting as a rule to little more
than the primitive balls and targets by day and lanterns by night,
without any system of alarms or interlocking. Electricity as an
adjunct to human care, or a corrective rather of human negligence,
is almost never used; and, in fact, the chief reliance is still on
the vigilance of engine-drivers. But, if accidents at draws have
been comparatively rare and unattended with any considerable loss
of life, it has been far otherwise with the rest of the structures
of which the draw forms a part. Bridge accidents in fact always
have been, and will probably always remain, incomparably the worst
to which travel by rail is exposed. It would be impossible for
corporations to take too great precautions against them, and that
the precautions taken are very great is conclusively shown by the
fact that, with thousands of bridges many times each day subjected
to the strain of the passage at speed of heavy trains, so very few
disasters occur. When they do occur, however, the lessons taught
by them are, though distinct enough, apt to be in one important
respect of a far less satisfactory character than those taught by
collisions. In the case of these last the great resultant fact
speaks for itself. The whole community knows when it sees a block
system, or a stronger car construction, or an improved train brake
suddenly introduced that the sacrifice has not been in vain--that
the lesson has been learned. It is by no means always so in the
case of accidents on bridges. With these the cause of disaster
is apt to be so scientific in its nature that it cannot even be
described, except through the use of engineering terms which to the
mass of readers are absolutely incomprehensible. The simplest of
railroad bridges is an inexplicable mystery to at least ninety-nine
persons out of each hundred. Even when the cause of disaster is
understood, the precautions taken against its recurrence cannot be
seen. From the nature of the case they must consist chiefly of a
better material, or a more scientific construction, or an increased
watchfulness on the part of officials and subordinates. This,
however, is not apparent on the surface, and, when the next accident
of the same nature occurs, the inference, as inevitable as it is
usually unjust, is at once drawn that the one which preceded it
had been productive of no results. The truth of this was strongly
illustrated by the two bridge accidents which happened, the one at
Ashtabula, Ohio, on the 29th of December, 1876, and the other at
Tariffville, Connecticut, on the 15th of January, 1878.

There has been no recent disaster which combined more elements
of horror or excited more widespread public emotion than that at
Ashtabula bridge. It was, indeed, so terrible in its character and
so heart-rending in its details, that for the time being it fairly
divided the attention of the country with that dispute over the
presidential succession, then the subject uppermost in the minds of
all. A blinding northeasterly snow-storm, accompanied by a heavy
wind, prevailed throughout the day which preceded the accident,
greatly impeding the movement of trains. The Pacific express over
the Michigan Southern & Lake Shore road had left Erie, going west,
considerably behind its time, and had been started only with great
difficulty and with the assistance of four locomotives. It was due
at Ashtabula at about 5.30 o'clock P.M., but was three hours late,
and, the days being then at their shortest, when it arrived at the
bridge which was the scene of the accident the darkness was so great
that nothing could be seen through the driving snow by those on the
leading locomotive even for a distance of 50 feet ahead. The train
was made up of two heavy locomotives, four baggage, mail and express
cars, one smoking car, two ordinary coaches, a drawing-room car
and three sleepers, being in all two locomotives and eleven cars,
in the order named, containing, as nearly as can be ascertained,
190 human beings, of whom 170 were passengers. Ashtabula bridge is
situated only about 1,000 feet east of the station of the same name,
and spans a deep ravine, at the bottom of which flows a shallow
stream, some two or three feet in depth, which empties into Lake
Erie a mile or two away. The bridge was an iron Howe truss of 150
feet span, elevated 69 feet above the bottom of the ravine, and
supported at either end by solid masonwork abutments. It had been
built some fourteen years. As the train approached the bridge it had
to force its way through a heavy snow-drift, and, when it passed
onto it, it was moving at a speed of some twelve or fourteen miles
an hour. The entire length of the bridge afforded space only for
two of the express cars at most in addition to the locomotives,
so that when the wheels of the leading locomotive rested on the
western abutment of the bridge nine of the eleven cars which made up
the train, including all those in which there were passengers, had
yet to reach its eastern end. At the instant when the train stood
in this position, the engineer of the leading locomotive heard a
sudden cracking sound apparently beneath him, and thought he felt
the bridge giving way. Instantly pulling the throttle valve wide
open, his locomotive gave a spring forward and, as it did so, the
bridge fell, the rear wheels of his tender falling with it. The
jerk and impetus of the locomotive, however, sufficed to tear out
the coupling, and as his tender was dragged up out of the abyss
onto the track, though its rear wheels did not get upon the rails,
the frightened engineer caught a fearful glimpse of the second
locomotive as it seemed to turn and then fall bottom upwards into
the ravine. The bridge had given way, not at once but by a slowly
sinking motion, which began at the point where the pressure was
heaviest, under the two locomotives and at the west abutment. There
being two tracks, and this train being on the southernmost of the
two, the southern truss had first yielded, letting that side of
the bridge down, and rolling, as it were, the second locomotive
and the cars immediately behind it off to the left and quite clear
of a straight line drawn between the two abutments; then almost
immediately the other truss gave way and the whole bridge fell, but
in doing so swung slightly to the right. Before this took place the
entire train with the exception of the last two sleepers had reached
the chasm, each car as it passed over falling nearer than the one
which had preceded it to the east abutment, and finally the last two
sleepers came, and, without being deflected from their course at
all, plunged straight down and fell upon the wreck of the bridge at
its east end. It was necessarily all the work of a few seconds.

At the bottom of the ravine the snow lay waist deep and the stream
was covered with ice some eight inches in thickness. Upon this
were piled up the fallen cars and engine, the latter on top of the
former near the western abutment and upside down. All the passenger
cars were heated by stoves. At first a dead silence seemed to
follow the successive shocks of the falling mass. In less than
two minutes, however, the fire began to show itself and within
fifteen the holocaust was at its height. As usual, it was a mass of
human beings, all more or less stunned, a few killed, many injured
and helpless, and more yet simply pinned down to watch, in the
possession as full as helpless of all their faculties, the rapid
approach of the flames. The number of those killed outright seems
to have been surprisingly small. In the last car, for instance,
no one was lost. This was due to the energy and presence of mind
of the porter, a negro named Steward, who, when he felt the car
resting firmly on its side, broke a window and crawled through it,
and then passed along breaking the other windows and extricating
the passengers until all were gotten out. Those in the other cars
were far less fortunate. Though an immediate alarm had been given
in the neighboring town, the storm was so violent and the snow so
deep that assistance arrived but slowly. Nor when it did arrive
could much be effected. The essential thing was to extinguish the
flames. The means for so doing were close at hand in a steam pump
belonging to the railroad company, while an abundance of hose could
have been procured at another place but a short distance off. In
the excitement and agitation of the moment contradictory orders
were given, even to forbidding the use of the pump, and practically
no effort to extinguish the fire was made. Within half an hour of
the accident the flames were at their height, and when the next
morning dawned nothing remained in the ravine but a charred and
undistinguishable mass of car trucks, brake-rods, twisted rails and
bent and tangled bridge iron, with the upturned locomotive close to
the west abutment.

In this accident some eighty persons are supposed to have lost
their lives, while over sixty others were injured. The exact number
of those killed can never be known, however, as more than half of
those reported were utterly consumed in the fire; indeed, even of
the bodies recovered scarcely one half could be identified. Of the
cause of the disaster much was said at the time in language most
unnecessarily scientific;--but little was required to be said. It
admitted of no extenuation. An iron bridge, built in the early days
of iron-bridges,--that which fell under the train at Ashtabula, was
faulty in its original construction, and the indications of weakness
it had given had been distinct, but had not been regarded. That it
had stood so long and that it should have given way when it did,
were equally matters for surprise. A double track bridge, it should
naturally have fallen under the combined pressure of trains moving
simultaneously in opposite directions. The strain under which it
yielded was not a particularly severe one, even taken in connection
with the great atmospheric pressure of the storm then prevailing.
It was, in short, one of those disasters, fortunately of infrequent
occurrence, with which accident has little if any connection.
It was due to original inexperience and to subsequent ignorance
or carelessness, or possibly recklessness as criminal as it was

Besides being a bridge accident, this was also a stove accident,--in
this respect a repetition of Angola. One of the most remarkable
features about it, indeed, was the fearful rapidity with which
the fire spread, and the incidents of its spread detailed in the
subsequent evidence of the survivors were simply horrible. Men,
women and children, full of the instinct of self-preservation, were
caught and pinned fast for the advancing flames, while those who
tried to rescue them were driven back by the heat and compelled
helplessly to listen to their shrieks. It is, however, unnecessary
to enter into these details, for they are but the repetition of
an experience which has often been told, and they do but enforce
a lesson which the railroad companies seem resolved not to learn.
Unquestionably the time in this country will come when through
trains will be heated from a locomotive or a heating-car. That time,
however, had not yet come. Meanwhile the evidence would seem to show
that at Ashtabula, as at Angola, at least two lives were sacrificed
in the subsequent fire to each one lost in the immediate shock of
the disaster.[8]

  [8] The Angola was probably the most impressively horrible of the
  many "stove accidents." That which occurred near Prospect, N. Y.,
  upon the Buffalo, Corry & Pittsburgh road, on December 24, 1872,
  should not, however, be forgotten. In this case a trestle bridge
  gave way precipitating a passenger train some thirty feet to the
  bottom of a ravine, where the cars caught fire from the stoves.
  Nineteen lives were lost, mostly by burning. The Richmond Switch
  disaster of April 19, 1873, on the New York, Providence & Boston
  road was of the same character. Three passengers only were there
  burned to death, but after the disaster the flames rushed "through
  the car as quickly as if the wood had been a lot of hay," and, after
  those who were endeavoring to release the wounded and imprisoned men
  were driven away, their cries were for some time heard through the
  smoke and flame.

But a few days more than a year after the Ashtabula accident another
catastrophe, almost exactly similar in its details, occurred on
the Connecticut Western road. It is impossible to even estimate
the amount of overhauling to which bridges throughout the country
had in the meanwhile been subjected, or the increased care used
in their examination. All that can be said is that during the
year 1877 no serious accident due to the inherent weakness of any
bridge occcurred on the 70,000 miles of American railroad. Neither,
so far as can be ascertained, was the Tariffville disaster to be
referred to that cause. It happened on the evening of January 15,
1878. A large party of excursionists were returning from a Moody
and Sankey revival meeting on a special train, consisting of two
locomotives and ten cars. Half a mile west of Tariffville the
railroad crosses the Farmington river. The bridge at this point was
a wooden Howe truss, with two spans of 163 feet each. It had been
in use about seven years and, originally of ample strength and good
construction, there is no evidence that its strength had since been
unduly impaired by neglect or exposure. It should, therefore, have
sufficed to bear twice the strain to which it was now subjected.
Exactly as at Ashtabula, however, the west span of the bridge gave
way under the train just as the leading locomotives passed onto the
tressel-work beyond it: the ice broke under the falling wreck, and
the second locomotive with four cars were precipitated into the
river. The remaining cars were stopped by the rear end of the third
car, resting as it did on the centre pier of the bridge, and did
not leave the rails. The fall to the surface of the ice was about
ten feet. There was no fire to add to the horrors in this case, but
thirteen persons were crushed to death or drowned, and thirty-three
others injured.[9]

  [9] Of the same general character with the Tariffville and Ashtabula
  accidents were those which occurred on November 1, 1855, upon the
  Pacific railroad of Missouri at the bridge over the Gasconade, and
  on July 27, 1875, upon the Northern Pacific at the bridge over the
  Mississippi near Brainerd. In the first of these accidents the
  bridge gave way under an excursion train, in honor of the opening
  of the road, and its chief engineer was among the killed. The train
  fell some thirty feet, and 22 persons lost their lives while over 50
  suffered serious injuries.

  At Brainerd the train,--a "mixed" one,--went down nearly 80 feet
  into the river. The locomotive and several cars had passed the span
  which fell, in safety, but were pulled back and went down on top
  of the train. There were but few passengers in it, of whom three
  were killed. In falling the caboose car at the rear of the train,
  in which most of the passengers were, struck on a pier and broke in
  two, leaving several passengers in it. In the case of the Gasconade,
  the disaster was due to the weakness of the bridge, which fell under
  the weight of the train. There is some question as to the Brainerd
  accident, whether it was occasioned by weakness of the bridge or the
  derailment upon it of a freight car.

Naturally the popular inference was at once drawn that this was
a mere repetition of the Ashtabula experience,--that the fearful
earlier lesson had been thrown away on a corporation either
unwilling or not caring to learn. The newspapers far and wide
resounded with ill considered denunciation, and the demand was loud
for legislation of the crudest conceivable character, especially
a law prohibiting the passage over any bridge of two locomotives
attached to one passenger train. The fact, however, seems to be
that, except in its superficial details, the Tariffville disaster
had no features in common with that at Ashtabula; as nearly as
can be ascertained it was due neither to the weakness nor to the
overloading of the bridge. Though the evidence subsequently given
is not absolutely conclusive on this point, the probabilities
would seem to be that, while on the bridge, the second locomotive
was derailed in some unexplained way and consequently fell on
the stringers which yielded under the sudden blow. The popular
impression, therefore, as to the bearing which the first of these
two strikingly similar accidents had upon the last tended only to
bring about results worse than useless. The bridge fell, not under
the steady weight of two locomotives, but under the sudden shock
incident to the derailment of one. The remedy, therefore, lay in the
direction of so planking or otherwise guarding the floors of similar
bridges that in case of derailment the locomotives or cars should
not fall on the stringers or greatly diverge from the rails so as
to endanger the trusses. On the other hand the suggestion of a law
prohibiting the passage over bridges of more than one locomotive
with any passenger train, while in itself little better than a legal
recognition of bad bridge building, also served to divert public
attention from the true lesson of the disaster. Another newspaper
precaution, very favorably considered at the time, was the putting
of one locomotive, where two had to be used, at the rear end of the
train as a pusher, instead of both in front. This expedient might
indeed obviate one cause of danger, but it would do so only by
substituting for it another which has been the fruitful source of
some of the worst railroad disasters on record.[10]

  [10] "The objectionable and dangerous practice also employed on some
  railways of assisting trains up inclines by means of pilot engines
  in the rear instead of in front, has led to several accidents in
  the past year and should be discontinued."--_General Report to the
  Board of Trade upon the Accidents on the Railways of Great Britain
  in 1878, p. 15._



Long, varied and terrible as the record of bridge disasters has
become, there are, nevertheless, certain very simple and inexpensive
precautions against them, which, altogether too frequently,
corporations do not and will not take. At Ashtabula the bridge
gave way. There was no derailment as there seems to have been
at Tariffville. The sustaining power of a bridge is, of course,
a question comparatively difficult of ascertainment. A fatal
weakness in this respect may be discernable only to the eye of a
trained expert. Derailment, however, either upon a bridge, or when
approaching it, is in the vast majority of cases a danger perfectly
easy to guard against. The precautions are simple and they are not
expensive, yet, taking the railroads of the United States as a
whole, it may well be questioned whether the bridges at which they
have been taken do not constitute the exception rather than the
rule. Not only is the average railroad superintendent accustomed
to doing his work and running his road under a constant pressure to
make both ends meet, which, as he well knows, causes his own daily
bread to depend upon the economies he can effect; but, while he
finds it hard work at best to provide for the multifarious outlays,
long immunity from disaster breeds a species of recklessness even
in the most cautious:--and yet the single mishap in a thousand
must surely fall to the lot of some one. Many years ago the
terrible results which must soon or late be expected wherever the
consequences of a derailment on the approaches to a bridge are not
securely guarded against, were illustrated by a disaster on the
Great Western railroad of Canada, which combined many of the worst
horrors of both the Norwalk and the New Hamburg tragedies; more
recently the almost forgotten lesson was enforced again on the
Vermont & Massachusetts road, upon the bridge over the Miller River,
at Athol. The accident last referred to occurred on the 16th of
June, 1870, but, though forcible enough as a reminder, it was tame
indeed in comparison with the Des Jardines Canal disaster, which
is still remembered though it happened so long ago as the 17th of
March, 1857.

The Great Western railroad of Canada crossed the canal by a bridge
at an elevation of about sixty feet. At the time of the accident
there were some eighteen feet of water in the canal, though, as
is usual in Canada at that season, it was covered by ice some two
feet in thickness. On the afternoon of the 17th of March as the
local accommodation train from Hamilton was nearing the bridge,
its locomotive, though it was then moving at a very slow rate of
speed, was in some way thrown from the track and onto the timbers
of the bridge. These it cut through, and then falling heavily on
the string-pieces it parted them, and instantly pitched headlong
down upon the frozen surface of the canal below, dragging after it
the tender, baggage car and two passenger cars, which composed the
whole train. There was nothing whatever to break the fall of sixty
feet; and even then two feet of ice only intervened between the
ruins of the train and the bottom of the canal eighteen feet below.
Two feet of solid ice will afford no contemptible resistance to a
falling body; the locomotive and tender crushed heavily through
it and instantly sank out of sight. In falling the baggage car
struck a corner of the tender and was thus thrown some ten yards
to one side, and was followed by the first passenger car, which,
turning a somersault as it went, fell on its roof and was crushed to
fragments, but only partially broke through the ice, upon which the
next car fell endwise, and rested in that position. That every human
being in the first car was either crushed or drowned seems most
natural; the only cause for astonishment is found in the fact that
any one should have survived such a catastrophe,--a tumble of sixty
feet on ice as solid as a rock! Yet of four persons in the baggage
car three went down with it, and not one of them was more than
slightly injured. The engineer and fireman, and the occupants of the
second passenger car, were less fortunate. The former were found
crushed under the locomotive at the bottom of the canal; while of
the latter ten were killed, and not one escaped severe injury. Very
rarely indeed in the history of railroad accidents have so large a
portion of those on the train lost their lives as in this case, for
out of ninety persons sixty perished, and in the number was included
every woman and child among the passengers, with a single exception.

There were two circumstances about this disaster worthy of especial
notice. In the first place, as well as can now be ascertained in
the absence of any trustworthy record of an investigation into
causes, the accident was easily preventable. It appears to have
been immediately caused by the derailment of a locomotive, however
occasioned, just as it was entering on a swing draw-bridge. Thrown
from the tracks, there was nothing in the flooring to prevent the
derailed locomotive from deflecting from its course until it toppled
over the ends of the ties, nor were the ties and the flooring
apparently sufficiently strong to sustain it even while it held to
its course. Under such circumstances the derailment of a locomotive
upon any bridge can mean only destruction; it meant it then,
it means it now; and yet our country is to-day full of bridges
constructed in an exactly similar way. To make accidents from this
cause, if not impossible at least highly improbable, it is only
necessary to make the ties and flooring of all bridges between the
tracks and for three feet on either side of them sufficiently strong
to sustain the whole weight of a train off the track and in motion,
while a third rail, or strong truss of wood, securely fastened,
should be laid down midway between the rails throughout the entire
length of the bridge and its approaches. With this arrangement, as
the flanges of the wheels are on the inside, it must follow that in
case of derailment and a divergence to one side or the other of the
bridge, the inner side of the flange will come against the central
rail or truss just so soon as the divergence amounts to half the
space between the rails, which in the ordinary gauge is two feet and
four inches. The wheels must then glide along this guard, holding
the train from any further divergence from its course, until it
can be checked. Meanwhile, as the ties and flooring extend for the
space of three feet outside of the track, a sufficient support is
furnished by them for the other wheels. A legislative enactment
compelling the construction of all bridges in this way, coupled with
additional provisions for interlocking of draws with their signals
in cases of bridges across navigable waters, would be open to
objection that laws against dangers of accident by rail have almost
invariably proved ineffective when they were not absurd, but in
itself, if enforced, it might not improbably render disasters like
those at Norwalk and Des Jardines terrors of the past.



Wholly apart from the derailment, which was the real occasion of
the Des Jardines disaster, there was one other cause which largely
contributed to its fatality, if indeed that fatality was not in
greatest part immediately due to it.

The question as to what is the best method of coupling together
the several individual vehicles which make up every railroad
train has always been much discussed among railroad mechanics.
The decided weight of opinion has been in favor of the strongest
and closest couplings, so that under no circumstances should the
train separate into parts. Taking all forms of railroad accident
together, this conclusion is probably sound. It is, however, at
best only a balancing of disadvantages,--a mere question as to
which practice involves the least amount of danger. Yet a very
terrible demonstration that there are two sides to this as to most
other questions was furnished at Des Jardines. It was the custom
on the Great Western road not only to couple the cars together in
the method then in general use, but also, as is often done now, to
connect them by heavy chains on each side of the centre coupling.
Accordingly when the locomotive broke through the Des Jardines
bridge, it dragged the rest of the train hopelessly after it. This
certainly would not have happened had the modern self-coupler been
in use, and probably would not have happened had the cars been
connected only by the ordinary link and pins; for the train was
going very slowly, and the signal for brakes was given in ample time
to apply them vigorously before the last cars came to the opening,
into which they were finally dragged by the dead weight before them
and not hurried by their own momentum.

On the other hand, we have not far to go in search of scarcely less
fatal disasters illustrating with equal force the other side of the
proposition, in the terrible consequences which have ensued from the
separation of cars in cases of derailment. Take, for instance, the
memorable accident of June 17, 1858, near Port Jervis, on the Erie

As the express train from New York was running at a speed of about
thirty miles an hour over a perfectly straight piece of track
between Otisville and Port Jervis, shortly after dark on the evening
of that day, it encountered a broken rail. The train was made up
of a locomotive, two baggage cars and five passenger cars, all of
which except the last passed safely over the fractured rail. The
last car was apparently derailed, and drew the car before it off the
track. These two cars were then dragged along, swaying fearfully
from side to side, for a distance of some four hundred feet, when
the couplings at last snapped and they went over the embankment,
which was there some thirty feet in height. As they rushed down the
slope the last car turned fairly over, resting finally on its roof,
while one of its heavy iron trucks broke through and fell upon the
passengers beneath, killing and maiming them. The other car, more
fortunate, rested at last upon its side on a pile of stones at the
foot of the embankment. Six persons were killed and fifty severely
injured; all of the former in the last car.

In this case, had the couplings held, the derailed cars would
not have gone over the embankment and but slight injuries would
have been sustained. Modern improvements have, however, created
safeguards sufficient to prevent the recurrence of other accidents
under the same conditions as that at Port Jervis. The difficulty lay
in the inability to stop a train, though moving at only moderate
speed, within a reasonable time. The wretched inefficiency of the
old hand-brake in a sudden emergency received one more illustration.
The train seems to have run nearly half a mile after the accident
took place before it could be stopped, although the engineer had
instant notice of it and reversed his locomotive. The couplings did
not snap until a distance had been traversed in which the modern
train-brake would have reduced the speed to a point at which they
would have been subjected to no dangerous strain.

The accident ten years later at Carr's Rock, sixteen miles west of
Port Jervis, on the same road, was again very similar to the one
just described: and yet in this case the parting of the couplings
alone prevented the rear of the train from dragging its head to
destruction. Both disasters were occasioned by broken rails; but,
while the first occurred on a tangent, the last was at a point where
the road skirted the hills, by a sharp curve, upon the outer side of
which was a steep declivity of some eighty feet, jagged with rock
and bowlders. It befell the night express on the 14th of April,
1876. The train was a long one, consisting of the locomotive, three
baggage and express, and seven passenger cars, and it encountered
the broken rail while rounding the curve at a high rate of speed.
Again all except the last car, passed over the fracture in safety;
this was snapped, as it were, off the track and over the embankment.
At first it was dragged along, but only for a short distance; the
intense strain then broke the coupling between the four rear cars
and the head of the train, and, the last of the four being already
over the embankment, the others almost instantly toppled over after
it and rolled down the ravine. A passenger on this portion of the
train, described the car he was in "as going over and over, until
the outer roof was torn off, the sides fell out, and the inner roof
was crushed in." Twenty-four persons were killed and eighty injured;
but in this instance, as in that at Des Jardines, the only occasion
for surprise was that there were any survivors.

Accidents arising from the parting of defective couplings have of
course not been uncommon, and they constitute one of the greatest
dangers incident to heavy gradients; in surmounting inclines freight
trains will, it is found, break in two, and their hinder parts come
thundering down the grade, as was seen at Abergele. The American
passenger trains, in which each car is provided with brakes, are
much less liable than the English, the speed of which is regulated
by brake-vans, to accidents of this description. Indeed, it may be
questioned whether in America any serious disaster has occurred from
the fact that a portion of a passenger train on a road operated by
steam got beyond control in descending an incline. There have been,
however, terrible catastrophes from this cause in England, and that
on the Lancashire & Yorkshire road near Helmshere, a station some
fourteen miles north of Manchester, deserves a prominent place in
the record of railroad accidents.

