Some Things Never Change
I’m watching a documentary about train wrecks during the 1800’s. It stated that two different sources of the time, The Railroad Gazette and the National Census, reported on railroad accidents. In 1875, the Gazette stated that there were 1,201 wrecks while the National Census reported 8,216. So, depending on which source you read, you were told that there were either 3 or 21 wrecks per day.
Companies and their employees were reluctant to adopt innovations like the air-brake and the telegraph. Brakemen didn’t like the air-brakes because, if they were implemented, they would lose their jobs. Companies didn’t like them because they cost money to install on the trains.
Often, the companies either didn’t buy telegraph equipment or the employees failed to use it to warn other stations of blocked tracks or scheduling problems.
Bridges were allowed to deteriorate until they collapsed. After one huge disaster, two men who were blamed for it but were not prosecuted committed suicide.
It took a number of lawsuits and criminal indictments before even minor changes began to be made piecemeal within the systems.
Eventually, the federal government stepped in, creating the standardized time system we use today and eliminating hundreds of local time zones. This measure prevented hundreds of wrecks per year.
A number of measures passed by federal, state and city governments required the railroads to either use the technology available to them or face being shut down.
Probably because the story is so old, the program was not hesitant to point out that profits and expansion were more important to the railroad companies than the loss of life and the terrible injuries that were inflicted by negligence and the refusal to impliment the technology that was available at the time.
Let’s see—failure to regulate, allowing the system to police itself, profits trumping pain, suffering and life itself—
Does any of this sound familiar?