"The System of Railway Murders"

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John Hartwell

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With the ending of the war, the army was demobilized, and tens of thousands of soon-to-be discharged men wend their way home, most of them travelling by rail. But, the journey was not always a happy one. A rash of railway accidents, too often resulting in soldier fatalities swept the country. Not only soldiers died, of course, and even small branch lines, not as affected by the sudden increase in passengers, also seemed to face increasing numbers of accidents. The situation was such as to inspire a series of newspaper editorials, perhaps the most bitter of which appeared in the New York Herald on August 25, 1865:
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DaveBrt

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With the ending of the war, the army was demobilized, and tens of thousands of soon-to-be discharged men wend their way home, most of them travelling by rail. But, the journey was not always a happy one. A rash of railway accidents, too often resulting in soldier fatalities swept the country. Not only soldiers died, of course, and even small branch lines, not as affected by the sudden increase in passengers, also seemed to face increasing numbers of accidents. The situation was such as to inspire a series of newspaper editorials, perhaps the most bitter of which appeared in the New York Herald on August 25, 1865:
Looks like newspaper click-bait. The RR officers MURDER their passengers? How about some proof. Many deaths were in fact the result of the passenger not following rules and instructions of the crew -- standing on the platform between the cars, jumping from/to a moving train, etc we common causes of death. If the author had listed the causes of the MURDERS we could judge his piece, but he was to outraged to bother with facts.
 

John Hartwell

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Looks like newspaper click-bait. The RR officers MURDER their passengers? How about some proof. Many deaths were in fact the result of the passenger not following rules and instructions of the crew -- standing on the platform between the cars, jumping from/to a moving train, etc we common causes of death. If the author had listed the causes of the MURDERS we could judge his piece, but he was to outraged to bother with facts.
Hyperbole is certainly at work here. But, these were all train accidents. The pdf in post #3 details the causes, far the most common being 'collision," followed by "rotten crossties, broken rails, etc," and "rotten bridges." All issues which conscientious safety measures might alleviate.
 

DaveBrt

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The Age, from Philadelphia, on August 31 details and analyzes a long series of "railway murders" in an extensive article attached below:
Some of the details confirm my doubts: soldiers set car brakes, head and arms outside the car windows, rail removed by the enemy during the war, numerous cases of iron breaking (rail, axle, wheel), etc. Others were noted with no blame assigned to the RR and some with no death are thrown in to make the list longer.

Many of those with a cause listed (ie culvert washed out by storm) do not tell us if the storm was in progress or happened a week ago, so how do we know if there should be blame or if it was an accident?

While clearly there was RR culpability in some of the cases, most do not provide enough information to decide if the RR officials are MURDERING their passengers or if there are other problems that should be addressed.
 
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USS ALASKA

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The RR officers MURDER their passengers?
Makes perfect sense to me - like certain rock and rollers putting backwards messages on their albums to get their fans to kill themselves. A 'can't fail' business plan. What could go wrong? :wink:


Then again...we do have recent examples of corporations allowing a faulty product to remain on the market and deal with the occasional lawsuit than do the right thing and issue a re-call. Call it a bad 'cost / benefit' analysis...
7

Cheers,
USS ALASKA
 

John Hartwell

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Some of the details confirm my doubts: soldiers set car brakes, head and arms outside the car windows, rail removed by the enemy during the war, numerous cases of iron breaking (rail, axle, wheel), etc. Others were noted with no blame assigned to the RR and some with no death are thrown in to make the list longer.

Many of those with a cause listed (ie culvert washed out by storm) do not tell us if the storm was in progress or happened a week ago, so how do we know if there should be blame or if it was an accident?

While clearly there was RR culpability in some of the cases, most do not provide enough information to decide if the RR officials are MURDERING their passengers or if there are other problems that should be addressed.
Well, they are mostly I think, derailments. The number of accidents without deaths involved is significant, but that's just a matter of luck: the real issue is avoiding accidents, not just fatalities. Of 69 accidents examined, they assign 45 to "culpability of companies or employees." And, almost all of the "act of God" causes (from landslide, to tornado, to broken culvert) applied to only 1, occasionally 2 accidents: 57, on the other hand, were from operating or maintenance issues.

"Murder" is certainly extreme language (like you said, 'click-bait'), but its sure to get attention, and, hopefully, to have the problems addressed. Better inspection and maintenance of equipment, track and bridges, and more diligent oversight or training of employees (it was a small minority of cases, but some "human error" is unavoidable) seem to be in order.
 

DaveBrt

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Well, they are mostly I think, derailments. The number of accidents without deaths involved is significant, but that's just a matter of luck: the real issue is avoiding accidents, not just fatalities. Of 69 accidents examined, they assign 45 to "culpability of companies or employees." And, almost all of the "act of God" causes (from landslide, to tornado, to broken culvert) applied to only 1, occasionally 2 accidents: 57, on the other hand, were from operating or maintenance issues.

"Murder" is certainly extreme language (like you said, 'click-bait'), but its sure to get attention, and, hopefully, to have the problems addressed. Better inspection and maintenance of equipment, track and bridges, and more diligent oversight or training of employees (it was a small minority of cases, but some "human error" is unavoidable) seem to be in order.
Agreed, but the thing that stands out to me is the lack of repeats on any one road. If you run enough trains on a system worn and tired by a long war, you will have a rash of accidents spread out over the entire system -- just what we see.
 
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