It occurred in the early hours of the morning of the 4th of
September, 1860. There had been a great _fête_ at the Bellevue
Gardens in Manchester on the 3d, upon the conclusion of which some
twenty-five hundred persons crowded at once upon the return trains.
Of these there were, on the Lancashire & Yorkshire road, three; the
first consisting of fourteen, the second of thirty-one, and the last
of twenty-four carriages: and they were started, with intervals of
ten minutes between them, at about eleven o'clock at night. The
first train finished its journey in safety. Not so the second and
the third. The Helmshere station is at the top of a steep incline.
This the second train, drawn by two locomotives, surmounted, and
then stopped for the delivery of passengers. While these were
leaving the carriages, a snap as of fractured iron was heard, and
the guards, looking back, saw the whole rear portion of the train,
consisting of seventeen carriages and a brake-van, detached from
the rest of it and quietly slipping down the incline. The detached
portion was moving so slowly that one of the guards succeeded in
catching the van and applying the brakes; it was, however, already
too late. The velocity was greater than the brake-power could
overcome, and the seventeen carriages kept descending more and
more rapidly. Meanwhile the third train had reached the foot of
the incline and begun to ascend it, when its engineer, on rounding
a curve, caught sight of the descending carriages. He immediately
reversed his engine, but before he could bring his train to a stand
they were upon him. Fortunately the van-brakes of the detached
carriages, though insufficient to stop them, yet did reduce their
speed; the collision nevertheless was terrific. The force of the
blow, so far as the advancing train was concerned, expended itself
on the locomotive, which was demolished, while the passengers
escaped with a fright. Not so those in the descending carriages.
With them there was nothing to break the blow, and the two hindmost
carriages were crushed to fragments and their passengers scattered
over the line. It was shortly after midnight, and the excursionists
clambered out of the trains and rushed frantically about, impeding
every effort to clear away the _débris_ and rescue the injured,
whose shrieks and cries were incessant. The bodies of ten persons,
one of whom had died of suffocation, were ultimately taken out from
the wreck, and twenty-two others sustained fractures of limbs.

At Des Jardines the couplings were too strong; at Port Jervis and
at Helmshere they were not strong enough; at Carr's Rock they gave
way not a moment too soon. "There are objections to a plenum and
there are objections to a vacuum," as Dr. Johnson remarked, "but a
plenum or a vacuum it must be." There are no arguments, however,
in favor of putting railroad stations or sidings upon an inclined
plane, and then not providing what the English call "catch-points"
or "scotches" to prevent such disasters as those at Abergele or
Helmshere. In these two instances alone the want of them cost
over fifty lives. In railroad mechanics there are after all some
principles susceptible of demonstration. That vehicles, as well as
water, will run down hill may be classed among them. That these
principles should still be ignored is hardly less singular than it
is surprising.



The terrible disaster which occurred in front of the little
station-building at Revere, six miles from Boston on the Eastern
railroad of Massachusetts, in August 1871, was, properly speaking,
not an accident at all; it was essentially a catastrophe--the
legitimate and almost inevitable final outcome of an antiquated and
insufficient system. As such it should long remain a subject for
prayerful meditation to all those who may at any time be entrusted
with the immediate operating of railroads. It was terribly dramatic,
but it was also frightfully instructive; and while the lesson was by
no means lost, it yet admits of further and advantageous study. For,
like most other men whose lives are devoted to a special calling,
the managers of railroads are apt to be very much wedded to their
own methods, and attention has already more than once been called to
the fact that, when any new emergency necessitates a new appliance,
they not infrequently, as Captain Tyler well put it in his report
to the Board of Trade for the year 1870, "display more ingenuity in
finding objections than in overcoming them."

[Illustration: map]

The Eastern railroad of Massachusetts connects Boston with Portland,
in the state of Maine, by a line which is located close along the
sea-shore. Between Boston and Lynn, a distance of eleven miles, the
main road is in large part built across the salt marshes, but there
is a branch which leaves it at Everett, a small station some miles
out of Boston, and thence, running deviously through a succession
of towns on the higher ground, connects with the main track again
at Lynn; thus making what is known in England as a loop-road. At
the time of the Revere accident this branch was equipped with
but a single track, and was operated wholly by schedule without
any reliance on the telegraph; and, indeed, there were not even
telegraphic offices at a number of the stations upon it. Revere,
the name of the station where the accident took place, was on the
main line about five miles from Boston and two miles from Everett,
where the Saugus branch, as the loop-road was called, began. The
accompanying diagram shows the relative position of the several
points and of the main and branch lines, a thorough appreciation of
which is essential to a correct understanding of the disaster.

The travel over the Eastern railroad is of a somewhat exceptional
nature, varying in a more than ordinary degree with the different
seasons of the year. During the winter months the corporation had,
in 1871, to provide for a regular passenger movement of about
seventy-five thousand a week, but in the summer what is known
as the excursion and pleasure travel not infrequently increased
the number to one hundred and ten thousand, and even more. As a
natural consequence, during certain weeks of each summer, and more
especially towards the close of August, it was no unusual thing for
the corporation to find itself taxed beyond its utmost resources. It
is emergencies of this description, periodically occurring on every
railroad, which always subject to the final test the organization
and discipline of companies and the capacity of superintendents. A
railroad in quiet times is like a ship in steady weather; almost
anybody can manage the one or sail the other. It is the sudden
stress which reveals the undeveloped strength or the hidden
weakness; and the truly instructive feature in the Revere accident
lay in the amount of hidden weakness everywhere which was brought to
light under that sudden stress. During the week ending with that
Saturday evening upon which the disaster occurred the rolling stock
of the road had been heavily taxed, not only to accommodate the
usual tide of summer travel, then at its full flood, but also those
attending a military muster and two large camp-meetings upon its
line. The number of passengers going over it had accordingly risen
from about one hundred and ten thousand, the full summer average,
to over one hundred and forty thousand; while instead of the one
hundred and fifty-two trains a day provided for in the running
schedule, there were no less than one hundred and ninety-two. It
had never been the custom with those managing the road to place any
reliance upon the telegraph in directing the train movement, and no
use whatever appears to have been made of it towards straightening
out the numerous hitches inevitable from so sudden an increase in
that movement. If an engine broke down, or a train got off the
track, there had accordingly throughout that week been nothing
done, except patient and general waiting, until things got in
motion again; each conductor or station-master had to look out for
himself, under the running regulations of the road, and need expect
no assistance from headquarters. This, too, in spite of the fact
that, including the Saugus branch, no less than ninety-three of the
entire one hundred and fifteen miles of road operated by the company
were supplied only with a single track. The whole train movement,
both of the main line and of the branches, intricate in the extreme
as it was, thus depended solely on a schedule arrangement and the
watchful intelligence of individual employés. Not unnaturally,
therefore, as the week drew to a close the confusion became so
great that the trains reached and left the Boston station with an
almost total disregard of the schedule; while towards the evening
of Saturday the employés of the road at that station directed their
efforts almost exclusively to dispatching trains as fast as cars
could be procured, thus trying to keep it as clear as possible of
the throng of impatient travellers which continually blocked it up.
Taken altogether the situation illustrated in a very striking manner
that singular reliance of the corporation on the individuality
and intelligence of its employés, which in another connection is
referred to as one of the most striking characteristics of American
railroad management, without a full appreciation of which it is
impossible to understand its using or failing to use certain

According to the regular schedule four trains should have left the
Boston station in succession during the hour and a half between 6.30
and eight o'clock P.M.: a Saugus branch train for Lynn at 6.30; a
second Saugus branch train at seven; an accommodation train, which
ran eighteen miles over the main line, at 7.15; and finally the
express train through to Portland, also over the main line, at
eight o'clock. The collision at Revere was between these last two
trains, the express overtaking and running into the rear of the
accommodation train; but it was indirectly caused by the delays
and irregularity in movement of the two branch trains. It will be
noticed that, according to the schedule, both of the branch trains
should have preceded the accommodation train; in the prevailing
confusion, however, the first of the two branch trains did not leave
the station until about seven o'clock, thirty minutes behind its
time, and it was followed forty minutes later, not by the second
branch train, but by the accommodation train, which in its turn was
twenty-five minutes late. Thirteen minutes afterwards the second
Saugus branch train, which should have preceded, followed it, being
nearly an hour out of time. Then at last came the Portland express,
which got away practically on time, at a few minutes after eight
o'clock. All of these four trains went out over the same track as
far as the junction at Everett, but at that point the first and
third of the four were to go off on the branch, while the second and
fourth kept on over the main line. Between these last two trains
the running schedule of the road allowed an ample time-interval of
forty-five minutes, which, however, on this occasion was reduced,
through the delay in starting, to some fifteen or twenty minutes.
No causes of further delay, therefore, arising, the simple case
was presented of a slow accommodation train being sent out to run
eighteen miles in advance of a fast express train, with an interval
of twenty minutes between them.

Unfortunately, however, the accommodation train was speedily
subjected to another and very serious delay. It has been mentioned
that the Saugus branch was a single track road, and the rules of
the company were explicit that no outward train was to pass onto
the branch at Everett until any inward train then due there should
have arrived and passed off it. There was no siding at the junction,
upon which an outward branch train could be temporarily placed to
wait for the inward train, thus leaving the main track clear; and
accordingly, under a strict construction of the rules, any outward
branch train while awaiting the arrival at Everett of an inward
branch train was to be kept standing on the main track, completely
blocking it. The outward branch trains, it subsequently appeared,
were often delayed at the junction, but no practical difficulty had
arisen from this cause, as the employé in charge of the signals
and switches there, exercising his common sense, had been in the
custom of moving any delayed train temporarily out of the way onto
the branch or the other main track, under protection of a flag,
and thus relieving the block. The need of a siding to permit the
passage of trains at this point had not been felt, simply because
the employé in charge there had used the branch or other main track
as a siding. On the day of the accident this employé happened to be
sick, and absent from his post. His substitute either had no common
sense or did not feel called upon to use it, if its use involved
any increase of responsibility. Accordingly, when a block took
place, the simple letter of the rule was followed;--and it is almost
needless to add that a block did take place on the afternoon of
August 26th.

The first of the branch trains, it will be remembered, had left
Boston at about seven o'clock, instead of at 6.30, its schedule
time. On arriving at Everett this train should have met and passed
an inward branch train, which was timed to leave Lynn at six
o'clock, but which, owing to some accident to its locomotive, and
partaking of the general confusion of the day, on this particular
afternoon did not leave the Lynn station until 7.30 o'clock, or one
hour and a half after its schedule time, and one half-hour after
the other train had left Boston. Accordingly, when the Boston train
reached the junction its conductor found himself confronted by the
rule forbidding him to enter upon the branch until the Lynn train
then due should have passed off it, and so he quietly waited on the
outward track of the main line, blocking it completely to traffic.
He had not waited long before a special locomotive, on its way from
Boston to Salem, came up and stopped behind him. This was presently
followed by the accommodation train. Then the next branch train came
along, and finally the Portland express. At such a time, and at that
period of railroad development, there was something ludicrous about
the spectacle. Here was a road utterly unable to accommodate its
passengers with cars, while a succession of trains were standing
idle for hours, because a locomotive had broken down ten miles off.
The telegraph was there, but the company was not in the custom of
putting any reliance upon it. A simple message to the branch trains
to meet and pass at any point other than that fixed in the schedule
would have solved the whole difficulty; but, no!--there were the
rules, and all the rolling stock of the road might gather at Everett
in solemn procession, but, until the locomotive at Lynn could be
repaired, the law of the Medes and Persians was plain; and in this
case it read that the telegraph was a new-fangled and unreliable
auxiliary. And so the lengthening procession stood there long enough
for the train which caused it to have gone to its destination and
come back dragging the disabled locomotive from Lynn behind it to
again take its place in the block.

At last, at about ten minutes after eight o'clock, the long-expected
Lynn train made its appearance, and the first of the branch trains
from Boston immediately went off the main line. The road was now
clear for the accommodation train, which had been standing some
twelve or fifteen minutes in the block, but which from the moment
of again starting was running on the schedule time of the Portland
express. This its conductor did not know. Every minute was vital,
and yet he never thought to look at his watch. He had a vague
impression that he had been delayed some six or eight minutes, when
in reality he had been delayed fifteen; and, though he was running
wholly out of his schedule time, he took not a single precaution, so
persuaded was he that every one knew where he was.

The confusion among those in charge of the various engines and
trains was, indeed, general and complete. As the Portland express
was about to leave the Boston station, the superintendent of the
road, knowing by the non-arrival of the branch train from Lynn that
there must be a block at the Everett junction, had directed the
depot-master to caution the engineer to look out for the trains
ahead of him. The order, a merely verbal one, was delivered after
the train had started, the depot-master walking along by the side of
the slowly-moving locomotive, and was either incorrectly transmitted
or not fully understood; the engine-driver supposed it to apply to
the branch train which had started just before him, out of both its
schedule time and schedule place. Presently, at the junction, he was
stopped by the signal man of this train. The course of reasoning he
would then have had to pass through to divine the true situation
of affairs and to guide himself safely under the schedule in the
light of the running rules was complicated indeed, and somewhat as
follows: "The branch train," he should have argued to himself, "is
stopped, and it is stopped because the train which should have left
Lynn at six o'clock has not yet arrived; but, under the rules, that
train should pass off the branch before the 6.30 train could pass
onto it; if, therefore, the 'wild' train before me is delayed not
only the 6.30 but all intermediate trains must likewise be delayed,
and the accommodation train went out this afternoon after the 6.30
train, so it, too, must be in the block ahead of me; unless, indeed,
as is usually the case, the signal-master has got it out of the
block under the protection of a flag." This line of reasoning was,
perhaps, too intricate; at any rate, the engine-driver did not
follow it out, but, when he saw the tail-lights immediately before
him disappear on the branch, he concluded that the main line was
now clear, and dismissed the depot-master's caution from his mind.
Meanwhile, as the engine-driver of this train was fully persuaded
that the only other train in his front had gone off on the branch,
the conductor of the accommodation train was equally persuaded that
the head-light immediately behind him in the block at the junction
had been that of the Portland express which consequently should be
aware of his position. Both were wrong.

Thus when they left Everett the express was fairly chasing the
accommodation train, and overtaking it with terrible rapidity.
Even then no collision ought to have been possible. Unfortunately,
however, the road had no system, even the crudest, of interval
signals; and the utter irregularity prevailing in the train
movement seemed to have demoralized the employés along the line,
who, though they noticed the extreme proximity of the two trains
to each other as they passed various points, all sluggishly took
it for granted that those in charge of them were fully aware of
their relative positions and knew what they were about. Thus, as
the two trains approached the Revere station, they were so close
together as to be on the same piece of straight track at the same
time, and a passenger standing at the rear end of the accommodation
train distinctly saw the head-light of the express locomotive. The
night, however, was not a clear one, for an east wind had prevailed
all day, driving a mist in from the sea which lay in banks over
the marshes, lifting at times so that distant objects were quite
visible, and then obscuring them in its heavy folds. Consequently it
did not at all follow, because the powerful reflecting head-light
of the locomotive was visible from the accommodation train, that
the dim tail-lights of the latter were also visible to those on the
locomotive. Here was another mischance. The tail-lights in use by
the company were ordinary red lanterns without reflecting power.

The station house at Revere stood at the end of a tangent, the
track curving directly before it. In any ordinary weather the
tail-lights of a train standing at this station would have been
visible for a very considerable distance down the track in the
direction of Boston, and even on the night of the accident they
were probably visible for a sufficient distance in which to stop
any train approaching at a reasonable rate of speed. Unfortunately
the engineer of the Portland express did not at once see them,
his attention being wholly absorbed in looking for other signals.
Certain freight train tracks to points on the shore diverged from
the main line at Revere, and the engine-drivers of all trains
approaching that place were notified by signals at a masthead close
to the station whether the switches were set for the main line or
for these freight tracks. A red lantern at the masthead indicated
that the main line was closed; in the absence of any signal it
was open. In looking for this signal as he approached Revere the
engine-driver of the Portland express was simply attending closely
to his business, for, had the red light been at the masthead, his
train must at once have been stopped. Unfortunately, however, while
peering through the mist at the masthead he overlooked what was
directly before him, until, when at last he brought his eyes down to
the level, to use his own words at the subsequent inquest, "the tail
lights of the accommodation train seemed to spring right up in his

When those in charge of the two trains at almost the same moment
became aware of the danger, there was yet an interval of some eight
hundred feet between them. The express train was, however, moving
at a speed of some twenty-five or thirty miles an hour, and was
equipped only with the old-fashioned hand-brake. In response to the
sharply given signal from the whistle these were rapidly set, but
the rails were damp and slippery, so that the wheels failed to catch
upon them, and, when everything was done which could be done, the
eight hundred feet of interval sufficed only to reduce the speed of
the colliding locomotive to about ten miles an hour.

In the rear car of the accommodation train there were at the moment
of the accident some sixty-five or seventy human beings, seated
and standing. They were of both sexes and of all ages; for it was
a Saturday evening in August, and many persons had, through the
confusion of the trains, been long delayed in their return from
the city to their homes at the sea-side. The first intimation the
passengers had of the danger impending over them was from the
sudden and lurid illumination of the car by the glare from the
head-light of the approaching locomotive. One of them who survived
the disaster, though grievously injured, described how he was
carelessly watching a young man standing in the aisle, laughing
and gayly chatting with four young girls, who were seated, when he
saw him turn and instantly his face, in the sudden blaze of the
head-light, assumed a look of frozen horror which was the single
thing in the accident indelibly impressed on the survivor's memory;
that look haunted him. The car was crowded to its full capacity, and
the colliding locomotive struck it with such force as to bury itself
two-thirds of its length in it. At the instant of the crash a panic
had seized upon the passengers, and a sort of rush had taken place
to the forward end of the car, into which furniture, fixtures and
human beings were crushed in a shapeless, indistinguishable mass.
Meanwhile the blow had swept away the smoke-stack of the locomotive,
and its forward truck had been forced back in some unaccountable way
until it rested between its driving wheels and the tender, leaving
the entire boiler inside of the passenger car and supported on its
rear truck. The valves had been so broken as to admit of the free
escape of the scalding steam, while the coals from the fire-box
were scattered among the _débris_, and coming in contact with the
fluid from the broken car lamps kindled the whole into a rapid
blaze. Neither was the fire confined to the last car of the train.
It has been mentioned that in the block at Everett a locomotive
returning to Salem had found itself stopped just in advance of the
accommodation train. At the suggestion of the engine-driver of that
train this locomotive had there coupled on to it, and consequently
made a part of it at Revere. When the collision took place,
therefore, the four cars of which the accommodation train was made
up were crushed between the weight of the entire colliding train on
one side and that of two locomotives on the other. That they were
not wholly demolished was due simply to the fact that the last car
yielded to the blow, and permitted the locomotive of the express
train fairly to imbed itself in it. As it was, the remaining cars
were jammed and shattered, and, though the passengers in them
escaped, the oil from the broken lamps ignited, and before the
flames could be extinguished the cars were entirely destroyed.

This accident resulted in the death of twenty-nine persons, and
in more or less severe injuries to fifty-seven others. No person,
not in the last car of the accommodation train was killed, and
one only was seriously injured. Of those in the last car more
than half lost their lives; many instantly by crushing, others by
inhaling the scalding steam which poured forth from the locomotive
boiler into the wreck, and which, where it did not kill, inflicted
frightful injuries. Indeed, for the severity of injuries and for the
protractedness of agony involved in it, this accident has rarely, if
ever, been exceeded. Crushing, scalding and burning did their work

It may with perfect truth be said that the disaster at Revere marked
an epoch in the history of railroad development in New England. At
the moment it called forth the deepest expression of horror and
indignation, which, as usual in such cases, was more noticeable for
its force than for its wisdom. An utter absence of all spirit of
justice is, indeed, a usual characteristic of the more immediate
utterances, both from the press and on the platform, upon occasions
of this character. Writers and orators seem always to forget that,
next to the immediate sufferers and their families, the unfortunate
officials concerned are the greatest losers by railroad accidents.
For them, not only reputation but bread is involved. A railroad
employé implicated in the occurrence of an accident lives under a
stigma. And yet, from the tenor of public comment it might fairly be
supposed that these officials are in the custom of plotting to bring
disasters about, and take a fiendish delight in them. Nowhere was
this ever illustrated more perfectly than in Massachusetts during
the last days of August and the early days of September, 1871. Grave
men--men who ought to have known better--indulged in language which
would have been simply ludicrous save for the horror of the event
which occasioned but could not justify it. A public meeting, for
instance, was held at the town of Swampscott on the evening of the
Monday succeeding the catastrophe. The gentleman who presided over
it very discreetly, in his preliminary remarks, urged those who
proposed to join in the discussion to control their feelings. Hardly
had he ceased speaking, however, when Mr. Wendell Phillips was
noticed among the audience, and immediately called to the platform.
His remarks were a most singular commentary on the chairman's
injunction to calmness. He began by announcing that the first
requisite to the formation of a healthy public opinion in regard
to railroad accidents, as other things, was absolute frankness of
speech, and he then proceeded as follows:--"So I begin by saying
that to my mind this terrible disaster, which has made the last
thirty-six hours so sad to us all, is a deliberate murder. I think
we should try to get rid in the public mind of any real distinction
between the individual who, in a moment of passion or in a moment of
heedlessness, takes the life of one fellow-man, and the corporation
that in a moment of greed, of little trouble, of little expense, of
little care, of little diligence, takes lives by wholesale. I think
the first requisite of the public mind is to say that there is no
accident in the case, properly speaking. It is a murder; the guilt
of murder rests somewhere."

Mr. Phillip's definition of the crime of "deliberate murder"
would apparently somewhat unsettle the criminal law as at present
understood, but he was not at all alone in this bathos of
extravagance. Prominent gentlemen seemed to vie with each other
in their display of ignorance. Mr. B. F. Butler, for instance,
suggested his view of the disaster and the measure best calculated
to prevent a repetition of it; which last was certainly original,
inasmuch as he urged the immediate raising of the pay of all
engine-men until a sufficiently high order of ability and education
should be brought into the occupation to render impossible the
recurrence of an accident which was primarily caused by the
negligence, not of an engineer, but of a conductor. Another
gentleman described with much feeling his observations during a
recent tour in Europe, and declared that such a catastrophe as that
at Revere would have been impossible there. As a matter of fact
the official reports not only showed that the accident was one of
a class of most frequent occurrence, but also that sixty-one cases
of it had occurred in Great Britain alone during the very year the
gentleman in question was journeying in Europe, and had occasioned
over six hundred cases of death or personal injury. Perhaps, in
order to illustrate how very reckless in statement a responsible
gentleman talking under excitement may become, it is worth while to
quote in his own language Captain Tyler's brief description of one
of those sixty-one accidents which "could not possibly," but yet
did, occur. As miscellaneous reading it is amusing.

     "As four London & North-Western excursion trains on September
     2, 1870, were returning from a volunteer review at Penrith,
     the fourth came into collision at Penruddock with the third of
     those trains. An hundred and ten passengers and three servants
     of the company were injured. These trains were partly in charge
     of acting guards, some of whom were entirely inexperienced, as
     well in the line as in their duties; and of engine-drivers and
     firemen, of whom one, at all events, was very much the worse for
     liquor. The side-lamps on the hind van of the third train were
     obscured by a horse-box, which was wider than the van. There
     were no special means of protection to meet the exceptional
     contingency of three such trains all stopping on their way from
     the eastward, to cross two others from the westward, at this
     station. And the regulations for telegraphing the trains were
     altogether neglected."



The annals of railroad accidents are full of cases of "rear-end
collision," as it is termed.[11] Their frequency may almost be
accepted as a very accurate gauge of the pressure of traffic on
any given system of lines, and because of them the companies are
continually compelled to adopt new and more intricate systems of
operation. At first, on almost all roads, trains follow each other
at such great intervals that no precaution at all, other than flags
and lanterns, are found necessary. Then comes a succeeding period
when an interval of time between following trains is provided for,
through a system of signals which at given points indicate danger
during a certain number of minutes after the passage of every
train. Then, presently, the alarming frequency of rear collisions
demonstrates the inadequacy of this system, and a new one has to be
devised, which, through the aid of electricity, secures between the
trains an interval of space as well as of time. This last is known
as the "block-system," of which so much has of late years been heard.

  [11] In the nine years 1870-8, besides those which occurred and
  were not deemed of sufficient importance to demand special inquiry,
  86 cases of accidents of this description were investigated by the
  inspecting officers of the English Board of Trade and reported upon
  in detail. In America, 732 cases were reported as occurring during
  the six years 1874-8, and 138 cases in 1878 alone.

The block-system is so important a feature in the modern operation
of railroads, and in its present stage of development it illustrates
so strikingly the difference between the European and the American
methods, that more particular reference will have presently to be
made to it.[12] For the present it is enough to say that rear-end
collisions occur notwithstanding all the precautions implied in a
thoroughly perfected "block-system." There was such a case on the
Metropolitan road, in the very heart of London, on the 29th of
August, 1873. It happened in a tunnel. A train was stalled there,
and an unfortunate signal officer in a moment of flurry gave "line
clear" and sent another train directly into it.

  [12] Chapter XVII.

A much more impressive disaster, both in its dramatic features
and as illustrating the inadequacy of every precaution depending
on human agency to avert accident under certain conditions, was
afforded in the case of a collision which occurred on the London
& Brighton Railway on August 25, 1861; ten years almost to a day
before that at Revere. Like the Eastern railroad, the London
& Brighton enjoyed an enormous passenger traffic, which became
peculiarly heavy during the vacation season towards the close of
August; and it was to the presence of the excursion trains made
necessary to accomodate this traffic that the catastrophes were
in both cases due. In the case of the London & Brighton road it
occurred on a Sunday. An excursion train from Portsmouth on that
day was to leave Brighton at five minutes after eight A. M., and
was to be followed by a regular Sunday excursion train at 8.15 or
ten minutes later, and that again, after the lapse of a quarter of
an hour, by a regular parliamentary train at 8.30. These trains
were certainly timed to run sufficiently near to each other; but,
owing to existing pressure of traffic on the line, they started
almost simultaneously. The Portsmouth excursion, which consisted of
sixteen carriages, was much behind its time, and did not leave the
Brighton station until 8.28; when, after a lapse of three minutes,
it was followed by the regular excursion train at 8.31, and that
again by the parliamentary train at 8.35. Three passenger trains had
thus left the station on one track in seven minutes! The London and
Brighton Railway traverses the chalky downs, for which that portion
of England is noted, through numerous tunnels, the first of which
after leaving Brighton is known as the Patcham Tunnel, about five
hundred yards in length, while two and a half miles farther on is
the Croydon Tunnel, rather more than a mile and a quarter in length.

The line between these tunnels was so crooked and obscured that the
managers had adopted extraordinary precautions against accident. At
each end of the Croydon Tunnel a signal-man was stationed, with a
telegraphic apparatus, a clock and a telegraph bell in his station.
The rule was absolute that when any train entered the tunnel the
signal-man at the point of entry was to telegraph "train in," and
no other train could follow until the return signal of "train out"
came from the other side. In face of such a regulation it was
difficult to see how any collision in the tunnel was possible. When
the Portsmouth excursion train arrived, it at once entered the
tunnel and the fact was properly signaled to the opposite outlet.
Before the return signal that this train was out was received, the
regular excursion train came in sight. It should have been stopped
by a self-acting signal which was placed about a quarter of a mile
from the mouth of the tunnel, and which each passing locomotive set
at "danger," where it remained until shifted to "safety," by the
signal-man, on receipt of the message, "train out." Through some
unexplained cause, the Portsmouth excursion train had failed to act
on this signal, which consequently still indicated safety when the
Brighton excursion train came up. Accordingly the engine-driver
at once passed it, and went on to the tunnel. As he did so, the
signal-man, perceiving some mistake and knowing that he had not yet
got his return signal that the preceding train was out, tried to
stop him by waving his red flag. It was too late, however, and the
train passed in. A moment later the parliamentary train also came
in sight, and stopped at the signal of danger. Now ensued a most
singular misapprehension between the signal-men, resulting in a
terrible disaster. The second train had run into the tunnel and was
supposed by the signal-man to be on its way to the other end of it,
when he received the return message that the first train was out.
To this he instantly responded by again telegraphing "train in,"
referring now to the second train. This dispatch the signal-man
at the opposite end conceived to be a repetition of the message
referring to the first train, and he accordingly again replied that
the train was out. This reply, however, the other operator mistook
as referring to the second train, and accordingly he signaled
"safety," and the third train at once got under way and passed into
the tunnel. Unfortunately the engineer of the second train had
seen the red flag waved by the signal-man, and, in obedience to
it, stopped his locomotive as soon as possible in the tunnel and
began to back out of it. In doing so, he drove his train into the
locomotive of the third train advancing into it. The tunnel was
twenty-four feet in height. The engine of the parliamentary train
struck the rear carriage of the excursion train and mounted upon
its fragments, and then on those of the carriage in front of it,
until its smoke-stack came in contact with the roof of the tunnel.
It rested finally in a nearly upright position. The collision had
taken place so far within the tunnel as to be beyond the reach of
daylight, and the wreck of the trains had quite blocked up the arch,
while the steam and smoke from the engines poured forth with loud
sound and in heavy volumes, filling the empty space with stifling
and scalding vapors. When at last assistance came and the trains
could be separated, twenty-three corpses were taken from the ruins,
while one hundred and seventy-six other persons had sustained more
or less severe injuries.

A not less extraordinary accident of the same description,
unaccompanied, however, by an equal loss of life, occured on the
Great Northern Railway upon the 10th of June, 1866. In this case
the tube of a locomotive of a freight train burst at about the
centre of the Welwyn Tunnel, some five miles north of Hatfield,
bringing the train to a stand-still. The guard in charge of the
rear of the train failed from some cause to go back and give the
signal for an obstruction, and speedily another freight train from
the Midland road entered and dashed into the rear of the train
already there. Apparently those in charge of these two trains were
in such consternation that they did not think to provide against a
further disaster; at any rate, before measures to that end had been
taken, an additional freight train, this time belonging to the Great
Northern road, came up and plowed into the ruins which already
blocked the tunnel. One of the trains had contained wagons laden
with casks of oil, which speedily became ignited from contact with
the coals scattered from the fire-boxes, and there then ensued one
of the most extraordinary spectacles ever witnessed on a railroad.
The tunnel was filled to the summit of its arch and completely
blocked with the wrecked locomotives and wagons. These had ignited,
and the whole cavity, more than a half a mile in length, was
converted into one huge furnace, belching forth smoke and flame with
a loud roaring sound through its several air shafts. So fierce was
the fire that no attempt was made to subdue it, and eighteen hours
elapsed before any steps could be taken towards clearing the track.
Strange to say, in this disaster the lives of but two persons were

Rear-end collisions have been less frequent in this country than
in England, for the simple reason that the volume of traffic has
pressed less heavily on the capacity of the lines. Yet here, also,
they have been by no means unknown. In 1865 two occurred, both of
which were accompanied with a considerable loss of life; though,
coming as they did during the exciting scenes which marked the
close of the war of the Rebellion, they attracted much less public
notice than they otherwise would. The first of these took place in
New Jersey on the 7th of March, 1865, just three days after the
second inauguration of President Lincoln. As the express train
from Washington to New York over the Camden & Amboy road was
passing through Bristol, about thirty miles from Philadelphia, at
half-past-two o'clock in the morning, it dashed into the rear of
the twelve o'clock "owl train," from Kensington to New York, which
had been delayed by meeting an oil train on the track before it.
The case appears to have been one of very culpable negligence, for,
though the owl train was some two hours late, those in charge of it
seem to have been so deeply engrossed in what was going on before
them that they wholly neglected to guard their rear. The express
train accordingly, approaching around a curve, plunged at a high
rate of speed into the last car, shattering it to pieces; the engine
is even said to have passed completely through that car and to have
imbedded itself in the one before it. It so happened that most of
the sufferers by this accident, numbering about fifty, were soldiers
on their way home from the army upon furlough.

The second of the two disasters referred to, occurred on the 16th of
August, 1865, upon the Housatonic road of Connecticut. A new engine
was out upon an experimental trip, and in rounding a curve it ran
into the rear of a passenger train, which, having encountered a
disabled freight train, had coupled on to it and was then backing
down with it to a siding in order to get by. In this case the
impetus was so great that the colliding locomotive utterly destroyed
the rear car of the passenger train and penetrated some distance
into the car preceding it, where its boiler burst. Fortunately
the train was by no means full of passengers; but, even as it was,
eleven persons were killed and some seventeen badly injured.



The great peculiarity of the Revere accident, and that which gave
a permanent interest to it, lay in the revelation it afforded of
the degree in which a system had outgrown its appliances. At every
point a deficiency was apparent. The railroads of New England had
long been living on their early reputation, and now, when a sudden
test was applied, it was found that they were years behind the time.
In August, 1871, the Eastern railroad was run as if it were a line
of stage-coaches in the days before the telegraph. Not in one point
alone, but in everything, it broke down under the test. The disaster
was due not to any single cause but to a combination of causes
implicating not only the machinery and appliances in use by the
company, but its discipline and efficiency from the highest official
down to the meanest subordinate. In the first place the capacity of
the road was taxed to the utmost; it was vital, almost, that every
wheel should be kept in motion. Yet, under that very exigency, the
wheels stopped almost as a matter of necessity. How could it be
otherwise?--Here was a crowded line, more than half of which was
equipped with but a single track, in operating which no reliance was
placed upon the telegraph. With trains running out of their schedule
time and out of their schedule place, engineers and conductors were
left to grope their way along as best they could in the light of
rules, the essence of which was that when in doubt they were to
stand stock still. Then, in the absence of the telegraph, a block
occurred almost at the mouth of the terminal station; and there the
trains stood for hours in stupid obedience to a stupid rule, because
the one man who, with a simple regard to the dictates of common
sense, was habitually accustomed to violate it happened to be sick.
Trains commonly left a station out of time and out of place; and
the engineer of an express train was sent out to run a gauntlet the
whole length of the road with a simple verbal injunction to look
out for some one before him. Then, at last, when this express train
through all this chaos got to chasing an accommodation train, much
as a hound might course a hare, there was not a pretence of a signal
to indicate the time which had elapsed between the passage of the
two, and employés, lanterns in hand, gaped on in bewilderment at the
awful race, concluding that they could not at any rate do anything
to help matters, but on the whole they were inclined to think that
those most immediately concerned must know what they were about.
Finally, even when the disaster was imminent, when deficiency in
organization and discipline had done its worst, its consequences
might yet have been averted through the use of better appliances;
had the one train been equipped with the Westinghouse brake,
already largely in use in other sections of the country, it might
and would have been stopped; or had the other train been provided
with reflecting tail-lights in place of the dim hand-lanterns which
glimmered on its rear platform, it could hardly have failed to make
its proximity known. Any one of a dozen things, every one of which
should have been but was not, ought to have averted the disaster.
Obviously its immediate cause was not far to seek. It lay in the
carelessness of a conductor who failed to consult his watch, and
never knew until the crash came that his train was leisurely moving
along on the time of another. Nevertheless, what can be said in
extenuation of a system under which, at this late day, a railroad is
operated on the principle that each employé under all circumstances
can and will take care of himself and of those whose lives and limbs
are entrusted to his care?

There is, however, another and far more attractive side to the
picture. The lives sacrificed at Revere were not lost in vain. Seven
complete railroad years passed by between that and the Wollaston
Heights accident of 1878. During that time not less than two hundred
and thirty millions of persons were carried by rail within the
limits of Massachusetts. Of this vast number while only 50, or
about one in each four and a half millions, sustained any injury
from causes beyond their own power to control, the killed were just
two. This certainly was a record with which no community could well
find fault; and it was due more than anything else to the great
disaster of August 26, 1871. More than once, and on more than one
road, accidents occurred which, but for the improved appliances
introduced in consequence of the experience at Revere, could hardly
have failed of fatal results. Not that these appliances were in
all cases very cheerfully or very eagerly accepted. Neither the
Miller platform nor the Westinghouse brake won its way into general
use unchallenged. Indeed, the earnestness and even the indignation
with which presidents and superintendents then protested that their
car construction was better and stronger than Miller's; that their
antiquated handbrakes were the most improved brakes,--better, much
better, than the Westinghouse; that their crude old semaphores and
targets afforded a protection to trains which no block-system would
ever equal,--all this certainly was comical enough, even in the
very shadow of the great tragedy. Men of a certain type always have
protested and will always continue to protest that they have nothing
to learn; yet, under the heavy burden of responsibility, learn
they still do. They dare not but learn. On this point the figures
of the Massachusetts annual returns between the year 1871 and the
year 1878 speak volumes. At the time of the Revere disaster, with
one single honorable exception,--that of the Boston & Providence
road,--both the atmospheric train-brake and the Miller platform, the
two greatest modern improvements in American car construction, were
practically unrecognized on the railroads of Massachusetts. Even a
year later, but 93 locomotives and 415 cars had been equipped even
with the train-brake. In September, 1873, the number had, however,
risen to 194 locomotives and 709 cars; and another twelve months
carried these numbers up to 313 locomotives and 997 cars. Finally
in 1877 the state commissioners in their report for that year spoke
of the train-brake as having been then generally adopted, and at
the same time called attention to the very noticeable fact "that
the only railroad accident resulting in the death of a passenger
from causes beyond his control within the state during a period of
two years and eight months, was caused by the failure of a company
to adopt this improvement on all its passenger rolling-stock."
The adoption of Miller's method of car construction had meanwhile
been hardly less rapid. Almost unknown at the time of the Revere
catastrophe in September, 1871, in October, 1873, when returns on
the subject were first called for by the state commissioners,
eleven companies had already adopted it on 778 cars out of a total
number of 1548 reported. In 1878 it had been adopted by twenty-two
companies, and applied to 1685 cars out of a total of 1792. In other
words it had been brought into general use.



A realizing sense of the necessity of ultimately adopting some
system of protection against the danger of rear-end collisions was,
above all else, brought directly home to American railroad managers
through the Revere disaster. In discussing and comparing the
appliances used in the practical operation of railroads in different
countries, there is one element, however, which can never be left
out of the account. The intelligence, quickness of perception
and capacity for taking care of themselves--that combination of
qualities which, taken together, constitute individuality and
adaptability to circumstance--vary greatly among the railroad
employés of different countries. The American locomotive engineer,
as he is called, is especially gifted in this way. He can be relied
on to take care of himself and his train under circumstances which
in other countries would be thought to insure disaster. Volumes
on this point were included in the fact that though at the time
of the Revere disaster many of the American lines, especially in
Massachusetts, were crowded with the trains of a mixed traffic,
the necessity of making any provision against rear-end collisions,
further than by directing those in immediate charge of the trains
to keep a sharp look out and to obey their printed orders, seemed
hardly to have occurred to any one. The English block system was
now and then referred to in a vague, general way; but it was very
questionable whether one in ten of those referring to it knew
anything about it or had ever seen it in operation, much less
investigated it. A characteristic illustration of this was afforded
in the course of those official investigations which followed the
Revere disaster, and have already more than once been alluded to.
Prior to that disaster the railroads of Massachusetts had, as a
rule, enjoyed a rather exceptional freedom from accidents, and
there was every reason to suppose that their regulations were as
exact and their system as good as those in use in other parts of
the country. Yet it then appeared that in the rules of very few of
the Massachusetts roads had any provision, even of the simplest
character, been made as to the effect of telegraphic orders, or
the course to be pursued by employés in charge of trains on their
receipt. The appliances for securing intervals between following
trains were marked by a quaint simplicity. They were, indeed,
"singularly primitive," as the railroad commissioners on a
subsequent occasion described them, when it appeared that on one of
the principal roads of the state the interval between two closely
following trains was signalled to the engineer of the second train
by a station-master's holding up to him as he passed a number of
fingers corresponding to the number of minutes since the first
train had gone by. For the rest the examination revealed, as the
nearest approach to a block system, a queer collection of dials,
sand-glasses, green flags, colored lanterns and hand-targets. The
climax in the course of that investigation was, however, reached
when some reference, involving a description of it, was made to the
English block. This was met by a protest on the part of one veteran
superintendent, who announced that it might work well under certain
circumstances, but for himself he could not be responsible for the
operation of a road running the number of trains he had charge of in
reliance on any such system. The subject, in fact, was one of which
he knew absolutely nothing;--not even that, through the block system
and through it alone, fourteen trains were habitually and safely
moved under circumstances where he moved one. This occurred in 1871,
and though eight years have since elapsed information in regard
to the block system is not yet very widely disseminated inside of
railroad circles, much less outside of them. It is none the less
a necessity of the future. It has got to be understood, and, in
some form, it has got to be adopted; for even in America there are
limits to the reliance which, when the lives and limbs of many are
at stake, can be placed on the "sharp look out" of any class of men,
no matter how intelligent they may be.

The block system is of English origin, and it scarcely needs
to be said that it was adopted by the railroad corporations of
that country only when they were driven to it by the exigencies
of their traffic. But for that system, indeed, the most costly
portion of the tracks of the English roads must of necessity have
been duplicated years ago, as their traffic had fairly outgrown
those appliances of safety which have even to this time been found
sufficient in America. There were points, for instance, where two
hundred and seventy regular trains of one line alone passed daily.
On the London & North-Western there are more than sixty through
down trains, taking no account of local trains, each day passing
over the same line of tracks, among which are express trains which
stop nowhere, way trains which stop everywhere, express-freight,
way-freight, mineral trains and parcel trains. On the Midland road
there are nearly twice as many similar trains on each track. On the
Metropolitan railway the average interval is three and one-third
minutes between trains. In one case points were mentioned where
270 regular trains of one line alone passed a given junction
during each twenty-four hours,--where 470 trains passed a single
station, the regular interval between them being but five-eighths
of a mile,--where 132 trains entered and left a single station
during three hours of each evening every day, being one train in
eighty-two seconds. In 1870 there daily reached or left the six
stations of the Boston roads some 385 trains; while no less than
650 trains a day were in the same year received and despatched from
a single one of the London stations. On one single exceptional
occasion 1,111 trains, carrying 145,000 persons, were reported as
entering and leaving this station in the space of eighteen hours,
being rather more than a train a minute. Indeed it may well be
questioned whether the world anywhere else furnishes an illustration
so apt and dramatic of the great mechanical achievements of recent
times as that to be seen during the busy hours of any week-day from
the signal and interlocking galleries which span the tracks as
they enter the Charing Cross or Cannon street stations in London.
Below and in front of the galleries the trains glide to and fro,
coming suddenly into sight from beyond the bridges and as suddenly
disappearing,--winding swiftly in and out, and at times four of them
running side by side on as many tracks but in both directions,--the
whole making up a swiftly shifting maze of complex movement under
the influence of which a head unaccustomed to the sight grows
actually giddy. Yet it is all done so quietly and smoothly, with
such an absence of haste and nervousness on the part of the stolid
operators in charge, that it is not easy to decide which most to
wonder at, the almost inconceivable magnitude and despatch of the
train-movement or the perfection of the appliances which make it
possible. No man concerned in the larger management of railroads,
who has not passed a morning in those London galleries, knows what
it is to handle a great city's traffic.

Perfect as it is in its way, however, it may well be questioned
whether the block system as developed in England is likely to
be generally adopted on American railroads. Upon one or two of
them, and notably on the New Jersey Central and a division of the
Pennsylvania, it has already been in use for a number of years.
From an American point of view, however, it is open to a number
of objections. That in itself it is very perfect and has been
successfully elaborated so as to provide for almost every possible
contingency is proved by the results daily accomplished by means of
it.[13] The English lines are made to do an incredible amount of
work with comparative few accidents. The block system is, however,
none the less a very clumsy and complicated one, necessitating the
constant employment of a large number of skilled operators. Here
is the great defect in it from the American point of view. In this
country labor is scarce and capital costly. The effort is always
towards the perfecting of labor-saving machines. Hitherto the
pressure of traffic on the lines has not been greater than could
be fairly controlled by simpler appliances, and the expense of the
English system is so heavy that its adoption, except partially,
would not have been warranted. As Barry says in his treatise on the
subject, "one can 'buy gold too dear'; for if every possible known
precaution is to be taken, regardless of cost, it may not pay to
work a railway at all."

  [13] An excellent popular description of this system will be found
  in Barry's _Railway Appliances, Chapter V_.

It is tolerably safe, therefore, to predict that the American
block system of the future will be essentially different from the
present English system. The basis--electricity--will of course be
the same; but, while the operator is everywhere in the English
block, his place will be supplied to the utmost possible degree by
automatic action in the American. It is in this direction that the
whole movement since the Revere disaster has been going on, and
the advance has been very great. From peculiarities of condition
also the American block must be made to cover a multitude of weak
points in the operation of roads, and give timely notice of dangers
against which the English block provides only to a limited degree,
and always through the presence of yet other employés. For instance,
as will presently be seen, many more accidents and, in Europe even,
far greater loss of life is caused by locomotives coming in contact
with vehicles at points where highways cross railroad tracks at a
level therewith than by rear-end collisions; meanwhile throughout
America, even in the most crowded suburban neighborhoods, these
crossings are the rule, whereas in Europe they are the exception.
The English block affords protection against this danger by giving
electric notice to gatemen; but gatemen are always supposed. So
also as respects the movements of passengers in and about stations
in crossing tracks as they come to or leave the trains, or prepare
to take their places in them. The rule in Europe is that passenger
crossings at local stations are provided over or under the tracks;
in America, however, almost nowhere is any provision at all made,
but passengers, men, women and children, are left to scramble across
tracks as best they can in the face of passing trains. They are
expected to take care of themselves, and the success with which they
do it is most astonishing. Having been brought up to this self-care
all their lives, they do not, as would naturally be supposed, become
confused and stumble under the wheels of locomotives; and the
statistics seem to show that no more accidents from this cause occur
in America than in Europe. Nevertheless some provision is manifestly
desirable to notify employés as well as passengers that trains are
approaching, especially where way-stations are situated on curves.

Again, it is well known that, next to collisions, the greatest
source of danger to railroad trains is due to broken tracks. It
is, of course, apparent that tracks may at any time be broken by
accident, as by earth-slides, derailment or the fracture of rails.
This danger has to be otherwise provided for; the block has nothing
to do with it further than to prevent a train delayed by any such
break from being run into by any following train. The broken track
which the perfect block should give notice of is that where the
break is a necessary incident to the regular operation of the road.
It is these breaks which, both in America and elsewhere, are the
fruitful source of the great majority of railroad accidents, and
draw-bridges and switches, or facing points as they are termed in
the English reports, are most prominent among them. Wherever there
is a switch, the chances are that in the course of time there will
be an accident.

Four matters connected with train movement have now been specified,
in regard to which some provision is either necessary or highly
desirable: these are rear collisions, tracks broken at draw-bridges
or at switches, highway grade crossings, and the notification of
agents and passengers at stations. The effort in America, somewhat
in advance of that crowded condition of the lines which makes the
adoption of something a measure of present necessity, has been
directed towards the invention of an automatic system which at
one and the same time should cover all the dangers and provide
for all the needs which have been referred to, eliminating the
risks incident to human forgetfulness, drowsiness and weakness of
nerves. Can reliable automatic provision thus be made?--The English
authorities are of opinion that it cannot. They insist that "if
automatic arrangements be adopted, however suitable they may be to
the duties which they have to perform, they should in all cases be
used as additions to, and not as substitutions for, safety machinery
worked by competent signal-men. The signal-man should be bound to
exercise his observation, care and judgment, and to act thereon; and
the machine, as far as possible, be such that if he attempts to go
wrong it shall check him."

It certainly cannot be said that the American electrician has as
yet demonstrated the incorrectness of this conclusion, but he has
undoubtedly made a good deal of progress in that direction. Of the
various automatic blocks which have now been experimented with or
brought into practice, the Hall Electric and the Union Safety Signal
Company systems have been developed to a very marked degree of
perfection. They depend for their working on diametrically opposite
principles: the Hall signals being worked by means of an electric
circuit caused by the action of wheels moving on the rails, and
conveyed through the usual medium of wires; while, under the other
system, the wires being wholly dispensed with, a continuous electric
circuit is kept up by means of the rails, which are connected
for the purpose, and the signals are then acted upon through the
breaking of this normal circuit by the movement of locomotives and
cars. So far as the signals are concerned, there is no essential
difference between the two systems, except that Hall supplies the
necessary motive force by the direct action of electricity, while in
the other case dependence is placed upon suspended weights. Of the
two the Hall system is the oldest and most thoroughly elaborated,
having been compelled to pass through that long and useful tentative
process common to all inventions, during which they are regarded
as of doubtful utility and are gradually developed through a
succession of partial failures. So far as Hall's system is concerned
this period may now fairly be regarded as over, for it is in
established use on a number of the more crowded roads of the North,
and especially of New England, while the imperfections necessarily
incident to the development of an appliance at once so delicate and
so complicated, have for certain purposes been clearly overcome.
Its signal arrangements, for instance, to protect draw-bridges,
stations and grade-crossings are wholly distinct from its block
system, through which it provides against dangers from collision and
broken tracks. So far as draw-bridges are concerned, the protection
it affords is perfect. Not only is its interlocking apparatus so
designed that the opening of the draw blocks all approach to it,
but the signals are also reciprocal; and if through carelessness or
automatic derangement any train passes the block, the draw-tender is
notified at once of the fact in ample time to stop it.

In the case of a highway crossing at a level, the electric bell
under Hall's system is placed at the crossing, giving notice of
the approaching train from the moment it is within half a mile
until it passes; so that, where this appliance is in use, accidents
can happen only through the gross carelessness of those using the
highway. When the electric bell is silent there is no train within
half a mile and the crossing is safe; it is not safe while the bell
is ringing. As it now stands the law usually provides that the
prescribed signals, either bell or whistle, shall be given from the
locomotive as it approaches the highway, and at a fixed distance
from it. The signal, therefore, is given at a distance of several
hundred yards, more or less, from the point of danger. The electric
system improves on this by placing the signal directly at the point
of danger,--the traveller approaches the bell, instead of the bell
approaching the traveller. At any point of crossing which is really
dangerous,--that is at any crossing where trees or cuttings or
buildings mask the railroad from the highway,--this distinction is
vital. In the one case notice of the unseen danger must be given
and cannot be unobserved; in the other case whether it is really
given or not may depend on the condition of the atmosphere or the
direction of the wind.

Usually, however, in New England the level crossings of the more
crowded thoroughfares, perhaps one in ten of the whole number, are
protected by gates or flag-men. Under similar circumstances in
Great Britain there is an electric connection between a bell in the
cabin of the gate-keeper and the nearest signal boxes of the block
system on each side of the crossing, so that due notice is given of
the approach of trains from either direction. In this country it has
heretofore been the custom to warn gate-keepers by the locomotive
whistle, to the intense annoyance of all persons dwelling near the
crossing, or to make them depend for notice on their own eyes. Under
the Hall system, however, the gate-keeper is automatically signalled
to be on the look out, if he is attending to his duty; or, if he is
neglecting it, the electric bell in some degree supplies his place,
without releasing the corporation from its liability. In America
the heavy fogs of England are almost unknown, and the brilliant
head lights, heavy bells and shrill high whistles in use on the
locomotives would at night, it might be supposed, give ample notice
to the most careless of an approaching train. Continually recurring
experience shows, however, that this is not the case. Under these
circumstances the electric bell at the crossing becomes not only a
matter of justice almost to the employé who is stationed there, but
a watchman over him.

This, however, like the other forms of signals which have been
referred to, is, in the electric system, a mere adjunct of its chief
use, which is the block,--they are all as it were things thrown
into the bargain. As contradistinguished from the English block,
which insures only an unoccupied track, the automatic blocks seek to
insure an unbroken track as well,--that is not only is each segment
into which a road is divided, protected as respects following trains
by, in the case of Hall's system, double signals watching over each
other, the one at safety, the other at danger,--both having to
combine to open the block,--but every switch or facing point, the
throwing of which may break the main track, is also protected. The
Union Signal Company's system it is claimed goes still further than
this and indicates any break in the track, though due to accidental
fracture or displacement of rails. Without attempting this the Hall
system has one other important feature in common with the English
block, and a very important feature, that of enabling station agents
in case of sudden emergency to control the train movement within
half a mile or more of their stations on either side. Within the
given distance they can stop trains either leaving or approaching.
The inability to do this has been the cause of some of the most
disastrous collisions on record, and notably those at Revere and at

The one essential thing, however, in every perfect block system,
whether automatic or worked by operators, is that in case of
accident or derangement or doubt, the signal should rest at danger.
This the Hall system now fully provides for, and in case even of
the wilful displacement of a switch, an occurrence by no means
without precedent in railroad experience, the danger signal could
not but be displayed, even though the electric connection had been
tampered with. Accidents due to wilfullness, however, can hardly
be provided for except by police precautions. Train wrecking is
not to be taken into account as a danger incident to the ordinary
operation of a railroad. Carelessness or momentary inadvertence,
or, most dangerous of all, that recklessness--that unnecessary
assumption of risk somewhere or at some time, which is almost
inseparable from a long immunity from disaster--these are the
great sources of peril most carefully to be guarded against. The
complicated and unceasing train movement depends upon many thousand
employés, all of whom make mistakes or assume risks sometimes;--and
did they not do so they would be either more or less than men.
Being, however, neither angels nor machines, but ordinary mortals
whose services are bought for money at the average market rate of
wages, it would certainly seem no small point gained if an automatic
machine could be placed on guard over those whom it is the great
effort of railroad discipline to reduce to automatons. Could this
result be attained, the unintentional throwing of a lever or the
carelessness which leaves it thrown, would simply block the track
instead of leaving it broken. An example of this, and at the same
time a most forcible illustration of the possible cost of a small
economy in the application of a safeguard, was furnished in the
case of the Wollaston disaster. At the time of that disaster, the
Old Colony railroad had for several years been partially equipped
on the portion of its track near Boston, upon which the accident
occurred, with Hall's system. It had worked smoothly and easily, was
well understood by the employés, and the company was sufficiently
satisfied with it to have even then made arrangements for its
extension. Unfortunately, with a too careful eye to the expenditure
involved, the line had been but partially equipped; points where
little danger was apprehended had not been protected. Among these
was the "Foundry switch," so called, near Wollaston. Had this switch
been connected with the system and covered by a signal-target, the
mere act of throwing it would have automatically blocked the track,
and only when it was re-set would the track have been opened. The
switch was not connected, the train hands were recklessly careless,
and so a trifling economy cost in one unguarded moment some fifty
persons life and limb, and the corporation more than $300,000.

One objection to the automatic block is generally based upon the
delicacy and complicated character of the machinery on which its
action necessarily depends; and this objection is especially urged
against those other portions of the Hall system, covering draws
and level crossings, which have been particularly described. It
is argued that it is always liable to get out of order from a
great multiplicity of causes, some of which are very difficult to
guard against, and that it is sure to get out of order during any
electric disturbance; but it is during storms that accidents are
most likely to occur, and especially is this the case at highway
grade-crossings. It is comparatively easy to avoid accidents so long
as the skies are clear and the elements quiet; but it is exactly
when this is not the case and when it becomes necessary to use every
precaution, that electricity as a safeguard fails or runs mad, and,
by participating in the general confusion, proves itself worse
than nothing. Then it will be found that those in charge of trains
and tracks, who have been educated into a reliance upon it under
ordinary circumstances, will from force of habit, if nothing else,
go on relying upon it, and disaster will surely follow.

This line of reasoning is plausible, but none the less open to
one serious objection; it is sustained neither by statistics nor
by practical experience. Moreover it is not new, for, slightly
varied in phraseology, it has been persistently urged against the
introduction of every new railroad appliance, and, indeed, was first
and most persistently of all urged against the introduction of
railroads themselves. Pretty and ingenious in theory, practically it
is not feasible!--for more than half a century this formula has been
heard. That the automatic electric signal system is complicated,
and in many of its parts of most delicate construction, is
undeniable. So also is the locomotive. In point of fact the whole
railroad organization from beginning to end--from machine-shop to
train-movement--is at once so vast and complicated, so delicate
in that action which goes on with such velocity and power, that
it is small cause for wonder that in the beginning all plain,
sensible, practical men scouted it as the fanciful creation of
visionaries. They were wholly justified in so doing; and to-day
any sane man would of course pronounce the combined safety and
rapidity of ordinary railroad movement an utter impossibility, did
he not see it going on before his eyes. So it is with each new
appliance. It is ever suggested that at last the final result has
already been reached. It is but a few years, as will presently be
seen, since the Westinghouse brake encountered the old "pretty and
ingenious" formula. Going yet a step further, and taking the case
of electricity itself, the bold conception of operating an entire
line of single track road wholly as respects one half of its train
movement by telegraph, and without the use of any time table at
all, would once have been condemned as mad. Yet to-day half of the
vast freight movement of this continent is carried on in absolute
reliance on the telegraph. Nevertheless it is still not uncommon
to hear among the class of men who rise to the height of their
capacity in themselves being automaton superintendents that they do
not believe in deviating from their time tables and printed rules;
that, acting under them, the men know or ought to know exactly what
to do, and any interference by a train despatcher only relieves them
of responsibility, and is more likely to lead to accidents than if
they were left alone to grope their own way out.

Another and very similar argument frequently urged against the
electric, in common with all other block systems by the large class
who prefer to exercise their ingenuity in finding objections rather
than in overcoming difficulties, is that they breed dependence and
carelessness in employés;--that engine-drivers accustomed to rely
on the signals, rely on them implicitly, and get into habits of
recklessness which lead inevitably to accidents, for which they
then contend the signals, and not they themselves, are responsible.
This argument is, indeed, hardly less familiar than the "pretty and
ingenious" formula just referred to. It has, however, been met and
disposed of by Captain Tyler in his annual reports to the Board of
Trade in a way which can hardly be improved upon:--

     It is a favorite argument with those who oppose the introduction
     of some of these improvements, or who make excuses for the want
     of them, that their servants are apt to become more careless
     from the use of them, in consequence of the extra security which
     they are believed to afford; and it is desirable to consider
     seriously how much of truth there is in this assertion. * * *
     Allowing to the utmost for these tendencies to confide too
     much in additional means of safety, the risk is proved by
     experience to be very much greater without them than with them;
     and, in fact, the negligence and mistakes of servants are found
     to occur most frequently, and generally with the most serious
     results, not when the men are over-confident in their appliances
     or apparatus, but when, in the absence of them, they are
     habituated to risk in the conduct of the traffic. In the daily
     practice of railway working station-masters, porters, signalmen,
     engine-drivers or guards are frequently placed in difficulties
     which they have to surmount as best they can. The more they are
     accustomed to incur risk in order to perform their duties, the
     less they think of it, and the more difficult it is to enforce
     discipline and obedience to regulations. The personal risk which
     is encountered by certain classes of railway servants is coming
     to be more precisely ascertained. It is very considerable;
     and it is difficult to prevent men who are in constant danger
     themselves from doing things which may be a source of danger to
     others, or to compel them to obey regulations for which they do
     not see altogether the necessity, and which impede them in their
     work. This difficulty increases with the want of necessary means
     and appliances; and is diminished when, with proper means and
     appliances, stricter discipline becomes possible, safer modes
     of working become habitual, and a higher margin of safety is
     constantly preserved.[14]

  [14] Reports; 1872, page 23, and 1873, page 39.

In Great Britain the ingenious theory that superior appliances
or greater personal comfort in some indefinable way lead to
carelessness in employés was carried to such an extent that only
within the last few years has any protection against wind, rain and
sunshine been furnished on locomotives for the engine-drivers and
stokers. The old stage-coach driver faced the elements, and why
should not his successor on the locomotive do the same?--If made too
comfortable, he would become careless and go to sleep!--This was the
line of argument advanced, and the tortures to which the wretched
men were subjected in consequence of it led to their fortifying
nature by drink. They had to be regularly inspected and examined
before mounting the foot-board, to see that they were sober. It took
years in Great Britain for intelligent railroad managers to learn
that the more protected and comfortable a man is the better he will
attend to his duty. And even when the old argument, refuted by long
experience, was at last abandoned as respected the locomotive cab,
it, with perfect freshness and confidence in its own novelty and
force, promptly showed its brutal visage in opposition to the next
new safeguard.

For the reasons which Captain Tyler has so forcibly put in the
extracts which have just been quoted, the argument against the block
system from the increased carelessness of employés, supposed to be
induced by it, is entitled to no weight. Neither is the argument
from the delicacy and complication of the automatic, electric signal
system entitled to any more, when urged against that. Not only has
it been too often refuted under similar conditions by practical
results, but in this case it is based on certain assumptions of
fact which are wholly opposed to experience. The record does not
show that there is any peculiar liability to railroad accidents
during periods of storm; perhaps because those in charge of train
movements or persons crossing tracks are under such circumstances
more especially on the look out for danger. On the contrary the
full average of accidents of the worst description appear to
have occurred under the most ordinary conditions of weather, and
usually in the most unanticipated way. This is peculiarly true of
accidents at highway grade crossings. These commonly occur when the
conditions are such as to cause the highway travelers to suppose
that, if any danger existed, they could not but be aware of it.
In the next place, the question in regard to automatic electric
signals is exactly what it was in regard to the Westinghouse brake,
with its air-pump, its valves and connecting tubes;--it is the
purely practical question,--Does the thing work?--The burden of
proof is properly on the inventor. The presumption is all against
him. In the case of the electric signals they have for years been
in limited but constant use, and while thus in use they have been
undergoing steady improvement. Though now brought to a considerable
degree of comparative perfection they are, of course, still in
their earlier stage of development. In use, however, they have not
been found open to the practical objections urged against them. At
first much too complicated and expensive, requiring more machinery
than could by any reasonable exertions be kept in order and more
care than they were worth, they have now been simplified until a
single battery properly located can do all the necessary work for
a road of indefinite length. As a system they are effective and do
not lead to accidents; nor are they any more subject than telegraph
wires to derangement from atmospheric causes. When any disturbance
does take place, until it can be overcome it amounts simply to a
general signal for operating the road with extreme caution. But with
railroads, as everywhere else in life, it is the normal condition of
affairs for which provision must be made, while the dangers incident
to exceptional circumstances must be met by exceptional precautions.
As long as things are in their normal state, that is, probably,
during nineteen days out of twenty, the electric signals have now
through several years of constant trial proved themselves a reliable
safeguard. It can hardly admit of doubt that in the near future they
will be both further perfected and generally adopted.



In their management of switches, especially at points of railroad
convergence where a heavy traffic is concentrated and the passage
of trains or movement of cars and locomotives is unceasing,
the English are immeasurably in advance of the Americans; and,
indeed, of all other people. In fact, in this respect the American
managers have shown themselves slow to learn, and have evinced an
indisposition to adopt labor-saving appliances which, considering
their usual quickness of discernment in that regard, is at first
sight inexplicable. Having always been accustomed to the old and
simple methods, just so long as they can through those methods
handle their traffic with a bearable degree of inconvenience and
expense, they will continue to do so. That their present method is
most extravagant, just as extravagant as it would be to rent two
houses or to run two steam engines where one, if properly used,
could be made to suffice, admits of demonstration;--but the waste is
not on the surface, and the necessity for economy is not imperative.
The difference of conditions and the difference in results may be
made very obvious by a comparison. Take, for instance, London and
Boston--the Cannon street station in the one and the Beach street
station in the other. The concentration of traffic at London is so
great that it becomes necessary to utilize every foot of ground
devoted to railroad purposes to the utmost possible extent. Not
only must it be packed with tracks, but those tracks must never be
idle. The incessant train movement at Cannon street has already
been referred to as probably the most extraordinary and confusing
spectacle in the whole wide circle of railroad wonders. The result
is that in some way, at this one station and under this single roof,
more trains must daily be made to enter and leave than enter and
leave, not only the Beach street station, but all the eight railroad
stations in Boston combined.[15]

  [15] "It has been estimated that an average of 50,000 persons were,
  in 1869, daily brought into Boston and carried from it, on three
  hundred and eighty-five trains, while the South Eastern railway of
  London received and despatched in 1870, on an average, six hundred
  and fifty trains a day, between 6 A.M. and 12 P.M. carrying from
  35,000 to 40,000 persons, and this too without the occurrence of a
  single train accident during the year. On one single exceptional
  day eleven hundred and eleven trains, carrying 145,000 persons, are
  said to have entered and left this station in the space of eighteen
  hours."--_Third Annual Report, [1872] of Massachusetts Railroad
  Commissioners, p. 141._

  The passenger movement over the roads terminating in Boston was
  probably as heavy on June 17, 1875, as during any twenty-four hours
  in their history. It was returned at 280,000 persons carried in
  641 trains. About twice the passenger movement of the "exceptional
  day" referred to, carried in something more than half the number of
  trains, entering and leaving eight stations instead of one.

During eighteen successive hours trains have been made to enter and
leave this station at the rate of more than one in each minute. It
contains four platforms and seven tracks, the longest of which is
720 feet. As compared with the largest station in Boston (the Boston
& Providence), it has the same number of platforms and an aggregate
of 1,500 (three-fifths) more feet of track under cover; it daily
accommodates about nine times as many trains and four times as many
passengers. Of it Barry, in his treatise on Railway Appliances (p.
197), says: "The platform area at this station is probably minimised
but, the station accommodates efficiently a very large mixed traffic
of long and short journey trains, amounting at times to as many as
400 trains in and 400 trains out in a working day.[16]"

  [16] The Grand Central Depot on 42d Street in New York City, has
  nearly twice the amount of track room under cover of the Cannon
  street station. The daily train movement of the latter would be
  precisely paralleled in New York, though not equalled in amount, if
  the 42d street station were at Trinity church, and, in addition to
  the trains which now enter and leave it, all the city trains of the
  Elevated road were also provided for there.

The American system is, therefore, one of great waste; for, being
conducted in the way it is--that is with stations and tracks
utilized to but a fractional part of their utmost capacity--it
requires a large number of stations and tracks and the services of
many employés. Indeed it is safe to say that, judged by the London
standard, not more than two of the eight stations in Boston are at
this time utilized to above a quarter part of their full working
capacity; and the same is probably true of all other American
cities. Both employés and the travelling public are accustomed to a
slow movement and abundance of room; land is comparatively cheap,
and the pressure of concentration has only just begun to make itself
felt. Accordingly any person, who cares to pass an hour during the
busy time of day in front of an American city station, cannot but
be struck, while watching the constant movement, with the primitive
way in which it is conducted. Here are a multiplicity of tracks all
connected with each other, and cars and locomotives are being passed
from one to another from morning to night. A constant shifting
of switches is going on, and the little shunting engines never
stand still. The switches, however, as a rule, are unprovided with
signals, except of the crudest description; they have no connection
with each other, and during thirty years no change has been made
in the method in which they are worked. When one of them has to be
shifted, a man goes to it and shifts it. To facilitate the process,
the monitor shunting engines are provided with a foot-board in front
and behind, just above the track, upon which the yard hands jump,
and are carried about from switch to switch, thus saving the time
they would occupy if they had to walk. A simpler arrangement could
not be imagined; anyone could devise it. The only wonder is that
even a considerable traffic can be conducted safely in reliance upon

Turning from Beach to Cannon street, it is apparent that the
train movement which has there to be accommodated would fall into
inextricable confusion if it was attempted to manage it in the way
which has been described. The number of trains is so great and
the movement so rapid and intricate, that not even a regiment of
employés stationed here and there at the signals and switches could
keep things in motion. From time to time they would block, and then
the whole vast machine would be brought to a standstill until order
could be re-established. The difficulty is overcome in a very simple
way, by means of an equally simple apparatus. The control over
the numerous switches and corresponding signals, instead of being
divided up among many men stationed at many points, is concentrated
in the hands of two men occupying a single gallery, which is
elevated across the tracks in front of the station and commanding
the approaches to it, much as the pilot-house of an American steamer
commands a view of the course before it. From this gallery, by means
of what is known as the interlocking system, every switch and signal
in the yard below is moved; and to such a point of perfection has
the apparatus been carried, that any disaster from the misplacement
of a switch or the display of a wrong signal is rendered impossible.
Of this Cannon street apparatus Barry says, "there are here nearly
seventy point and signal levers concentrated in one signal house;
the number of combinations which would be possible if all the
signal and point levers were not interlocked can be expressed only
by millions. Of these only 808 combinations are safe, and by the
interlocking apparatus these 808 combinations are rendered possible,
and all the others impossible."[17]

  [17] _Railway Appliances_, p. 113.

It is not proposed to enter at any length into the mechanical
details of this appliance, which, however, must be considered as one
of the three or four great inventions which have marked epochs in
the history of railroad traffic.[18] As, however, it is but little
known in America, and will inevitably within the next few years find
here the widest field for its increased use, a slight sketch of its
gradual development and of its leading mechanical features may not
be out of place. Prior to the year 1846 the switches and signals
on the English roads were worked in the same way that they are now
commonly worked in this country. As a train drew near to a junction,
for instance, the switchman stationed there made the proper track
connection and then displayed the signal which indicated what tracks
were opened and what closed, and which line had the right of way;
and the engine-drivers acted accordingly. As the number of trains
increased and the movement at the junctions became more complicated,
the danger of the wrong switches being thrown or the wrong signals
displayed, increased also. Mistakes from time to time would happen,
even when only the most careful and experienced men were employed;
and mistakes in these matters led to serious consequences. It,
therefore, became the practice, instead of having the switch or
signal lever at the point where the switch or signal itself was, as
is still almost universally the case in this country, to connect
them by rods or wires with their levers, which were concentrated
at some convenient point for working, and placed under the control
of one man instead of several. So far as it went this change was
an improvement, but no provision yet existed against the danger of
mistake in throwing switches and displaying signals. The blunder of
first making one combination of tracks and then showing the signal
for another was less liable to happen after the concentration of
the levers under one hand than before, but it still might happen at
any time, and certainly would happen at some time. If all danger of
accident from human fallibility was ever to be eliminated a far more
complicated mechanical apparatus must be devised. In response to
this need the system of interlocking was gradually developed, though
not until about the year 1856 was it brought to any considerable
degree of perfection. The whole object of this system is to
render it impossible for a switchman, whether because he is weary
or agitated or actually malicious or only inexperienced, to give
contrary signals, or to break his line in one way and to give the
signal for its being broken in another way. To bring this about the
levers are concentrated in a cabin or gallery, and placed side by
side in a frame, their lower ends connecting with the switch-points
and signals by means of rods and wires. Beneath this frame are one
or more long bars, extending its entire length under it and parallel
with it. These are called locking bars; for, being moved to the
right or left by the action of the levers they hold these levers in
certain designated positions, nor do they permit them to occupy any
other. In this way what is termed the interlocking is effected. The
apparatus, though complicated, is simplicity itself compared with
a clock or a locomotive. The complication, also, such as it is,
arises from the fact that each situation is a problem by itself, and
as such has to be studied out and provided for separately. This,
however, is a difficulty affecting the manufacturer rather than the
operator. To the latter the apparatus presents no difficulty which
a fairly intelligent mechanic cannot easily master; while for the
former the highly complicated nature of the problem may, perhaps,
best be inferred from the example given by Mr. Barry, the simplest
that can offer, that of an ordinary junction where a double-track
branch-road connects with its double-track main line. There would
in this case be of necessity two switch levers and four signal
levers, which would admit of sixty-four possible combinations. "The
signal might be arranged in any of sixteen ways, and the points
might occupy any of four positions, irrespective of the position
of the signals. Of the sixty-four combinations thus possible
only thirteen are safe, and the rest are such as might lure an
engine-driver into danger."

  [18] A sufficiently popular description of this apparatus also,
  illustrated by cuts, will be found in Barry's excellent little
  treatise on _Railway Appliances_, already referred to, published by
  Longmans & Co. as one of their series of text-books of science.

Originally the locking bar was worked through the direct action of
certain locks, as they were called, between which the levers when
moved played to and fro. These locks were mere bars or plates of
iron, some with inclined sides, and others with sides indented or
notched. At one end they were secured on a pivot to a fixed bar
opposite to and parallel with the movable locking bar, while their
other ends were made fast to the locking bar; whence it necessarily
followed that, as certain of the levers were pushed to and fro
between them, the action of these levers on the inclined sides of
the locks could by a skilful combination be made to throw other
levers into the notches and indentations of other locks, thus
securing them in certain positions, and making it impossible for
them to be in any other positions.

The apparatus which has been described, though a great improvement
on anything which had preceded it, was still but a clumsy affair,
and naturally the friction of the levers on the locks was so great
that they soon became worn, and when worn they could not be relied
upon to move the switch-points with the necessary accuracy. The new
appliance of safety had, therefore, as is often the case, introduced
a new and very considerable danger of its own. The signals and
switches, it was true, could no longer disagree, but the points
themselves were sometimes not properly set, or, owing to the great
exertion required to work it, the interlocking gear was strained.
This difficulty resulted in the next and last improvement, which
was a genuine triumph of mechanical ingenuity. To insure the proper
length of stroke being made in moving the lever--that is to make
it certain in each case that the switch points were brought into
exactly the proper position--two notches were provided in the slot,
or quadrant, as it is called, in which the lever moved, and, when
it was thrown squarely home, and not until then, a spring catch
caught in one or other of these notches. This spring was worked by
a clasp at the handle of the lever, and the whole was called the
spring catch-rod. By a singularly ingenious contrivance, the process
of interlocking was transferred from the action of the levers and
the keys to these spring catch-rods, which were made to work upon
each other, and thus to become the medium through which the whole
process is effected. The result of this improvement was that, as
the switchman cannot move any lever until the spring-catch rod is
fastened, except for a particular movement, he cannot, do what he
will, even begin any other movement than that one, as the levers
cannot be started. On the other hand, it may be said that, by means
of this improvement, the mere "intention of the signal-man to move
any lever, expressed by his grasping the lever and so raising the
spring catch-rod, independently of his putting his intention in
force, actuates all the necessary locking.[19]"

  [19] In regard to the interlocking system as then in use in England,
  Captain Tyler in his report as head of the railway inspecting
  department of the Board of Trade, used the following language in
  his report on the accidents during 1870. "When the apparatus is
  properly constructed and efficiently maintained, the signalman
  cannot make a mistake in the working of his points and signals which
  shall lead to accident or collision, except only by first lowering
  his signal and switching his train forward, then putting up his
  signal again as it approaches, and altering the points as the driver
  comes up to, or while he is passing over them. Such a mistake was
  actually made in one of the cases above quoted. It is, of course,
  impossible to provide completely for cases of this description; but
  the locking apparatus, as now applied, is already of enormous value
  in preventing accidents; and it will have a still greater effect
  on the general safety of railway travelling as it becomes more
  extensively applied on the older lines. Without it, a signalman in
  constantly working points and signals is almost certain sooner or
  later to make a mistake, and to cause an accident of a more or less
  serious character; and it is inexcusable in any railway company to
  allow its mail or express trains to run at high speed through facing
  points which are not interlocked efficiently with the signals, by
  which alone the engine-drivers in approaching them can be guided.
  There is however, very much yet to be effected in different parts of
  the country in this respect. And it is worth while to record here,
  in illustration of the difficulties that are sometimes met with by
  the inspecting officers, that the Midland Railway Company formally
  protested in June, 1866, against being compelled to apply such
  apparatus before receiving sanction for the opening of new lines
  of railway. They stated that in complying with the requirements in
  this respect of the Board of Trade, they '_were acting in direct
  opposition to their own convictions, and they must, so far as lay in
  their power, decline the responsibility of the locking system_.'"

  To still further perfect the appliance a simple mechanism has
  since 1870 been attached to the rod actuating the switch-bolt,
  which prevents the signal-man from shifting the switch under a
  passing train in the manner suggested by Captain Tyler in the above
  extract. In fact it is no exaggeration to say that the interlocking
  system has now been so studied, and every possible contingency so
  thoroughly provided for, that in using it accidents can only occur
  through a wilful intention to bring them about.

In spite of any theoretical or fanciful objections which may be
urged against it, this appliance will be found an indispensable
adjunct to any really heavy junction or terminal train movement. For
the elevated railroads of New York, for instance, its early adoption
proved a necessity. As for questions of temperature, climate,
etc., as affecting the long connecting rods and wires which are an
essential part of the system, objections based upon them are purely
imaginary. Difficulties from this source were long since met and
overcome by very simple compensating arrangements, and in practice
occasion no inconvenience. That rods may break, and that wires are
at all times liable to get out of gear, every one knows; and yet
this fact is urged as a novel objection to each new mechanical
improvement. That a broken or disordered apparatus will always
occasion a serious disturbance to any heavy train movement, may also
be admitted. The fact none the less remains that in practice, and
daily subjected through long periods of time to incomparably the
heaviest train movement known to railroad experience, the rods of
the interlocking apparatus do not break, nor do its wires get out
of gear; while by means of it, and of it alone, this train movement
goes unceasingly on never knowing any serious disturbance.[20]

  [20] "As an instance of the possibility of preventing the mistakes
  so often made by signal men with conflicting signals or with facing
  points I have shown the traffic for a single day, and at certain
  hours of that day, at the Cannon Street station of the South Eastern
  Railway, already referred to as one of the _no-accident_ lines of
  the year. The traffic of that station, with trains continually
  crossing one another, by daylight and in darkness, in fog or in
  sunshine, amounts to more than 130 trains in three hours in the
  morning, and a similar number in the evening; and, altogether, to
  652 trains, conveying more than 35,000 passengers in the day as
  a winter, or 40,000 passengers a day as a summer average. It is
  probably not too much to say, that without the signal and point
  arrangements which have there been supplied, and the system of
  interlocking which has there been so carefully carried out, the
  signalmen could not carry on their duties _for one hour without
  accident_." _Captain Tyler's report on accidents for 1870, p. 35._

It is not, however, alone in connection with terminal stations and
junctions that the interlocking apparatus is of value. It is also
the scientific substitute for the law or regulation compelling
trains to stop as a measure of precaution when they approach
grade-crossings or draw-bridges. It is difficult indeed to pass from
the consideration of this fine result of science and to speak with
patience of the existing American substitute for it. If the former
is a feature in the block system, the latter is a signal example of
the block-head system. As a device to avoid danger it is a standing
disgrace to American ingenuity; and, fortunately, as stopping is
compatible only with a very light traffic, so soon as the passage
of trains becomes incessant a substitute for it has got to be
devised. In this country, as in England, that substitute will be
found in the interlocking apparatus. By means of it the draw-bridge,
for instance, can be so connected with the danger signals--which
may, if desired, be gates closing across the railroad tracks--that
the one cannot be opened except by closing the other. This is the
method adopted in Great Britain not only at draws in bridges, but
frequently also in the case of gates at level road crossings. It
has already been noticed that in Great Britain accidents at draws
in bridges seem to be unknown. Certainly not one has been reported
during the last nine years. The security afforded in this case
by interlocking would, indeed, seem to be absolute; as, if the
apparatus is out of order, either the gates or the bridge would be
closed, and could not be opened until it was repaired. So also as
respects the grade-crossing of one railroad by another. Bringing
all trains to a complete stop when approaching these crossings
is a precaution quite generally observed in America, either as a
matter of statute law or running regulation; and yet during the six
years 1873-8 no less than 104 collisions were reported at these
crossings. In Great Britain during the nine years 1870-8 but nine
cases of accidents of this description were reported, and in both
the years 1877 and 1878 under the head of "Accidents or Collisions
on Level Crossings of Railways," the chief inspector of the Board
of Trade tersely stated that,--"No accident was inquired into under
this head.[21]" The interlocking system there affords the most
perfect protection which can be devised against a most dangerous
practice in railroad construction to which Americans are almost
recklessly addicted. It is, also, matter of daily experience that
the interlocking system does afford a perfect practical safeguard
in this case. Every junction of a branch with a double track
road involves a grade-crossing, and a grade-crossing of the most
dangerous character. On the Metropolitan Elevated railroad of New
York, at 53d street, there is one of these junctions, where, all
day long, trains are crossing at grade at the rate of some twenty
miles an hour. These trains never stop, except when signalled so
to do. The interlocking apparatus, however, makes it impossible
that one track should be open except when the other is closed. An
accident, therefore, can happen only through the wilful carelessness
of the engineer in charge of a train;--and in the face of wilful
carelessness laws are of no more avail than signals. If a man in
control of a locomotive wishes to bring on a collision he can always
do it. Unless he wishes to, however, the interlocking apparatus
not only can prevent him from so doing, but as a matter of fact
always does. The same rule which holds good at junctions would hold
good at level crossings. There is no essential difference between
the two. By means of the interlocking apparatus the crossing can
be so blocked at any desired distance from it in such a way that
when one track is open the other must be closed;--unless, indeed,
the apparatus is out of order, and then both would be closed.
The precaution in this case, also, is absolute. Unlike the rule
as to stopping, it does not depend on the caution or judgment of
individuals;--there are the signals and the obstructions, and
if they are not displayed on one road they are on the other. So
superior is this apparatus in every respect--as regards safety as
well as convenience--to the precaution of coming to a stop, that, as
an inducement to introduce an almost perfect scientific appliance,
it would be very desirable that states like Massachusetts and
Connecticut compelling the stop, should except from the operation
of the law all draw-bridges or grade-crossings at which suitable
interlocking apparatus is provided. Surely it is not unreasonable
that in this case science should have a chance to assert itself.

  [21] "As affecting the safe working of railways, the level crossing
  of one railway by another is a matter of very serious import.
  Even when signalled on the most approved principles, they are a
  source of danger, and, if possible, should always be avoided. At
  junctions of branch or other railways the practice has been adopted
  by some companies in special cases, to carry the off line under or
  over the main line by a bridge. This course should generally be
  adopted in the case of railways on which the traffic is large, and
  more expressly where express and fast trains are run." _Report on
  Accidents on Railways of the United Kingdom during 1877, p. 35._

In any event, however, the general introduction of the interlocking
apparatus into the American railroad system may be regarded as a
mere question of the value of land and concentration of traffic.
So long as every road terminating in our larger cities indulges,
at whatever unnecessary cost to its stockholders, in independent
station buildings far removed from business centres, the train
movement can most economically be conducted as it now is. The
expense of the interlocking apparatus is avoided by the very simple
process of incurring the many fold heavier expense of several
station buildings and vast disconnected station grounds. If,
however, in the city of Boston, for instance, the time should come
when the financial and engineering audacity of the great English
companies shall be imitated,--when some leading railroad company
shall fix its central passenger station on Tremont street opposite
the head of Court street, just as in London the South Eastern
established itself on Cannon street, and then this company carrying
its road from Pemberton Square by a tunnel under Beacon Hill and the
State-house should at the crossing of the Charles radiate out so as
to afford all other roads an access for their trains to the same
terminal point, thus concentrating there the whole daily movement of
that busy population which makes of Boston its daily counting-room
and market-place,--then, when this is attempted, the time will have
come for utilizing to its utmost capacity every available inch of
space to render possible the incessant passage of trains. Then also
will it at last be realized that it is far cheaper to use a costly
and intricate apparatus which enables two companies to be run into
one convenient station, than it is to build a separate station, even
at an inconvenient point, to accommodate each company.



In March, 1825, there appeared in the pages of the _Quarterly
Review_ an article in which the writer discussed that railway
system, the first vague anticipation of which was then just
beginning to make the world restless. He did this, too, in a very
intelligent and progressive spirit, but unfortunately secured for
his article a permanence of interest he little expected by the
use of one striking illustration. He was peculiarly anxious to
draw a distinct line of demarcation between his own very rational
anticipations and the visionary dreams of those enthusiasts who
were boring the world to death over the impossibilities which they
claimed that the new invention was to work. Among these he referred
to the proposition that passengers would be "whirled at the rate
of eighteen or twenty miles an hour by means of a high pressure
engine," and then contemptuously added,--"We should as soon expect
the people of Woolwich to suffer themselves to be fired off upon one
of Congreve's _ricochet_ rockets, as trust themselves to the mercy
of such a machine, going at such a rate; their property perhaps they
may trust."

Under the circumstances, the criticism was a perfectly reasonable
one. The danger involved in going at such a rate of speed and the
impossibility of stopping in time to avoid a sudden danger, would
naturally suggest themselves to any one as insuperable objections
to the new system for any practical use. Some means of preserving
a sudden and powerful control over a movement of such unheard of
rapidity would almost as a matter of course be looked upon as a
condition precedent. Yet it is a most noticeable fact in the history
of railroad development that the improvement in appliances for
controlling speed by no means kept pace with the increased rate of
speed attained. Indeed, so far as the possibility of rapid motion
is concerned, there is no reason to suppose that the _Rocket_
could not have held its own very respectably by the side of a
passenger locomotive of the present day. It will be remembered
that on the occasion of the Manchester & Liverpool opening, Mr.
Huskisson after receiving his fatal injury was carried seventeen
miles in twenty-five minutes. Since then the details of locomotive
construction have been simplified and improved upon, but no great
change has been or probably will be effected in the matter of
velocity;--as respects that the maximum was practically reached
at once. Yet down to the year 1870 the brake system remained very
much what it was in 1830. Improvements in detail were effected,
but the essential principles were the same. In case of any sudden
emergency, the men in charge of the locomotive had no direct control
over the vehicles in the train; they communicated with them by the
whistle, and when the signal was heard the brakes were applied as
soon as might be. When a train is moving at the rate of forty miles
an hour, by no means a great speed for it while in full motion, it
passes over fifty-eight feet each second;--at sixty miles an hour it
passes over eighty-eight feet. Under these circumstances, supposing
an engine driver to become suddenly aware of an obstruction on the
track, as was the case at Revere, or of something wrong in the train
behind him, as at Shipton, he had first himself to signal danger,
and to this signal the brakemen throughout the train had to respond.
Each operation required time, and every second of time represented
many feet of space. It was small matter for surprise, therefore,
that when in 1875 they experimented scientifically in England, it
was ascertained that a train of a locomotive and thirteen cars
moving at a speed of forty-five miles an hour could not be brought
to a stand in less than one minute, or before it had traversed a
distance of half a mile. The same result it will be remembered was
arrived at by practical experience in America, where both at Angola
and at Port Jervis,[22] it was found impossible to stop the trains
in less than half-a-mile, though in each case two derailed cars were
dragging and plunging along at the end of them.

  [22] _Ante_, pp. 15, 119.

The need of a continuous train-brake, operated from the locomotive
and under the immediate control of the engine-driver, had been
emphasized through years by the almost regular recurrence of
accidents of the most appalling character. In answer to this need
almost innumerable appliances had been patented and experimented
with both in Europe and in America. Prior to 1869, however,
these had been almost exclusively what are known as emergency
brakes;--that is, although the trains were equipped with them and
they were operated from the locomotives, they were not relied upon
for ordinary use, but were held in reserve, as it were, against
special exigencies. The Hudson River railroad train at the Hamburg
accident was thus equipped. Practically, appliances which in the
operation of railroads are reserved for emergencies are usually
found of little value when the emergency occurs. Accordingly no
continuous brake had, prior to the development of Westinghouse's
invention, worked its way into general use. Patent brakes had
become a proverb as well as a terror among railroad mechanics,
and they had ceased to believe that any really desirable thing of
the sort would ever be perfected. Westinghouse, therefore, had a
most unbelieving audience to encounter, and his invention had to
fight hard for all the favor it won; nor did his experience with
master mechanics differ, probably, much from Miller's. His first
patents were taken out in 1869, and he early secured the powerful
aid of the Pennsylvania road for his invention. The Pullman Car
Company, also, always anxious to avail themselves of every appliance
of safety as well as of comfort, speedily saw the merits of the
new brake and adopted it; but, as they merely furnished cars and
had nothing to do with the locomotives that pulled them, their
support was not so effective as that of the great railroad company.
Naturally enough, also, great hesitation was felt in adopting so
complicated an appliance. It added yet another whole apparatus to
a thing which was already overburdened with machinery. There was,
also, something in the delicacy and precision of the parts of this
new contrivance,--in its air-pump and reservoirs and long connecting
tubes with their numerous valves,--which was peculiarly distasteful
to the average practical railroad mechanic. It was true that the
idea of transmitting power by means of compressed air was by no
means new,--that thousands of drills were being daily driven by
it wherever tunnelling was going on or miners were at work,--yet
the application of this familiar power to the wheels of a railroad
train seemed no less novel than it was bold. It was, in the first
place, evident that the new apparatus would not stand the banging
and hammering to which the old-fashioned hand-brake might safely
be subjected; not indeed without deranging that simple appliance,
but without incurring any very heavy bill for repairs in so doing.
Accordingly the new brake was at first carelessly examined and
patronizingly pushed aside as a pretty toy,--nice in theory no
doubt, but wholly unfitted for rough, every-day use. As it was
tersely expressed during a discussion before the Society of Arts
in London, as recently as May, 1877,--"It was no use bringing out
a brake which could not be managed by ordinary officials,--which
was so wonderfully clever that those who had to use it could not
understand it." A line of argument by the way, which, as has been
already pointed out, may with far greater force be applied to the
locomotive itself; and, indeed, unquestionably was so applied
about half a century ago by men of the same calibre who apply it
now, to the intense weariness and discouragement no doubt of the
late George Stephenson. Whether sound or otherwise, however, few
more effective arguments against an appliance can be advanced; and
against the Westinghouse brake it was advanced so effectively,
that even as late as 1871, although largely in use on western
roads, it had found its way into Massachusetts only as an ingenious
device of doubtful merit. It was in August, 1871, that the Revere
disaster occurred, and the Revere disaster, as has been seen,
would unquestionably have been averted had the colliding train
been provided with proper brake power. This at last called serious
attention there to the new appliance. Even then, however, the mere
suggestion of something better being in existence than the venerable
hand-brakes in familiar use did not pass without a vigorous protest;
and at the meeting of railroad officials, which has already been
referred to as having been called by the state commissioners
after the accident, one prominent gentleman, when asked if the
road under his charge was equipped with the most approved brake,
indignantly replied that it was,--that it was equipped with the
good, old-fashioned hand-brake;--and he then proceeded to vehemently
stake his professional reputation on the absolute superiority of
that ancient but somewhat crude appliance over anything else of the
sort in existence. Nevertheless, on this occasion also, the great
dynamic force which is ever latent in first-class railroad accidents
again asserted itself. Even the most opinionated of professional
railroad men, emphatically as he might in public deny it, quietly
yielded as soon as might be. In a surprisingly short time after the
exhibition of ignorance which has been referred to, the railroads in
Massachusetts, as it has already been shown, were all equipped with

  [23] Page 157.

In its present improved shape it is safe to say that in all those
requisites which the highest authorities known on the subject have
laid down as essential to a model train brake, the Westinghouse
stands easily first among the many inventions of the kind. It is
now a much more perfect appliance than it was in 1871, for it was
then simply atmospheric and continuous in its action, whereas it
has since been made automatic and self-regulating. So far as its
fundamental principle is concerned, that is too generally understood
to call for explanation. By means of an air-pump, attached to the
boiler of the locomotive and controlled by the engine-driver, an
atmospheric force is brought to bear, through tubes running under
the cars, upon the break blocks, pressing them against the wheels.
The hand of the engine-driver is in fact on every wheel in the
train. This application of power, though unquestionably ingenious
and, like all good things, most simple and obvious when once
pointed out, was originally open to one great objection, which was
persistently and with great force urged against it. The parts of the
apparatus were all delicate, and some injury or derangement of them
was always possible, and sometimes inevitable. The chief advantage
claimed for the brake was, however, that complete dependence could
be placed upon it in the regular movement of trains. It was obvious,
therefore, that if such dependence was placed upon it and any
derangement did occur, the first intimation those in charge of the
train would have that something was wrong might well come in the
shape of a failure of the brake to act, and a subsequent disaster.
Both in Massachusetts and in Connecticut, at the crossing of one
railroad by another at the same level in the former state and in the
approach to draws in bridges in the latter, a number of cases of
this failure of the original Westinghouse non-automatic brake to act
did in point of fact occur. Fortunately they, none of them, resulted
in disaster. This, however, was mere good luck, as was illustrated
in the case of the accident of November 11, 1876, at the Communipaw
Ferry on the New Jersey Central. The train was there equipped with
the ordinary train brake. It reached Jersey City on time shortly
after 4 P.M., but, instead of slacking up, it ran directly through
the station and freight offices, carrying away the walls and
supports, and the locomotive then plunged into the river beyond.
The baggage and smoking car followed but fortunately lodged on the
locomotive, thus blocking the remainder of the train. Fortunately no
one was killed, and no passengers were seriously injured.

Again, on the Metropolitan Elevated railroad in New York city, on
the evening of June 23, 1879, one of the trains was delayed for a
few moments at the Franklin street station. Meanwhile the next train
came along, and, though the engine-driver of this following train
saw the danger signals and endeavored to stop in time, he found his
brake out of order, and a collision ensued resulting in the injury
of one employé and the severe shattering of a passenger coach and
locomotive. It was only a piece of good fortune that the first
of these accidents did not result in a repetition of the Norwalk
disaster and the second in that of Revere.

It so chanced that it was the Smith vacuum brake which failed to
work at Communipaw, and the Eames vacuum which failed to work at
Franklin street. This, however, was wholly immaterial. It might just
as well have been the original Westinghouse. The difficulty lay, not
in the maker's name, but in the imperfect action of the brake; and
such significant intimations are not to be disregarded. The chances
are naturally large that the failure of the continuous brake to act
will not at once occur under just those circumstances which will
entail a serious disaster and heavy loss of life; that, however, if
such intimations as these are disregarded, it will sooner or later
so occur does not admit of doubt.

But the possibility that upon some given occasion it might fail to
work was not the only defect in the original Westinghouse; it might
well be in perfect order and in full action even, and then suddenly,
as the result of derailment or separation of parts, the apparatus
might be broken, and at once the shoes would drop from the wheels,
and the vehicles of the disabled train would either press forward,
or, on an incline, stop and run backwards until their unchecked
momentum was exhausted. This appears to have been the case at
Wollaston, and contributed some of its most disastrous features to
that accident.

To obviate these defects Westinghouse in 1872 invented what he
termed a triple valve attachment, by means of which, if the
thing can be so expressed, his brake was made to always stand at
danger. That is, in case of any derangement of its parts, it was
automatically applied and the train stopped. The action of the brake
was thus made to give notice of anything wrong anywhere in the
train. A noticeable case of this occurred on the Midland railway in
England, when on the November 22, 1876, as the Scotch express was
approaching the Heeley station, at a speed of some sixty miles an
hour, the hind-guard felt the automatic brake suddenly self-applied.
The forward truck of a Pullman car in the middle of the train had
left the rails; the front part of the train broke the couplings
and went on, while the rear carriages, acted upon by the automatic
brakes, came to a stand immediately behind the Pullman, which
finally rested on its side across the opposite track. There was
no loss of life. On the other hand, as the Scotch express on the
North Eastern road was approaching Morpeth, on March 25, 1877, at
a speed of some twenty-five miles an hour, the locomotive for some
reason left the track. The train was not equipped with an automatic
brake, and the carriages in it accordingly pressed forward upon
each other until three of them were so utterly destroyed as to be
indistinguishable. Five passengers lost their lives; the remains of
one of whom, together with the wheels of a carriage, were afterwards
taken out from the tank of the tender, into which they had been
driven by the force of the shock.

The theoretical objection to the automatic brake is obvious. In
case of any derangement of its machinery it applies itself, and,
should these derangements be of frequent occurrence, the consequent
stoppage of trains would prove a great annoyance, if not a source
of serious danger. This objection is not sustained by practical
experience. The triple valve, so called, is the only complicated
portion of the automatic brake, and this valve is well protected
and not liable to get out of order.[24] Should it become deranged
it will stop the working of the brake on that car alone to which it
belongs; and it will become deranged so as to set the brake only
from causes which would render the non-automatic brake inoperative.
When anything of this sort occurs, it stops the train until the
defect is remedied. The returns made to the English Board of
Trade enable us to know just how frequently in actual and regular
service these stoppages occur, and what they amount to. Take, for
instance, the North Eastern and the Caledonian railways. Both use
the automatic brake. During the last six months of 1878 the first
ran 138,000 train miles with it, in the course of which there
were eight delays or stoppages of some three to five minutes each
occasioned by the action of the triple-valve; being in round numbers
one occasion of delay in 17,000 miles of train movement. On the
Caledonian railway, during the same period, four brake failures, due
to the action of the triple-valve, were reported in runs aggregating
over 62,000 miles, being about one failure to 15,000 miles. These
failures moreover occasioned delays of only a few minutes each, and,
where the cause of the difficulty was not so immediately apparent
that it could at once be remedied, the brake-tubes of the vehicle
on which the difficulty occurred were disconnected, and the trains
went on.[25] One of these stoppages, however, resulted in a serious
accident. As a train on the Caledonian road was approaching the
Wemyss Bay junction on December 14th, in a dense fog, the engine
driver, seeing the signals at danger, undertook to apply his brake
slightly, when it went full on, stopping the train between the
distant and home signals, as they are called in the English block
system. After the danger signal was lowered, but before the brake
could be released, the signal-man allowed a following train to enter
upon the same block section, and a collision followed in which some
thirteen passengers were slightly injured. This accident, however,
as the inspecting officer of the Board of Trade very properly found,
was due not at all to the automatic brake, but to "carelessness
on the part of the signal-man, who disregarded the rules for the
working of the block telegraph instruments," and to the driver
of the colliding train, who "disobeyed the company's running
regulations." It gives an American, however, a realizing sense of
one of the difficulties under which those crowded British lines are
operated, to read that in this case the fog was "so thick that the
tail-lamp was not visible from an approaching train for more than a
few yards."

  [24] Speaking of the modifications introduced into his brake by
  Westinghouse since 1874, Mr. Thomas E. Harrison, civil engineer
  of the North Eastern Railway Company in a communication to the
  directors of that company of April 24, 1879, recommending the
  adoption by it of the Westinghouse, and subsequently ordered to
  be printed for the use of Parliament, thus referred to the triple
  valve: "As the most important [of these modifications] I will
  particularly draw your attention to the "triple-valve" which has
  been made a regular bugbear by the opponents of the system, and has
  been called complicated, delicate, and liable to get out of order,
  etc. * * * It is, in fact, as simple a piece of mechanism as well
  can be imagined, certain in its action, of durable materials, easily
  accessible to an ordinary workman for examination or cleaning, and
  there is nothing about it that can justify the term complication; on
  the contrary, it is a model of ingenuity and simplicity."

  [25] During the six months ending June 30, 1879, some 300 stops due
  to some derangement of the apparatus of the Westinghouse brake were
  reported by ten companies in runs aggregating about two million
  miles. Being one stop to 6,600 miles run. Very many of these stops
  were obviously due to the want of familiarity of the employés with
  an apparatus new to them, but as a rule the delays occasioned did
  not exceed a very few minutes; of 82 stoppages, for instance,
  reported on the London, Brighton & South Coast road, the two longest
  were ten minutes each and the remainder averaged some three or four

After the application of the triple valve had made it automatic,
there remained but one further improvement necessary to render
the Westinghouse a well-nigh perfect brake. A superabundance of
self-acting power had been secured, but no provision was yet made
for graduating the use of that power so that it should be applied
in the exact degree, neither more nor less, which would soonest
stop the train. This for two reasons is mechanically a matter of
no little importance. As is well known a too severe application of
brakes, no matter of what kind they are, causes the wheels to stand
still and slide upon the rails. This is not only very injurious to
rolling stock, the wheels of which are flattened at the points which
slide, but, as has long been practically well-known to those whose
business it is to run locomotives, when once the wheels begin to
slide the retarding power of the brakes is seriously diminished.
In order, therefore, to secure the maximum of retarding power, the
pressure of the brake-blocks on the revolving wheels should be very
great when first applied, and just sufficient not to slide them; and
should then be diminished, _pari passu_ with the momentum of the
train, until it wholly stops. Familiar as all this has long been
to engine-drivers and practical railroad mechanics, yet it has not
been conceded in the results of many scientific inquiries. In the
report of one of the Royal Commissions on Accidents, for instance,
it was asserted that the momentum of a train was retarded more by
the action of sliding than of slowly revolving wheels; and again,
as recently as in May, 1877, in a scientific discussion in London
at one of the meetings of the Society of Arts, a gentleman, with
the letters C. E. appended to his name, ventured the surprising
assertion that "no brake could do more than skid the wheels of
a train, and all continuous brakes professed to do this, and he
believed did so about equally well." Now, what it is here asserted
no brake can do is exactly what the perfect brake will be made to
do,--and what Westinghouse's latest improvement, it is claimed,
enables his brake to do. It much more than "skids the wheels," by
measuring out exactly that degree of power necessary to hold the
wheels just short of the skidding point, and in this way always
exerts the maximum retarding force. This is brought about by means
of a contrivance which allows the air to leak out of the brake
cylinders so as to exactly proportion the pressure of the blocks
on the wheels to the speed with which the latter are revolving.
In other, and more scientific, language the force with which the
brake-blocks are pressed upon the wheels is made to adjust itself
automatically as the "coefficient of dynamic friction augments with
the reduction of train speed." It hardly needs to be said that in
this way the power of the brake is enormously increased.

In America the superiority of the Westinghouse over any other
description of train-brake has long been established through that
large preponderance of use which in such matters constitutes the
final and irreversible verdict.[26] In Europe, however, and
especially in Great Britain, ever since the Shipton-on-Cherwell
accident in 1874, the battle of the brakes, as it may not
inappropriately be called, has waxed hotter and hotter; and not only
has this battle been extremely interesting in a scientific way, but
it has been highly characteristic, and at times enlivened by touches
of human nature which were exceedingly amusing.

  [26] In Massachusetts, for instance, where no official pressure
  in favor of any particular brake was brought to bear, out of 473
  locomotives equipped with train-brakes 361 have the Westinghouse,
  which is also applied to 1,363 out of 1,669 cars. Of these, however,
  79 locomotives and 358 cars are equipped with both the atmospheric
  and the vacuum brakes.



The English battle of the brakes may be said to have fairly opened
with the official report from Captain Tyler on the Shipton accident,
in reference to which he expressed the opinion, which has already
been quoted in describing the accident, that "if the train had
been fitted with continuous brakes throughout its whole length
there is no reason why it should not have been brought to rest
without any casuality." The Royal Commission on railroad accidents
then took the matter up and called for a series of scientifically
conducted experiments. These took place under the supervision of
two engineers appointed by the Commission, who were aided by a
detail of officers and men from the royal engineers. Eight brakes
competed, and a train, consisting of a locomotive and thirteen
cars, was specially prepared for each. With these trains some
seventy runs were made, and their results recorded and tabulated;
the experiments were continued through six consecutive working
days. Of the brakes experimented with three were American in their
origin,--Westinghouse's automatic and vacuum, and Smith's vacuum.
The remainder were English, and were steam, hydraulic, and air
brakes; among them also was one simple emergency brake. The result
of the trials was a very decided victory for the Westinghouse
automatic, and upon its performances the Commission based its
conclusion that trains ought to be so equipped that in cases of
emergency they could be brought to rest, when travelling on level
ground at 50 miles an hour, within a distance of 275 yards; with
an allowance of distance in cases of speed greater or less than
50 miles nearly proportioned to its square. These allowances they
tabulated as follows:--

  At 60 miles per hour, stopping distance within 400 yards.
  "  55        "            "           "        340   "
  "  50        "            "           "        275   "
  "  45        "            "           "        220   "
  "  40        "            "           "        180   "
  "  35        "            "           "        135   "
  "  30        "            "           "        100   "

To appreciate the enormous advance in what may be called stopping
power which these experiments revealed, it should be added that
the first series of experiments made at Newark were with trains
equipped only with the hand-brake. The average speed in these
experiments was 47 miles, and with the train-brake, according to the
foregoing tabulation, the stop should have been made in about 250
yards; in reality it was made in a little less than five times that
distance, or 1120 yards; in other words the experiments showed that
the improved appliances had more than quadrupled the control over
trains. It has already been noticed that in the cases of the Angola
and the Port Jervis disasters, as well as in that at Shipton, the
trains ran some 2,700 feet before they could be stopped. Under the
English tabulations above given, in the results of which certain
recent improvements do not enter, a train running into the 42d
Street Station in New York, at a speed of forty-five miles an hour
when under the entrance arches, would be stopped before it reached
the buffers at the end of the covered tracks.

The Royal Commission experiments were followed in May and June,
1877, by yet others set on foot by the North Eastern Railway
Company for the purpose of making a competitive test of the
Westinghouse automatic and the Smith's vacuum brakes. At this trial
also the average stop at a speed of 50 miles an hour was effected
in 15 seconds, and within a distance of 650 feet. Other series
of experiments with similar results were, about the same time,
conducted under the auspices of the Belgian and German governments,
of which elaborate official reports were made. The result was that
at last, under date of August 30, 1877, the Board of Trade issued
a circular to the railway companies in which it called attention to
the fact that, notwithstanding all the discussion which had taken
place and the elaborate official trials which the government had set
on foot, there had "apparently been no attempt on the part of the
various companies to take the first step of agreeing upon what are
the requirements which, in their opinion, are essential to a good
continuous brake." In other words, the Board found that, instead of
becoming better, matters were rapidly becoming worse. Each company
was equipping its rolling stock with that appliance in which its
officers happened to be interested as owners or inventors, and when
carriages thus equipped passed from the tracks of one road onto
those of another the result was a return to the old hand-brake
system in a condition of impaired efficiency. The Board accordingly
now proceeded to narrow down the field of selection by specifying
the following as what it considered the essentials of a good
continuous brake:--

     _a._ "The brakes to be efficient in stopping trains,
     instantaneous in their actions, and capable of being applied
     without difficulty by engine-drivers or guards.

     _b._ "In case of accident, to be instantaneously self-acting.

     _c._ "The brakes to be put on and taken off (with facility) on
     the engine and on every vehicle of a train.

     _d._ "The brakes to be regularly used in daily working.

     _e._ "The materials employed to be of a durable character, so as
     to be easily maintained and kept in order."

These requirements pointed about as directly as they could to the
Westinghouse, to the exclusion of all competing brakes. Not more
than one other complied with them in all respects, and many made
no pretence of complying at all. Then followed what may be termed
the battle royal of the brakes, which as yet shows no signs of
drawing to a close. As the avowed object of the Board of Trade was
to introduce, one brake, to the necessary exclusion of all others,
throughout the railroad system of Great Britain, the magnitude of
the prize was not easy to over-estimate. The weight of scientific
and official authority was decidedly in favor of the Westinghouse
automatic, but among the railroad men the Smith vacuum found
the largest number of adherents. It failed to meet three of the
requirements of the Board of Trade, in that it was neither automatic
nor instantaneous in its action, while the materials employed in
it were not of a durable character. It was, on the other hand, a
brake of unquestioned excellence, while it commended itself to the
judgment of the average railroad official by its simplicity, and to
that of the average railroad director by its apparent cheapness. Any
one could understand it, and its first cost was temptingly small.
The real struggle in Great Britain, therefore, has been, and now
is, between these two brakes; and the fact that both of them are
American has been made to enter largely into it, and in a way also
which at times lent to the discussion an element of broad humor.

For instance, the energetic agent of the Smith vacuum, feeling
himself aggrieved by some statement which appeared in the _Times_,
responded thereto in a circular, in the composition of which he
certainly evinced more zeal than either judgment or literary skill.
This circular and its author were then referred to by the editors
of _Engineering_, a London scientific journal, in the following
slightly _de haut en bas_ style:--

     "It is not a little remarkable, and it is a fact not harmonious
     with the feelings of English engineers, that the two brakes
     recommending themselves for adoption are of American origin.
     * * * Now we cannot wonder, considering what our past experience
     has been in many of our dealings with Americans, that this
     feeling of distrust and prejudice exists. It is not merely
     sentimental, it is founded on many and untoward and costly
     experiences of the past, and the fear of similar experiences in
     the future. And when we see the representative of one of these
     systems adopting the traditional policy of his country, and
     meeting criticism with abuse--abuse of men pre-eminent in the
     profession, and journals which he apparently forgets are neither
     American nor venal--we do not wonder that our railway engineers
     feel a repugnance to commit themselves."

The superiority of the British over the American controversialist,
as respects courtesy and restraint in language, being thus
satisfactorily established, it only remained to illustrate it.
This, however, had already been done in the previous May; for at
that time it chanced that Captain Tyler, having retired from his
position at the head of the railway inspectors department of the
Board of Trade, was considering an offer which Mr. Westinghouse had
made him to associate himself with the company owning the brakes
known by that name. Before accepting this offer, Captain Tyler
took advantage of a meeting of the Society of Arts to publicly
give notice that he was considering it. This he did in a really
admirable paper on the whole subject of continuous brakes, at the
close of which a general discussion was invited and took place, and
in the course of it the innate superiority of the British over any
other kind of controversialist, so far at least as courtesy and a
delicate refraining from imputations is concerned, received pointed

No sooner had Captain Tyler finished than Mr. Houghton, C. E., took
occasion to refer to the paper he had read as "an elaborate puff
to the Westinghouse brake, with which he [Tyler] was, as he told,
connected, or about to be." Subsequently Mr. Steele proceeded to say

     "On receiving the invitation to be present at the meeting, he
     had been somewhat afraid that Captain Tyler was going to lose
     his fine character for impartiality by throwing in his lot with
     the brake-tinkers, but it came out that not only was he going to
     do that, but actually going to be a partner in a concern. * * *
     The speaker then proceeded to discuss the Westinghouse brake,
     which he called the Westinghouse and Tyler brake, designating
     it as a jack-in-the-box, a rattle trap, to please and decoy,
     and not an invention at all. No engineer had a hand in its
     manufacture. It was the discovery of some Philadelphia barber
     or some such thing. He had spoken of honest brakes. This was
     a brake which had all sorts of pretensions. It had not worked
     well, but whenever there was any row about its not working
     well, they got the papers to praise it up, and that was how the
     papers were under the thumb, and would not speak of any other.
     * * * He thought it would not do for railway companies to take
     a bad brake, and Captain Tyler and Mr. Westinghouse be able
     to make their fortunes by floating a limited company for its
     introduction. They had heard of Emma mines and Lisbon tramways,
     and such like, and he felt it would not be well to stand by and
     allow this to be done."

All of which was not only to the point, but finely calculated to
show the American inventors and agents who were present the nice and
mutually respectful manner in which such discussions were carried on
by all Englishmen.

Though the avowed adhesion of Sir Henry Tyler to the Westinghouse
was a most important move in the war of the brakes, it did not
prove a decisive one. The complete control of the field was too
valuable a property to be yielded in deference to that, or any other
name without a struggle; and, so to speak, there were altogether
too many ins and outs to the conflict. Back door influences had
everywhere to be encountered. The North Western, for instance, is
the most important of the railway companies of the United Kingdom.
The locomotive superintendent of that company was the part inventor
and proprietor of an emergency brake which had been extensively
adopted by it on its rolling stock, but which wholly failed to meet
the requirements laid down in its circular by the Board of Trade.
Immediately after issuing that circular the Board of Trade called
the attention of the company to this fact in connection with an
accident which had recently occurred, and in very emphatic language
pointed out that the brakes in question could not "in any reasonable
sense of the word be called continuous brakes," and that it was
clear that the circular requirements were "not complied with by the
brake-system of the London & North Western Railway Company;" in case
that company persisted in the use of that brake, the secretary of
the Board went on to say, "in the event of a casualty occurring,
which an efficient system of brakes might have prevented, a heavy
personal responsibility will rest upon those who are answerable for
such neglect." This was certainly language tolerably direct in its
import. As such it was calculated to cause those to whom it was
addressed to pause in their action. The company, however, treated it
with a superb disregard, all the more contemptuous because veiled
in language of deferential civility. They then quietly went on
applying their locomotive superintendent's emergency brake to their
equipment, until on the 30th of June, 1879, they returned no less
than 2,052 carriages fitted with it; that being by far the largest
number returned by any one company in the United Kingdom.

A more direct challenge to the Board of Trade and to Parliament
could not easily have been devised. To appreciate how direct it
was, it is necessary to bear in mind that in its circular of August
30, 1877, in which the requirements of a satisfactory train-brake
were laid down, the Board of Trade threw out to the companies
the very significant hint, that they "would do well to reflect
that if a doubt should arise that from a conflict of interest or
opinion, or from any other cause, they [the companies] are not
exerting themselves, it is obvious that they will call down upon
themselves an interference which the Board of Trade, no less than
the companies, desire to avoid." In his general report on the
accidents of the year 1877, the successor of Captain Tyler expressed
the opinion that "sufficient information and experience would now
appear to be available, and the time is approaching when the railway
companies may fairly be expected to come to a decision as to which
of the systems of continuous brakes is best calculated to fulfil the
requisite conditions, and is most worthy of general adoption." At
the close of another year, however, the official returns seemed to
indicate that, while but a sixth part of the passenger locomotives
and a fifth part of the carriages in use on the railroads of the
United Kingdom were yet equipped with continuous brakes at all, a
concurrence of opinion in favor of any one system was more remote
than ever. During the six months ending December 31, 1878, but 127
additional locomotives out of about 4000, and 1,200 additional
carriages out of some 32,000 were equipped; of which 70 locomotives
and 530 carriages had been equipped with the Smith vacuum, which in
three most important respects failed to comply with the Board of
Trade requirements. Under these circumstances the Board of Trade
was obviously called upon either to withdraw from the position it
had taken, or to invite that "interference" in its support to which
in its circular of August, 1877 it had so portentously referred. It
decided to do the latter, and in March, 1879 the government gave an
intimation in the House of Lords that early Parliamentary action was
contemplated. As it is expressed, the railway companies are to "be
relieved of their indecision."

In Great Britain, therefore, the long battle of the brakes would
seem to be drawing to its close. The final struggle, however,
will be a spirited one, and one which Americans will watch with
considerable interest,--for it is in fact a struggle between two
American brakes, the Westinghouse and the Smith vacuum. Of the
907 locomotives hitherto equipped with the continuous brakes no
less than 819 are equipped with one or the other of these American
patents, besides over 4,464 of the 9,919 passenger carriages. The
remaining 3,857 locomotives and 30,000 carriages are the prize of
victory. As the score now stands the vacuum brake is in almost
exactly twice the use of its more scientific rival. The weight
of authority and experience, and the requirements of the Board of
Trade, are, however, on the opposite side.

As deduced from the European scientific tests and the official
returns, the balance of advantages would seem to be as follows:--In
favor of the vacuum are its superficial simplicity, and possible
economy in first cost:--In favor of the Westinghouse automatic are
its superior quickness in application, the greater rapidity in
its stopping power, the more durable nature of its materials, the
smaller cost in renewal, its less liability to derangement, and
above all its self-acting adjustment. The last is the point upon
which the final issue of the struggle must probably turn. The use
of any train-brake which is not automatic in its action, as has
already been pointed out, involves in the long run disaster,--and
ultimate serious disaster. The mere fact that the brake is generally
so reliable,--that ninety-nine times out of the hundred it works
perfectly,--simply makes disaster certain by the fatal confidence
it inspires. Ninety-nine times in a hundred the brake proves
reliable;--nine times in the remaining ten of the thousand, in which
it fails, a lucky chance averts disaster;--but the thousandth time
will assuredly come, as it did at Communipaw and on the New York
Elevated railway, and, much the worst of all yet, at Wollaston.
Soon or late the use of non-automatic continuous brakes will most
assuredly, if they are not sooner abandoned, be put an end to
by the occurrence of some not-to-be forgotten catastrophe of the
first magnitude, distinctly traceable to that cause. Meanwhile that
automatic brakes are complicated and sometimes cause inconvenience
in their operation is most indisputable. This is an objection, also,
to which they are open in common with most of the riper results of
human ingenuity;--but, though sun-dials are charmingly simple, we do
not, therefore, discard chronometers in their favor; neither do we
insist on cutting our harvests with the scythe, because every man
who may be called upon to drive a mowing machine may not know how
to put one together. But what Sir Henry Tyler has said in respect
to this oldest and most fallacious, as well as most wearisome, of
objections covers the whole ground and cannot be improved upon.
After referring to the fact that simplicity in construction and
simplicity in working were two different things, and that, almost
invariably, a certain degree of complication in construction is
necessary to secure simplicity in working,--after pointing this out
he went on to add that,--

     "Simplicity as regards the application of railway brakes is
     not obtained by the system now more commonly employed of
     brake-handles to be turned by different men in different
     parts of the train; but is obtained when, by more complicated
     construction an engine-driver is able easily in an instant to
     apply ample brake-power at pleasure with more or less force
     to every wheel of his train; is obtained when, every time an
     engine-driver starts, or attempts to start his train, the brake
     itself informs him if it is out of order; and is still more
     obtained when, on the occasion of an accident and the separation
     of a coupling, the brakes will unfailingly apply themselves on
     every wheel of the train without the action of the engine-driver
     or guards, [brakemen], and before even they have time to realize
     the necessity for it. This is true simplicity in such a case,
     and that system of continuous brakes which best accomplishes
     such results in the shortest space of time is so far preferable
     to all others."



One day in May, 1847, as the Queen of Belgium was going from
Verviers to Brussels by rail, the train in which she was journeying
came into collision with another train going in the opposite
direction. There was naturally something of a panic, and, as
royalty was not then accustomed to being knocked about with
railroad equality, some of her suite urged the queen to leave the
train and to finish her journey by carriage. The contemporaneous
court reporter then went on to say, in that language which is
so peculiarly his own,--"But her Majesty, as courageously as
discreetly, declined to set that example of timidity, and she
proceeded to Brussels by the railway." In those days a very
exaggerated idea was universally entertained of the great danger
incident to travel by rail. Even then, however, had her Majesty, who
was doubtless a very sensible woman, happened to be familiar with
the statistics of injuries received by those traveling respectively
by rail and by carriage, she certainly never on any plea of danger
would have been induced to abandon her railroad train in order to
trust herself behind horse-flesh. By pursuing the course urged
upon her, the queen would have multiplied her chances of accident
some sixty fold. Strange as the statement sounds even now, such
would seem to have been the fact. In proportion to the whole number
carried, the accidents to passengers in "the good old days of
stage-coaches" were, as compared to the present time of the railroad
dispensation, about as sixty to one. This result, it is true, cannot
be verified in the experience either of England or of this country,
for neither the English nor we possess any statistics in relation
to the earlier period; but they have such statistics in France,
stretching over the space of more than forty years, and as reliable
as statistics ever are. If these French statistics hold true in New
England,--and considering the character of our roads, conveyances,
and climate, their showing is more likely to be in our favor than
against us,--if they simply hold true, leaving us to assume that
stage-coach traveling was no less safe in Massachusetts than in
France, then it would follow that to make the dangers of the rail
of the present day equal to those of the highway of half a century
back, some eighty passengers should annually be killed and some
eleven hundred injured within the limits of Massachusetts alone.
These figures, however, represent rather more than fifty times the
actual average, and from them it would seem to be not unfair to
conclude that, notwithstanding the great increase of population and
the yet greater increase in travel during the last half-century,
there were literally more persons killed and injured each year in
Massachusetts fifty years ago through accidents to stage-coaches
than there are now through accidents to railroad trains.

The first impression of nine out of ten persons in no way connected
with the operations of railroads would probably be found to be
the exact opposite to this. A vague but deeply rooted conviction
commonly prevails that the railroad has created a new danger;
that because of it the average human being's hold on life is more
precarious than it was. The first point-blank, bald statement to the
contrary would accordingly strike people in the light not only of a
paradox, but of a somewhat foolish one. Investigation, nevertheless,
bears it out. The fact is that when a railroad accident comes, it is
apt to come in such a way as to leave no doubt whatever in relation
to it. It is heralded like a battle or an earthquake; it fills
columns of the daily press with the largest capitals and the most
harrowing details, and thus it makes a deep and lasting impression
on the minds of many people. When a multitude of persons, traveling
as almost every man now daily travels himself, meet death in such
sudden and such awful shape, the event smites the imagination.
People seeing it and thinking of it, and hearing and reading of
it, and of it only, forget of how infrequent occurrence it is. It
was not so in the olden time. Every one rode behind horses,--if not
in public then in private conveyances,--and when disaster came it
involved but few persons and was rarely accompanied by circumstances
which either struck the imagination or attracted any great public
notice. In the first place, the modern newspaper, with its perfect
machinery for sensational exaggeration, did not then exist,--having
itself only recently come in the train of the locomotive;--and, in
the next place, the circle of those included in the consequences of
any disaster was necessarily small. It is far otherwise now. For
weeks and months the vast machinery moves along, doing its work
quickly, swiftly, safely; no one pays any attention to it, while
millions daily make use of it. It is as much a necessity of their
lives as the food they eat and the air they breathe. Suddenly,
somehow, and somewhere,--at Versailles, at Norwalk, at Abergele, at
New Hamburg, or at Revere,--at some hitherto unfamiliar point upon
an insignificant thread of the intricate iron web, an obstruction is
encountered, a jar, as it were, is felt, and instantly, with time
for hardly an ejaculation or a thought, a multitude of human beings
are hurled into eternity. It is no cause for surprise that such an
event makes the community in which it happens catch its breadth;
neither is it unnatural that people should think more of the few who
are killed, of whom they hear so much, than of the myriads who are
carried in safety and of whom they hear nothing. Yet it is well to
bear in mind that there are two sides to that question also, and in
no way could this fact be more forcibly brought to our notice than
by the assertion, borne out by all the statistics we possess, that,
irrespective of the vast increase in the number of those who travel,
a greater number of passengers in stage-coaches were formerly
each year killed or injured by accidents to which they in no way
contributed through their own carelessness, than are now killed
under the same conditions in our railroad cars. In other words, the
introduction of the modern railroad, so far from proportionately
increasing the dangers of traveling, has absolutely diminished them.
It is not, after all, the dangers but the safety of the modern
railroad which should excite our special wonder.

What is the average length of the railroad journey resulting in
death by accident to a prudent traveler?--What is the average length
of one resulting in some personal injury to him?--These are two
questions which interest every one. Few persons, probably, start
upon any considerable journey, implying days and nights on the
rail, without almost unconsciously taking into some consideration
the risks of accident. Visions of collision, derailment, plunging
through bridges, will rise unbidden. Even the old traveler who
has enjoyed a long immunity is apt at times, with some little
apprehension, to call to mind the musty adage of the pitcher and
the well, and to ask himself how much longer it will be safe for
him to rely on his good luck. A hundred thousand miles, perhaps,
and no accident yet!--Surely, on every doctrine of chances, he
now owes to fate an arm or a leg;--perhaps a life. The statistics
of a long series of years enable us, however, to approximate with
a tolerable degree of precision to an answer to these questions,
and the answer is simply astounding;--so astounding, in fact,
that, before undertaking to give it, the question itself ought to
be stated with all possible precision. It is this:--Taking all
persons who as passengers travel by rail,--and this includes all
dwellers in civilized countries,--what number of journeys of the
average length are safely accomplished, to each one which results
in the death or injury of a passenger from some cause over which he
had no control?--The cases of death or injury must be confined to
passengers, and to those of them only who expose themselves to no
unnecessary risk.

When approaching a question of this sort, statisticians are apt to
assume for their answers an appearance of mathematical accuracy.
It is needless to say that this is a mere affectation. The best
results which can be arrived at are, after all, mere approximations,
and they also vary greatly year by year. The body of facts from
which conclusions are to be deduced must cover not only a definite
area of space, but also a considerable lapse of time. Even Great
Britain, with its 17,000 miles of track and its hundreds of millions
of annual passenger journeys, shows results which, one year with
another, vary strangely. For instance, during the four years
anterior to 1874, but one passenger was killed, upon an average, to
each 11,000,000 carried; while in 1874 the proportion, under the
influence of a succession of disasters, suddenly doubled, rising to
one in every 5,500,000; and then again in 1877, a year of peculiar
exemption, it fell off to one in every 50,000,000. The percentage of
fatal casualties to the whole number carried was in 1847-9 five fold
what it was in 1878. If such fluctuations reveal themselves in the
statistics of Great Britain, those met with in the narrower field of
a single state in this country might well seem at first glance to
set all computation at defiance. During the ten years, for example,
between 1861 and 1870, about 200,000,000 passengers were returned
as carried on the Massachusetts roads, with 135 cases of injury to
individuals. Then came the year of the Revere disaster, and out of
26,000,000 carried, no less than 115 were killed or injured. Seven
years of comparative immunity then ensued, during which, out of
240,000,000 carried, but two were killed and forty-five injured.
In other words, through a period of ten years the casualties were
approximately as one to 1,500,000; then during a single year they
rose to one in 250,000, or a seven-fold increase; and then through
a period of seven years they diminished to one in 3,400,000, a
decrease of about ninety per cent.

Taking, however, the very worst of years,--the year of the
Revere disaster, which stands unparalleled in the history of
Massachusetts,--it will yet be found that the answer to the question
as to the length of the average railroad journey resulting in death
or in injury will be expressed, not in thousands nor in hundreds
of thousands of miles, but in millions. During that year some
26,000,000 passenger journeys were made within the limits of the
state, and each journey averaged a distance of about 13 miles. It
would seem, therefore, that, even in that year, the average journey
resulting in death was 11,000,000 miles, while that resulting either
in death or personal injury was not less than 3,300,000.

The year 1871, however, represented by no means a fair average.
On the contrary, it indicated what may fairly be considered an
excessive degree of danger, exciting nervous apprehensions in the
breasts of those even who were not constitutionally timid. To reach
what may be considered a normal average, therefore, it would be
more proper to include a longer period in the computation. Take,
for instance, the nine years, 1871-79, during which alone has
any effort been made to reach statistical accuracy in respect to
Massachusetts railroad accidents. During those nine years, speaking
in round numbers and making no pretence at anything beyond a
general approximation, some 303,000,000 passenger journeys of 13
miles each have been made on the railroads and within the state.
Of these 51 have resulted in death and 308 in injuries to persons
from causes over which they had no control. The average distance,
therefore, traveled by all, before death happened to any one, was
about 80,000,000 miles, and that travelled before any one was either
injured or killed was about 10,800,000.

The Revere disaster of 1871, however, as has been seen, brought
about important changes in the methods of operating the railroads
of Massachusetts. Consequently the danger incident to railroad
traveling was materially reduced; and in the next eight years
(1872-9) some 274,000,000 passenger journeys were made within the
limits of the state. The Wollaston disaster of October, 1878, was
included in this period, during which 223 persons were injured and
21 were killed. The average journey for these years resulting in any
injury to a passenger was close upon 15,000,000 miles, while that
resulting in death was 170,000,000.

But it may fairly be asked,--What, after all, do these figures
mean?--They are, indeed, so large as to exceed comprehension; for,
after certain comparatively narrow limits are passed the practical
infinite is approached, and the mere adding of a few more ciphers
after a numeral conveys no new idea. On the contrary, the piling up
of figures rather tends to weaken than to strengthen a statement,
for to many it suggests an idea of ridiculous exaggeration. Indeed,
when a few years ago a somewhat similar statement to that just made
was advanced in an official report, a critic undertook to expose
the fallacy of it in the columns of a daily paper by referring to a
case within the writer's own observation in which a family of three
persons had been killed on their very first journey in a railroad
car. It is not, of course, necessary to waste time over such a
criticism as this. Railroad accidents continually take place, and
in consequence of them people are killed and injured, and of these
there may well be some who are then making their first journey by
rail; but in estimating the dangers of railroad traveling the much
larger number who are not killed or injured at all must likewise be
taken into consideration. Any person as he may be reading this page
in a railroad car may be killed or injured through some accident,
even while his eye is glancing over the figures which show how
infinitesimal his danger is; but the chances are none the less as a
million to one that any particular reader will go down to his grave
uninjured by any accident on the rail, unless it be occasioned by
his or her own carelessness.

Admitting, therefore, that ill luck or hard fortune must fall to
the lot of certain unascertainable persons, yet the chances of
incurring that ill fortune are so small that they are not materially
increased by any amount of traveling which can be accomplished
within the limits of a human life. So far from exhausting a fair
average immunity from accident by constant traveling, the statistics
of Massachusetts during the last eight years would seem to indicate
that if any given person were born upon a railroad car, and remained
upon it traveling 500 miles a day all his life, he would, with
average good fortune, be somewhat over 80 years of age before he
would be involved in any accident resulting in his death or personal
injury, while he would attain the highly respectable age of 930
years before being killed. Even supposing that the most exceptional
average of the Revere year became usual, a man who was killed by
an accident at 70 years of age should, unless he were fairly to be
accounted unlucky, have accomplished a journey of some 440 miles
every day of his life, Sundays included, from the time of his birth
to that of his death; while even to have brought him within the
fair liability of any injury at all, his daily journey should have
been some 120 miles. Under the conditions of the last eight years
his average daily journey through the three score years and ten to
entitle him to be killed in an accident at the end of them would be
about 600 miles.



In connection with the statistics of railroad casualties it is not
without interest to examine the general vital statistics of some
considerable city, for they show clearly enough what a large degree
of literal truth there was in the half jocose proposition attributed
to John Bright, that the safest place in which a man could put
himself was inside a first-class railroad carriage of a train in
full motion. Take the statistics of Boston, for instance, for the
year 1878. During the four years 1875-8, it will be remembered, a
single passenger only was killed on the railroads of Massachusetts
in consequence of an accident to which he by his own carelessness
in no way contributed.[27] The average number of persons annually
injured, not fatally, during those years was about five.

  [27] This period did not include the Wollaston disaster, as the
  Massachusetts railroad year closes on the last day of September. The
  Wollaston disaster occurred on the 8th of October, 1878, and was
  accordingly included in the next railroad year.

Yet during the year 1878, excluding all cases of mere injury of
which no account was made, no less than 53 persons came to their
deaths in Boston from falling down stairs, and 37 more from falling
out of windows; seven were scalded to death in 1878 alone. In the
year 1874 seventeen were killed by being run over by teams in
the streets, while the pastime of coasting was carried on at a
cost of ten lives more. During the five years 1874-8 there were
more persons murdered in the city of Boston alone than lost their
lives as passengers through the negligence of all the railroad
corporations in the whole state of Massachusetts during the nine
years 1871-8; though in those nine years were included both the
Revere and the Wollaston disasters, the former of which resulted
in the death of 29, and the latter of 21 persons. Neither are the
comparative results here stated in any respect novel or peculiar
to Massachusetts. Years ago it was officially announced in France
that people were less safe in their own houses than while traveling
on the railroads; and, in support of this somewhat startling
proposition, statistics were produced showing fourteen cases of
death of persons remaining at home and there falling over carpets,
or, in the case of females, having their garments catch fire, to ten
deaths on the rail. Even the game of cricket counted eight victims
to the railroad's ten.

It will not, of course, be inferred that the cases of death or
injury to passengers from causes beyond their control include
by any means all the casualties involved in the operation of the
railroad system. On the contrary, they include but a very small
portion of them. The experience of the Massachusetts roads during
the seven years between September 30, 1871, and September 30,
1878, may again be cited in reference to this point. During that
time there were but 52 cases of injury to passengers from causes
over which they had no control, but in connection with the entire
working of the railroad system no less than 1,900 cases of injury
were reported, of which 1,008 were fatal; an average of 144 deaths a
year. Of these cases, naturally, a large proportion were employés,
whose occupation not only involves much necessary risk, but whose
familiarity with risk causes them always to incur it even in the
most unnecessary and foolhardy manner. During the seven years 293
of them were killed and 375 were reported as injured. Nor is it
supposed that the list included by any means all the cases of injury
which occurred. About one half of the accidents to employés are
occasioned by their falling from the trains when in motion, usually
from freight trains and in cold weather, and from being crushed
between cars while engaged in coupling them together. From this last
cause alone an average of 27 casualties are annually reported. One
fact, however, will sufficiently illustrate how very difficult it is
to protect this class of men from danger, or rather from themselves.
As is well known, on freight trains they are obliged to ride on the
tops of the cars; but these are built so high that their roofs come
dangerously near the bottoms of the highway bridges, which cross
the track sometimes in close proximity to each other. Accordingly
many unfortunate brakemen were killed by being knocked off the
trains as they passed under these bridges. With a view to affording
the utmost possible protection against this form of accident, a
statute was passed by the Massachusetts legislature compelling the
corporations to erect guards at a suitable distance from every
overhead bridge which was less than eighteen feet in the clear
above the track. These guards were so arranged as to swing lightly
across the tops of the cars, giving any one standing upon them a
sharp rap, warning him of the danger he was in. This warning rap,
however, so annoyed the brakemen that the guards were on a number of
the roads systematically destroyed as often as they were put up; so
that at last another law had to be passed, making their destruction
a criminal offense. The brakemen themselves resisted the attempt
to divest their perilous occupation of one of its most insidious

In this respect, however, brakemen differ in no degree from the
rest of the community. On all hands railroad accidents seem to
be systematically encouraged, and the wonder is that the list of
casualties is not larger. In Massachusetts, for instance, even in
the most crowded portions of the largest cities and towns, not
only do the railroads cross the highways at grade, but whenever new
thoroughfares are laid out the people of the neighborhood almost
invariably insist upon their crossing the railroads at a grade
and not otherwise. Not but that, upon theory and in the abstract,
every one is opposed to grade-crossings; but those most directly
concerned always claim that their particular crossing is exceptional
in character. In vain do corporations protest and public officials
argue; when the concrete case arises all neighborhoods become alike
and strenuously insist on their right to incur everlasting danger
rather than to have the level of their street broken. During the
last seven years to September 30, 1878, 191 persons have been
injured, and 98 of them fatally injured, at these crossings in
Massachusetts, and it is certain as fate that the number is destined
to annually increase. What the result in a remote future will be, it
is not now easy to forecast. One thing only would seem certain: the
time will come when the two classes of traffic thus recklessly made
to cross each other will at many points have to be separated, no
matter at what cost to the community which now challenges the danger
it will then find itself compelled to avoid.

The heaviest and most regular cause of death and injury involved
in the operation of the railroad system yet remains to be referred
to; and again it is recklessness which is at the root of it, and
this time recklessness in direct violation of law. The railroad
tracks are everywhere favorite promenades, and apparently even
resting-places, especially for those who are more or less drunk.
In Great Britain physical demolition by a railroad train is also a
somewhat favorite method of committing suicide, and that, too, in
the most deliberate and cool-blooded manner. Cases have not been
uncommon in which persons have been seen to coolly lay themselves
down in front of an advancing train, and very neatly effect their
own decapitation by placing their necks across the rail. In England
alone, during the last seven years, there have been no less than 280
cases of death reported under the head of suicides, or an average
of 40 each year, the number in 1878 rising to 60. In America these
cases are not returned in a class by themselves. Under the general
head of accidents to trespassers, however, that is, accidents to
men, women and children, especially the latter, illegally lying,
walking, or playing on the tracks or riding upon the cars,--under
this head are regularly classified more than one third of all
the casualties incident to working the Massachusetts railroads.
During the last seven years these have amounted to an aggregate
of 724 cases of injury, no less than 494 of which were fatal. Of
course, very many other cases of this description, which were not
fatal, were never reported. And here again the recklessness of the
public has received further illustration, and this time in a very
unpleasant way. Certain corporations operating roads terminating
in Boston endeavored at one time to diminish this slaughter by
enforcing the laws against walking on railroad tracks. A few
trespassers were arrested and fined, and then the resentment of
those whose wonted privileges were thus interfered with began to
make itself felt. Obstructions were found placed in the way of night
trains. The mere attempt to keep people from risking their lives
by getting in the way of locomotives placed whole trains full of
passengers in imminent jeopardy.

Undoubtedly, however, by far the most effective means of keeping
railroad tracks from becoming foot-paths, and thus at once putting
an end to the largest item in the grand total of the expenditure
of life incident to the operation of railroads, is that secured
by the Pennsylvania railroad as an unintentional corollary to its
method of ballasting. That superb organization, every detail of
whose wonderful system is a fit subject for study to all interested
in the operation of railroads, has a roadway peculiar to itself.
A principal feature in this is a surface of broken stone ballast,
covering not only the space between the rails, but also the interval
between the tracks as well as the road-bed on the outside of each
track for a distance of some three feet. It resembles nothing so
much as a newly macadamized highway. That, too, is its permanent
condition. To walk on the sharp and uneven edges of this broken
stone is possible, with a sufficient expenditure of patience and
shoe-leather; but certainly no human being would ever walk there
from preference, or if any other path could be found. Not only is
it in itself, as a system of ballasting, looked upon as better than
any other, but it confounds the tramp. Its systematic adoption in
crowded, suburban neighborhoods would, therefore, answer a double
purpose. It would secure to the corporations permanent road-beds
exclusively for their own use, and obviate the necessity of arrests
or futile threats to enforce the penalties of the law against
trespassers. It seems singular that this most obvious and effective
way of putting a stop to what is both a nuisance and a danger has
not yet been resorted to by men familiar with the use of spikes and
broken glass on the tops of fences and walls.

Meanwhile, taken even in its largest aggregate, the loss of life
incident to the working of the railroad system is not excessive, nor
is it out of proportion to what might reasonably be expected. It is
to be constantly borne in mind, not only that the railroad performs
a great function in modern life, but that it also and of necessity
performs it in a very dangerous way. A practically irresistible
force crashing through the busy hive of modern civilization at a
wild rate of speed, going hither and thither, across highways and
by-ways and along a path which is in itself a thoroughfare,--such an
agency cannot be expected to work incessantly and yet never to come
in contact with the human frame. Naturally, however, it might be a
very car of Juggernaut. Is it so in fact?--To demonstrate that it
is not, it is but necessary again to recur to the comparison between
the statistics of railroad accidents and those which necessarily
occur in the experience of all considerable cities. Take again those
of Boston and of the railroad system of Massachusetts. These for the
purpose of illustration are as good as any, and in their results
would only be confirmed in the experience of Paris as compared with
the railroad system of France, or in that of London as compared with
the railroad system of Great Britain. During the eight years between
September 30, 1870, and September 30, 1878, the entire railroad
system of Massachusetts was operated at a cost of 1,165 lives, apart
from all cases of injury which did not prove fatal. The returns in
this respect also may be accepted as reasonably accurate, as the
deaths were all returned, though the cases of merely personal injury
probably were not. The annual average was 146 lives. During the ten
years, 1868-78, 2,587 cases of death from accidental causes, or 259
a year, were recorded as having taken place in the city of Boston.
In other words, the annual average of deaths by accident in the city
of Boston alone exceeds that consequent on running all the railroads
of the state by eighty per cent. Unless, therefore, the railroad
system is to be considered as an exception to all other functions of
modern life, and as such is to be expected to do its work without
injury to life or limb, this showing does not constitute a very
heavy indictment against it.



Up to this point, the statistics and experience of Massachusetts
only have been referred to. This is owing to the fact that the
railroad returns of that state are more carefully prepared and
tabulated than are those of any other state, and afford, therefore,
more satisfactory data from which to draw conclusions. The
territorial area from which the statistics are in this case derived
is very limited, and it yet remains to compare the results deduced
from them with those derived from the similar experience of other
communities. This, however, is not an easy thing to do; and, while
it is difficult enough as respects Europe, it is even more difficult
as respects America taken as a whole. This last fact is especially
unfortunate in view of the circumstance that, in regard to railway
accidents, the United States, whether deservedly or not, enjoy a
most undesirable reputation. Foreign authorities have a way of
referring to our "well-known national disregard of human life," with
a sort of complacency, at once patronizing and contemptuous, which
is the reverse of pleasing. Judging by the tone of their comments,
the natural inference would be that railroad disasters of the worst
description were in America matters of such frequent occurrence
as to excite scarcely any remark. As will presently be made very
apparent, this impression, for it is only an impression, can, so
far as the country as a whole is concerned, neither be proved nor
disproved, from the absence of sufficient data from which to argue.
As respects Massachusetts, however, and the same statement may
perhaps be made of the whole belt of states north of the Potomac and
the Ohio, there is no basis for it. There is no reason to suppose
that railroad traveling is throughout that region accompanied by any
peculiar or unusual degree of danger.

The great difficulty, just referred to, in comparing the results
deduced from equally complete statistics of different countries,
lies in the variety of the arbitrary rules under which the
computations in making them up are effected. As an example in
point, take the railroad returns of Great Britain and those of
Massachusetts. They are in each case prepared with a great deal
of care, and the results deduced from them may fairly be accepted
as approximately correct. As respects accidents, the number of
cases of death and of personal injury are annually reported, and
with tolerable completeness, though in the latter respect there is
probably in both cases room for improvement. The whole comparison
turns, however, on the way in which the entire number of passengers
annually carried is computed. In Great Britain, for instance, in
1878, these were returned, using round numbers only, at 565,000,000,
and in Massachusetts at 34,000,000. By dividing these totals by
the number of cases of death and injury reported as occurring
to passengers from causes beyond their control, we shall arrive
apparently at a fair comparative showing as to the relative safety
of railroad traveling in the two communities. The result for that
particular year would have been that while in Great Britain one
passenger in each 23,500,000 was killed, and one in each 481,600
injured from causes beyond their control, in Massachusetts none
were killed and only one in each 14,000,000 was in any way injured.
Unfortunately, however, a closer examination reveals a very great
error in the computation, affecting every comparative result drawn
from it. In the English returns no allowance whatever is made
for the very large number of journeys made by season-ticket or
commutation passengers, while in Massachusetts, on the contrary,
each person of this class enters into the grand total as making two
trips each day, 156 trips on each quarterly ticket, and 626 trips on
each annual. Now in 1878 more than 418,000 holders of season tickets
were returned by the railway companies of Great Britain. How many
of these were quarterly and how many were annual travelers, does not
appear. If they were all annual travelers, no less than 261,000,000
journeys should be added to the 565,000,000 in the returns, in order
to arrive at an equal basis for a comparison between the foreign
and the American roads: this method, however, would be manifestly
inaccurate, so it only remains, in the absence of all reliable data,
and for the purpose of comparison solely, to strike out from the
Massachusetts returns the 8,320,727 season-ticket passages, which at
once reduces by over 3,000,000 the number of journeys to each case
of injury. As season-ticket passengers do travel and are exposed to
danger in the same degree as trip-ticket passengers, no result is
approximately accurate which leaves them out of the computation. At
present, however, the question relates not to the positive danger or
safety of traveling by rail, but to its relative danger in different

Allowance for this discrepancy can, however, be made by adding to
the English official results an additional nineteen per cent., that,
according to the returns of 1877 and 1878, being the proportion
of the season-ticket to other passengers on the roads of Great
Britain. Taking then the Board of Trade returns for the eight
years 1870-7, it will be found that during this period about one
passenger in each 14,500,000 carried in that country has been killed
in railroad accidents, and about one in each 436,000 injured.
This may be assumed as a fair average for purpose of comparison,
though it ought to be said that in Great Britain the percentage of
casualties to passengers shows a decided tendency to decrease, and
during the years 1877-8 the percentages of killed fell from one in
15,000,000 to one in 38,000,000 and those of injured from one in
436,000 to one in 766,000. The aggregates from which these results
are deduced are so enormous, rising into the thousands of millions,
that a certain degree of reliance can be placed on them. In the
case of Massachusetts, however, the entire period during which the
statistics are entitled to the slightest weight includes only eight
years, 1872-9, and offers an aggregate of but 274,000,000 journeys,
or but about forty per cent. of those included in the British
returns of the single year 1878. During these years the killed in
Massachusetts were one in each 13,000,000 and the injured one in
each 1,230,000;--or, while the killed in the two cases were very
nearly in the same proportion,--respectively one in 14.5, and one in
13, speaking in millions,--the British injured were really three to
one of the Massachusetts.

The equality as respects the killed in this comparison, and the
marked discrepancy as respects the injured is calculated at first
sight to throw doubts on the fullness of the Massachusetts returns.
There seems no good reason why the injured should in the one case
be so much more numerous than in the other. This, however, is
susceptible on closer examination of a very simple and satisfactory
explanation. In case of accident the danger of sustaining slight
personal injury is not so great in Massachusetts as in Great
Britain. This is due to the heavier and more solid construction
of the American passenger coaches, and their different interior
arrangement. This fact, and the real cause of the large number of
slightly injured,--"shaken" they call it,--in the English railroad
accidents is made very apparent in the following extract from Mr.
Calcroft's report for 1877;--

     "It is no doubt a fact that collisions and other accidents to
     railway trains are attended with less serious consequences
     in proportion to the solidity of construction of passenger
     carriages. The accomodation and internal arrangements of
     third-class carriages, however, especially those used in
     ordinary trains, are defective as regards safety and comfort,
     as compared with many carriages of the same class on foreign
     railways. The first-class passenger, except when thrown against
     his opposite companion, or when some luggage falls upon him, is
     generally saved from severe contusion by the well-stuffed or
     padded linings of the carriages; whilst the second-class and
     third-class passenger is generally thrown with violence against
     the hard wood-work. If the second and third-class carriages
     had a high padded back lining, extending above the head of the
     passenger, it would probably tend to lesson the danger to life
     and limb which, as the returns of accidents show, passengers
     in carriages of this class are much exposed to in train

 [28] _General Report to the Board of Trade upon the accidents which
  have occurred on the Railways of the United Kingdom during the year
  1877, p. 37._

In 1878 the passenger journeys made in the second and third class
carriages of the United Kingdom were thirteen to one of those made
in first class carriages;--or, expressed in millions, there were
but 41 of the latter to 523 of the former. There can be very little
question indeed that if, during the last ten years, thirteen out
of fourteen of the passengers on Massachusetts railroads had been
carried in narrow compartments with wooden seats and unlined sides
the number of those returned as slightly injured in the numerous
accidents which occurred would have been at least three-fold larger
than it was. If it had not been ten-fold larger it would have been

The foregoing comparison, relates however, simply to passengers
killed in accidents for which they are in no degree responsible.
When, however, the question reverts to the general cost in life
and limb at which the railroad systems are worked and the railroad
traffic is carried on to the entire communities served, the
comparison is less favorable to Massachusetts. Taking the eight
years of 1871-8, the British returns include 30,641 cases of injury,
and 9,113 of death; while those of Massachusetts for the same
years included 1,165 deaths, with only 1,044 cases of injury; in
the one case a total of 39,745 casualties, as compared with 2,209
the other. It will, however be noticed that while in the British
returns the cases of injury are nearly three-fold those of death, in
the Massachusetts returns the deaths exceed the cases of injury.
This fact in the present case cannot but throw grave suspicion
on the completeness of the Massachusetts returns. As a matter of
practical experience it is well known that cases of injury almost
invariably exceed those of death, and the returns in which the
disproportion is greatest, if no sufficient explanation presents
itself, are probably the most full and reliable. Taking, therefore,
the deaths in the two cases as the better basis for comparison, it
will be found that the roads of Great Britain in the grand result
accomplished seventeen-fold the work of those of Massachusetts with
less than eight times as many casualties; had the proportion between
the results accomplished and the fatal injuries inflicted been
maintained, but 536 deaths instead of 1,165 would have appeared in
the Massachusetts returns. The reason of this difference in result
is worth looking for, and fortunately the statistical tables are
in both cases carried sufficiently into detail to make an analysis
possible; and this analysis, when made, seems to indicate very
clearly that while, for those directly connected with the railroads,
either as passengers or as employés, the Massachusetts system
in its working involves relatively a less degree of danger than
that of Great Britain, yet for the outside community it involves
very much more. Take, for instance, the two heads of accidents
at grade-crossings and accidents to trespassers, which have been
already referred to. In Great Britain highway grade-crossings
are discouraged. In Massachusetts they are practically insisted
upon. The results of the policy pursued may in each case be read
with sufficient distinctness in the bills of mortality. During the
years 1872-7, of 1,929 casualties to persons on the railroads of
Massachusetts, no less than 200 occurred at highway grade crossings.
Had the accidents of this description in Great Britain been equally
numerous in proportion to the larger volume of the traffic of that
country, they would have resulted in over 3,000 cases of death or
personal injury; they did in fact result in 586 such cases. In
Massachusetts, again, to walk at will on any part of a railroad
track is looked upon as a sort of prescriptive and inalienable
right of every member of the community, irrespective of age, sex,
color, or previous condition of servitude. Accordingly, during the
six years referred to, this right was exercised at the cost of life
or limb to 591 persons,--one in four of all the casualties which
occurred in connection with the railroad system. In Great Britain
the custom of using the tracks of railroads as a foot-path seems to
exist, but, so far from being regarded as a right, it is practiced
in perpetual terror of the law. Accordingly, instead of some 9,000
cases of death or injury from this cause during these six years,
which would have been the proportion under like conditions in
Massachusetts, the returns showed only 2,379. These two are among
the most constant and fruitful causes of accident in connection with
the railroad system of America. In great Britain their proportion
to the whole number of casualties which take place is scarcely a
seventh part of what it is in Massachusetts. Here they constitute
very nearly fifty per cent. of all the accidents which occur; there
they constitute but a little over seven. There is in this comparison
a good deal of solid food for legislative thought, if American
legislators would but take it in; for this is one matter the public
policy in regard to which can only be fixed by law.

When we pass from Great Britain to the continental countries of
Europe, the difficulties in the way of any fair comparison of
results become greater and greater. The statistics do not enter
sufficiently into detail, nor is the basis of computation apparent.
It is generally conceded that, where a due degree of caution is
exercised by the passenger, railroad traveling in continental
countries is attended with a much less degree of danger than in
England. When we come to the returns, they hardly bear out this
conclusion; at least to the degree commonly supposed. Take France,
for example. Nowhere is human life more carefully guarded than in
that country; yet their returns show that of 866,000,000 passengers
transported on the French railroads during the eleven years 1859-69,
no less than 65 were killed and 1,285 injured from causes beyond
their control; or one in each 13,000,000 killed as compared with one
in 10,700,000 in Great Britain; and one in every 674,000 injured
as compared with one in each 330,000 in the other country. During
the single year 1859, about 111,000,000 passengers were carried
on the French lines, at a general cost to the community of 2,416
casualties, of which 295 were fatal. In Massachusetts, during the
four years 1871-74, about 95,000,000 passengers were carried, at
a reported cost of 1,158 casualties. This showing might well be
considered favorable to Massachusetts did not the single fact that
her returns included more than twice as many deaths as the French,
with only a quarter as many injuries, make it at once apparent that
the statistics were at fault. Under these circumstances comparison
could only be made between the numbers of deaths reported; which
would indicate that, in proportion to the work done, the railroad
operations of Massachusetts involved about twice and a half more
cases of injury to life and limb than those of the French service.
As respects Great Britain the comparison is much more favorable, the
returns showing an almost exactly equal general death-rate in the
two countries in proportion to their volumes of traffic; the volume
of Great Britain being about four times that of France, while its
death-rate by railroad accidents was as 1,100 to 295.

With the exception of Belgium, however, in which country the
returns cover only the lines operated by the state, the basis
hardly exists for a useful comparison between the dangers of injury
from accident on the continental railroads and on those of Great
Britain and America. The several systems are operated on wholly
different principles, to meet the needs of communities between
whose modes of life and thought little similarity exists. The
continental trains are far less crowded than either the English or
the American, and, when accidents occur, fewer persons are involved
in them. The movement, also, goes on under much stricter regulation
and at lower rates of speed, so that there is a grain of truth in
the English sarcasm that on a German railway "it almost seems as
if beer-drinking at the stations were the principal business, and
traveling a mere accessory."

Limiting, therefore, the comparison to the railroads of Great
Britain, it remains to be seen whether the evil reputation of the
American roads as respects accidents is wholly deserved. Is it
indeed true that the danger to a passenger's life and limbs is so
much greater in this country than elsewhere?--Locally, and so far
as Massachusetts at least is concerned, it certainly is not. How
is it with the country taken as a whole?--The lack of all reliable
statistics as respects this wide field of inquiry has already been
referred to. We have no trustworthy data. We do not know with
accuracy even the number of miles of road operated; much less the
number of passengers annually carried. As respects accidents, and
the deaths and injuries resulting therefrom, some information may be
gathered from a careful and very valuable, because the only record
which has been preserved during the last six years in the columns of
the _Railroad Gazette_. It makes, of course, no pretence at either
official accuracy or fullness, but it is as complete probably as
circumstances will permit of its being made. During the five years
1874-8 there have been included in this record 4,846 accidents,
resulting in 1,160 deaths and 4,650 cases of injury;--being an
average of 969 accidents a year, resulting in 232 deaths and 930
cases of injury. These it will be remembered are casualties directly
resulting either to passengers or employés from train accidents.
No account is taken of injuries sustained by employés in the
ordinary operation of the roads, or by members of the community
not passengers. In Massachusetts the accidents to passengers and
employés constitute one-half of the whole, but a very small portion
of the injuries reported as sustained by either passengers or
employés are the consequence of train accidents,--not one in three
in the case of passengers or one in seven in that of employés. In
fact, of the 2,350 accidents to persons reported in Massachusetts
in the nine years 1870-8, but 271, or less than twelve per cent.,
belonged to the class alone included in the reports of the _Railroad
Gazette_. In England during the four years 1874-7 the proportion
was larger, being about twenty-five instead of twelve per cent. For
America at large the Massachusetts proportion is undoubtedly the
most nearly correct, and the probabilities would seem to be that
the annual average of injuries to persons incident to operating the
railroads of the United States is not less than 10,000, of which at
least 1,200 are due to train accidents. Of these about two-thirds
may be set down as sustained by passengers, or, approximately, 800 a

It remains to be ascertained what proportion this number bears to
the whole number carried. There are no reliable statistics on this
head any more than on the other. Nothing but an approximation of
the most general character is possible. The number of passengers
annually carried on the roads of a few of the states is reported
with more or less accuracy, and averaging these the result would
seem to indicate that there are certainly not more than 350,000,000
passengers annually carried on the roads of all the states. There
is something barbarous about such an approximation, and it is
disgraceful that at this late day we should in America be forced
to estimate the passenger movement on our railroads in much the
same way that we guess at the population of Africa. Such, however,
is the case. We are in this respect far in the rear of civilized
communities. Taking, however, 350,000,000 as a fair approximation
to our present annual passenger movement, it will be observed that
it is as nearly as may be half that of Great Britain. In Great
Britain, in 1878, there were 1,200 injuries to passengers from
accidents to trains, and 675 in 1877. The average of the last eight
years has been 1,226. If, therefore, the approximation of 800 a
year for America is at all near the truth, the percentage would seem
to be considerably larger than that arrived at from the statistics
of Great Britain. Meanwhile it is to be noted that while in Great
Britain about 25 cases of injury are reported to each one of death,
in America but four cases are reported to each death--a discrepancy
which is extremely suggestive. Perhaps, however, the most valuable
conclusion to be drawn from these figures is that in America we as
yet are absolutely without any reliable railroad statistics on this
subject at all.

Taken as a whole, however, and under the most favorable showing,
it would seem to be a matter of fair inference that the dangers
incident to railroad traveling are materially greater in the United
States than in any country of Europe. How much greater is a question
wholly impossible to answer. So that when a statistical writer
undertakes to show, as one eminent European authority has done, that
in a given year on the American roads one passenger in every 286,179
was killed, and one in every 90,737 was injured, it is charitable
to suppose that in regard to America only is he indebted to his
imagination for his figures.

Neither is it possible to analyze with any satisfactory degree of
precision the nature of the accidents in the two countries, with
a view to drawing inferences from them. Without attempting to do
so it maybe said that the English Board of Trade reports for the
last five years, 1874-8, include inquiries into 755 out of 11,585
accidents, the total number of every description reported as having
taken place. Meanwhile the _Railroad Gazette_ contains mention of
4,846 reported train accidents which occurred in America during
the same five years. Of these accidents, 1,310 in America and 81
in Great Britain were due to causes which were either unexplained
or of a miscellaneous character, or are not common to the systems
of the two countries. In so far as the remainder admitted of
classification, it was somewhat as follows:--

                                   GREAT BRITAIN.     AMERICA.

  Accidents due to

    Defects in permanent way        13 per cent.    24 per cent.

     "     "   rolling-stock        10   "   "       8  "   "

    Misplaced switches              16   "   "      14  "   "


    Between trains going in
      opposite directions            3   "   "      18  "   "

    Between trains following
      each other                     5   "   "      30  "   "

    At railroad grade crossings[29]  0.6 "   "       3  "   "

    At junctions                    11   "   "

    At stations or sidings within
      fixed stations                40   "   "       6  "   "

  Unexplained                                        2  "   "

  [29] During these five years there were in Great Britain four cases
  of collision between locomotives or trains at level crossings of one
  railroad by another; in America there were 79. The probable cause of
  this discrepancy has already been referred to (_ante pp. 194-7_).

The above record, though almost valueless for any purpose of exact
comparison, reveals, it will be noticed, one salient fact. Out of
755 English accidents, no less than 406 came under the head of
collisions--whether head collisions, rear collisions, or collisions
on sidings or at junctions. In other words, to collisions of some
sort between trains were due considerably more than half (54 per
cent.) of the accidents which took place in Great Britain, while
only 88, or less than 13 per cent. of the whole, were due to
derailments from all causes. In America on the other hand, while
of the 3,763 accidents recorded, 1,324, or but one-third part (35
per cent.) were due to collisions, no less than 586, or 24 per
cent., were classed under the head of derailments, due to defects
in the permanent way. During the the six years 1873-8 there were
in all 1698 cases of collision of every description between trains
reported as occurring in America to 1495 in the United Kingdom; but
while in America the derailments amounted to no less than 4016, or
more than twice the collisions, in the United Kingdom they were
but 817, or a little more than half their number. It has already
been noticed that the most disastrous accidents in America are apt
to occur on bridges, and Ashtabula and Tariffville at once suggest
themselves. This is not the case in Great Britain. Under the heading
of "Failures of Tunnels, Bridges, Viaducts or Culverts," there
were returned in that country during the six years 1873-8 only 29
accidents in all; while during the same time in America, under the
heads of broken bridges or tressels and open draws, the _Gazette_
recorded no less than 165. These figures curiously illustrate the
different manner in which the railroads of the two countries have
been constructed, and the different circumstances under which they
are operated. The English collisions are distinctly traceable to
constant overcrowding; the American derailments and bridge accidents
to inferior construction of our road-beds.

Finally, what of late years has been done to diminish the dangers
of the rail?--What more can be done?--Few persons realize what a
tremendous pressure in this respect is constantly bearing down upon
those whose business it is to operate railroads. A great accident is
not only a terrible blow to the pride and prestige of a corporation,
not only does it practically ruin the unfortunate officials involved
in it, but it entails also portentous financial consequences. Juries
proverbially have little mercy for railroad corporations, and, when
a disaster comes, these have practically no choice but to follow the
scriptural injunction to settle with their adversaries quickly. The
Revere catastrophe, for instance, cost the railroad company liable
on account of it over half a million of dollars; the Ashtabula
accident over $600,000; the Wollaston over $300,000. A few years ago
in England a jury awarded a sum of $65,000 for damages sustained
through the death of a single individual. During the five years,
1867-71, the railroad corporations of Great Britain paid out over
$11,000,000 in compensation for damages occasioned by accidents. In
view, merely, of such money consequences of disaster, it would be
most unnatural did not each new accident lead to the adoption of
better appliances to prevent its recurrence.[30]

  [30] The other side of this proposition has been argued with
  much force by Mr. William Galt in his report as one of the Royal
  Commission of 1874 on Railway Accidents. Mr. Galt's individual
  report bears date February 5, 1877, and in it he asserts that, as
  a matter of actual experience, the principle of self-interest on
  the part of the railway companies has proved a wholly insufficient
  safeguard against accidents. However it may be in theory, he
  contends that, taking into consideration the great cost of the
  appliances necessary to insure safety to the public on the one side,
  and the amount of damages incident to a certain degree of risk on
  the other side, the possible saving in expenditure to the companies
  by assuming the risk far exceeds the loss incurred by an occasional
  accident. The companies become, in a word, insurers of their
  passengers,--the premium being found in the economies effected by
  not adopting improved appliances of recognized value, and the losses
  being the damages incurred in case of accident. He treats the whole
  subject at great length and with much knowledge and ability. His
  report is a most valuable compendium for those who are in favor of a
  closer government supervision over railroads as a means of securing
  an increased safety from accident.

To return, however, to the subject of railroad accidents, and the
final conclusion to be drawn from the statistics which have been
presented. That conclusion briefly stated is that the charges of
recklessness and indifference so generally and so widely advanced
against those managing the railroads cannot for an instant be
sustained. After all, as was said in the beginning of the present
volume, it is not the danger but the safety of the railroad which
should excite our special wonder. If any one doubts this, it is
very easy to satisfy himself of the fact,--that is, if by nature
he is gifted with the slightest spark of imagination. It is but
necessary to stand once on the platform of a way-station and to
look at an express train dashing by. There are few sights finer;
few better calculated to quicken the pulse. It is most striking
at night. The glare of the head-light, the rush and throb of the
locomotive,--the connecting rod and driving-wheels of which seem
instinct with nervous life,--the flashing lamps in the cars, and
the final whirl of dust in which the red tail-lights vanish almost
as soon as they are seen,--all this is well calculated to excite
our admiration; but the special and unending cause for wonder is
how, in case of accident, anything whatever is left of the train.
As it plunges into the darkness it would seem to be inevitable
that something must happen, and that, whatever happens, it must
necessarily involve both the train and every one in it in utter
and irremediable destruction. Here is a body weighing in the
neighborhood of two hundred tons, moving over the face of the earth
at a speed of sixty feet a second and held to its course only by two
slender lines of iron rails;--and yet it is safe!--We have seen how
when, half a century ago, the possibility of something remotely like
this was first discussed, a writer in the _British Quarterly_ earned
for himself a lasting fame by using the expression that "We should
as soon expect people to suffer themselves to be fired off upon
one of Congreve's _ricochet_ rockets, as to trust themselves to the
mercy of such a machine, going at such a rate;"--while Lord Brougham
exclaimed that "the folly of seven hundred people going fifteen
miles an hour, in six trains, exceeds belief." At the time they
wrote, the chances were ninety-nine in a hundred that both reviewer
and correspondent were right; and yet, because reality, not for the
first nor the last time, saw fit to outstrip the wildest flights of
imagination, the former at least blundered, by being prudent, into
an immortality of ridicule. The thing, however, is still none the
less a miracle because it is with us matter of daily observation.
That, indeed, is the most miraculous part of it. At all hours of the
day and of the night, during every season of the year, this movement
is going on. It never wholly stops. It depends for its even action
on every conceivable contingency, from the disciplined vigilance
of thousands of employés to the condition of the atmosphere, the
heat of an axle, or the strength of a nail. The vast machine is in
constant motion, and the derangement of a single one of a myriad of
conditions may at any moment occasion one of those inequalities of
movement which are known as accidents. Yet at the end of the year,
of the hundreds of millions of passengers fewer have lost their
lives through these accidents than have been murdered in cold blood.
Not without reason, therefore, has it been asserted that, viewing
at once the speed, the certainty, and the safety with which the
intricate movement of modern life is carried on, there is no more
creditable monument to human care, human skill, and human foresight
than the statistics of railroad accidents.


  Abergele, accident at, 72.

  Accidents, railroad, about stations, 166.
    at highway crossings, 165.
      level railroad crossings, 94,165, 245, 258.
    aggravated by English car construction and stoves, 14, 41, 106,
    comments on early, 9.
    damages paid for certain, 267.
    due to bridges, 99, 206, 266.
      broken tracks, 166.
      car couplings, 117.
      collisions, 265.
      derailments, 13, 16, 23, 54, 79, 84.
        in Great Britain, 266.
          America, 266.
      draw-bridges, 82, 266.
      fire in train, 31.
      oil-tanks, 72.
      oscillation, 50.
      telegraph, 66.
      telescoping, 43.
      want of bell-cords, 32.
        brake power, 12, 119.
    increased safety resulting from, 2, 29, 155, 205.
    precautions against early, 10.
    statistics of, in America, 263.
      Belgium, 260.
      France, 260.
      Great Britain, 236, 252, 257, 263.
      Massachusetts, 232-60.
      general, 228-70.

  _List of Accidents specially described or referred to_:--

      _Abergele, August 20, 1868, 72._

      _Angola, December 18, 1867, 12._

      _Ashtabula, December 29, 1876, 100._

      _Brainerd, July 27, 1875, 108._

      _Brimfield, October, 1874, 56._

      _Bristol, March 7, 1865, 150._

      _Carr's Rock, April 14, 1867, 120._

      _Camphill, July 17, 1856, 61._

      _Charlestown Bridge, November 21, 1862, 95._

      _Claypole, June 21, 1870, 85._

      _Communipaw Ferry, November 11, 1876, 207._

      _Croydon Tunnel, August 25, 1861, 146._

      _Des Jardines Canal, March 12, 1857, 112._

      _Foxboro, July 15, 1872, 53._

      _Franklin Street, New York city, June, 1879, 207._

      _Gasconade River, November 1, 1855, 108._

      _On Great Western Railway of Canada, October, 1856, 55._

      _On Great Western Railway of England, December 24, 1841, 43._

      _Heeley, November 22, 1876, 209._

      _Helmshire, September 4, 1860, 121._

      _On Housatonic Railroad, August 16, 1865, 151._

      _Huskisson, William, death of, September 15, 1830, 5._

      _Lackawaxen, July 15, 1864, 63._

      _Morpeth, March 25, 1877, 209._

      _New Hamburg, February 6, 1871, 78._

      _Norwalk, May 6, 1853, 89._

      _Penruddock, September 2, 1870, 143._

      _Port Jervis, June 17, 1858, 118._

      _Prospect, N. Y., December 24, 1872, 106._

      _Rainhill, December 23, 1832, 10._

      _Randolph, October 13, 1876, 24._

      _Revere, August 26, 1871, 125._

      _Richelieu River, June 29, 1864, 91._

      _Shipton, December 24, 1874, 16._

      _Shrewsbury River, August 9, 1877, 96._

      _Tariffville, January 15, 1878, 107._

      _Thorpe, September 10, 1874, 66._

      _Tyrone, April 4, 1875, 69._

      _Versailles, May 8, 1842, 58._

      _Welwyn Tunnel, June 10, 1866, 149._

      _Wemyss Bay Junction, December 14, 1878, 212._

      _Wollaston, October 8, 1878, 20._

  American railroad accidents, statistics of, 97, 260-6.
    locomotive engineers, intelligence of, 159.
    method of handling traffic, extravagance of, 183.

  Angola, accident at, 12, 201, 218.

  Ashtabula, accident at, 100, 267.

  Assaults in English railroad carriages, 33, 35, 38.

  Automatic electric block, 159,
      reliability of, 168,
      objections to, 174.
    train-brake, essentials of, 219.
      necessity for, 202, 237.

  Bell-cord, need of any, questioned, 29.
    accidents from want of, 31.
    assaults, etc., in absence of, 32-41.

  Beloeil, Canada, accident at, 92.

  Block system, American, 165.
    automatic electric, 159.
      objections to, 174.
    cost of English, 165.
    English, why adopted, 162.
      accident in spite of, 145.
      ignorance of, in America, 160.
    importance of, 145.

  Boston, passenger travel to and from, 183.
    possible future station in, 198.
    some vital statistics of, 241, 249.

  Boston & Albany railroad, accident on, 56.
    Boston station of, 183.

  Boston & Maine railroad, accident on, 96.

  Boston & Providence railroad, accident on, 53.
    Boston station of, 183.

  Brainerd, accident at, 108.

  Brakes, original and improved, 200.
    the battle of the, 216.
    true simplicity in, 228.
    Inefficiency of hand, 201, 204.
      emergency, 202.
    necessity of automatic, continuous, 202, 227.
      _See Train-brake._

  Bridge accidents, 98, 266.

  Bridges, insufficient safeguards at, 98.
    protection of, 111.

  Bridge-guards, destroyed by brakemen, 244.

  Bristol, accident at, 150.

  Brougham, Lord, comments on death of Mr. Huskisson, 7, 270.

  Buffalo, Correy & Pittsburg railroad, accident on, 106.

  Burlington & Missouri River railroad, accident on, 70.

  Butler, B. F., on Revere accident, 142.

  Calcoft, Mr., extract from reports of, 196, 255.

  Caledonian railway, accident on, return of brake stoppages by, 211.

  Camden & Amboy railroad, accident on, 151.

  Car construction, American and English, 255.

  Carr's Rock, accident at, 120.

  Central Railroad of New Jersey, accident on, 96.

  Charlestown bridge, accident on, 95.

  Claypole accident, 83.

  Collisions, head, 61-2.
    in America, 265.
      Great Britain, 265.
    occasioned by use of telegraph, 66.
    rear-end, 144-52.

  Communipaw Ferry, accident at, 207.

  Cannon Street Station in London, traffic at, 163, 183, 194.

  Connecticut law respecting swing draw-bridges, 82, 94, 195.

  Connecticut Western railroad, accident on, 107.

  Conservatism, British railroad, 29.
    American railroad, 41, 52, 65, 161, 205.

  Coupling, accidents due to, 117.
    the original, 49.

  Crossings, level, of railways, accidents at, 165.
    need of interlocking apparatus at, 195.
    stopping trains at, 95, 195.

  Croydon Tunnel collision, 146.

  Deodand, 43.

  Derailments, accidents from, 13, 16, 23, 54, 79, 84.
    statistics of, 265.

  Des Jardines Canal accident, 112.

  Draw-bridge accidents, 82, 97, 114.
      stopping as a safeguard against, 95.
    need of interlocking apparatus at, 195.

  Eames vacuum brake, 208.

  Eastern railroad, accident on, 125.

  Economy, cost of a small, 174.
    at risk of accident, 268.

  Employés railroad, casualties to, 243.

  Engineering, on American inventions, 221.

  English railways, train movement on, 162, 194.

  Erie railroad, accidents on, 63, 118, 120.

  France, statistics of accidents in, 259.
    panic produced in, by Versailles accident, 60.

  Franklin Street, New York city, accident at, 207.

  Galt, William, report by, on accidents, 268.

  Gasconade river accident, 108.

  Germany, railroad accidents in, 261.

  Grand Trunk railway, accident on, 91.

  Great Eastern railway, accident on, 66.

  Great Northern railway, accidents on, 84, 149.

  Great Western railway, accidents on, 16, 43, 112.
    of Canada, accidents on, 31, 112.

  Hall's system of electric signals, 168.

  Harrison, T. E., extract from letter of, 210.

  Heeley, accident at, 209.

  Helm shire accident, 121.

  Highway crossings at level, accidents at, 165, 170, 244, 258.
    interlocking at, 195.

  Housatonic railroad, accident on, 151.

  Hudson River railroad, accident on, 78.

  Huskisson, William, death of, 3, 200.

  Inclines, accidents upon, 74, 110, 121.

  Interlocking, chapter relating to, 182.
    at draw-bridges, 97, 195.
      level crossings, 195.
    practical simplicity of, 189.
    use made of in England, 192.

  Investigation of accidents, no systematic, in America, 86.
    English, 85.

  Lake Shore railroad, accident on, 11.

  Lake Shore & Michigan Southern railroad, accident on, 100.

  Lancashire & Yorkshire railroad, accident on, 121.

  Legislation against accidents, futility of 94, 109.
    as regards use of telegraphs, 64.
      interlocking at draws, 97.
        level crossings, 97.

  London passenger traffic, 162, 183.

  London & Brighton railway, accident on, 145.

  London & North Western railway, assaults on, 32, 38.
    accidents on, 72, 143.
    train brake used by, 222.

  Manchester & Liverpool railway, accidents on, 10, 11, 45.
    opening of, 3.

  Massachusetts, statistics of accidents in, 156, 232-60.
    train-brakes in use in, 157, 214.

  Metropolitan Elevated railroad, accident on, 207.
    interlocking apparatus used by, 196.

  Midland railway, accident on, 209.
    protests against interlocking, 192.

  Miller's Platform and Buffer, chapter on, 49-57.
    accidents avoided by, 19, 53, 56, 70.
    in Massachusetts, 157.

  Mohawk Valley railroad, pioneer train on, 48.

  Morpeth, accident at, 209.

  Murders, number of, compared with the killed by railroad accidents,

  New York City, passenger travel of, 184.

  New York, Providence & Boston railroad, accident on, 106.

  New York & New Haven railroad, accident on, 89.

  Newark, brake trials at, in 1874, 217.

  North Eastern railway, accident in, 209.
    brake trials on, 218.
    returns of brake-stoppages by, 211.

  Northern Pacific railroad, accident on, 108.

  Norwalk accident, 89.

  Oil-tank accidents, 72, 150.

  Old Colony railroad accidents on, 20, 24, 174.

  Oscillation, accidents occasioned by, 50.

  Pacific railroad of Missouri, accident on, 108.

  Pennsylvania railroad, ballasting of, 248.
    English block in use on, 164.

  Penruddock, accident at, 143.

  Phillips, Wendell, on Revere accident, 141.

  Port Jervis accident, 118, 202, 218.

  _Quarterly Review_ of 1835, article in, 199, 269.

  _Railroad Gazette_, records of accidents kept by, 261.

  Rear-end collisions in America, 144, 151.
      Europe, 143.
    necessity of protection against, 159.

  Revere accident, 125, 172.
    improvements caused by, 153.
    lessons taught by, 159.
    meeting in consequence of, 161, 205.

  Richelieu River, accident at, 92.

  Shipton accident, 16, 216.

  Shrewsbury River draw, accident at, 96.

  Smith's vacuum brake, 208, 220, 226.
    popularity of in Great Britain, 220, 226.
    compared with Westinghouse, 218, 227.

  Statistics of railroad accidents, 230-70.

  Stopping trains, an insufficient safeguard at draw-bridges and level
        crossings, 94, 97, 195.

  Stage-coach travelling, accidents in, 231.

  Stoves in case of accidents, 15, 41, 106.

  Suicides on railroads, 246.

  Tariffville accident, 107.

  Telegraph, accidents occasioned by use of, 66.
    use of, should be made compulsory, 64.

  Telegraphic signals, chapter on, 159.

  Telescoping, accidents from, 43.

  Thorpe, collision at, 67, 172.

  Train-brake, chapters on, 199, 216.
    Board of Trade specifications relating to, 219.
    doubts concerning, 28.
    failures of, to work, in Great Britain, 211.
    introduced on English roads, 29, 216.
    kinds of, used in Massachusetts, 157, 214.
    Sir Henry Tyler on, 222, 228.
    want of, occasioned Shipton accident, 19, 216.

  Trespassers on railroads, accidents to, 245.
    means of preventing, 245, 258.

  Tunnels, collisions in, 146, 149.

  Tyler, Captain H. W., investigated Claypole accident, 85.
    on Penruddock accident, 143.
      train-brakes, 222, 228.
    extracts from reports by, 192, 194, 228.

  Union Safety Signal Company, 168.

  United States, accidents in, 261.
    no investigation of, 86.

  Vermont & Massachusetts railroad, accident on, 112.

  Versailles, the, accident of 1842, 58.

  Wellington, Duke of, at Manchester & Liverpool opening, 3.

  Welwyn Tunnel, accident in, 149.

  Wemyss Bay Junction, accident at, 212.

  Westinghouse brake, chapter on, 199.
    accidents avoided by, 19, 209.
    in Newark, experiments, 217.
    objections urged against, 176.
    stoppages by, occasioned by triple valve, 211.
    use of, in Great Britain, 226.
      Massachusetts, 157, 214.

  Wollaston accident, 18, 20, 155, 172, 227.

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's note: The following has been moved from the beginning
of the book to the end.

=By the same Author.=

=Railroads and Railroad Questions.= 12mo, cloth, $1 25. The volume
treats of "The Genesis of the Railroad System," "Accidents," and
the "Present Railroad Problem." The author has made himself the
acknowledged authority on this group of subjects. If his book goes
only to those who are interested in the ownership, the use, or the
administration of railroads, it is sure of a large circle of readers.

"A most interesting and important work."--_Railway World._

"Characterized by broad, progressive, liberal ideas."--_Railway

"The entire conclusions are of great value."--_N.Y. Journal of

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Notes on Railroad Accidents" ***

Copyright 2023 LibraryBlog. All rights reserved.