Page images

so simple and comparatively cheap that it can be used at every crossing. Something can be done to prevent crossing accidents by clearing away the bushes and other obstructions within the boundaries of the highways and railroads which now, in many places, prevent travelers from seeing or hearing an engine as it nears a crossing until it is too late; and still more by the exercise of such care as all who desire to live are bound to take in the face of known danger. The uniform warning sign prescribed by the Board last year is coming into general use, and no instance of neglect of trainmen to obey the law relating to whistling and ringing the bell has come to our knowledge.


Frequent accidents to railroad employés while coupling freight cars continue to emphasize the need of an automatic coupler, and to illustrate the fact that of the thousands that have been patented and are being subjected to the tests of use in business, not one justifies the claims of its inventors. Railroad managers and trainmen differ widely as to the comparative merits of the many in the market, but they are generally agreed that all are faulty. The Massachusetts Commission has approved five, and builders are restricted to these in building or repairing cars in that State. Of these five, most of the roads operating lines in this State have adopted the United States, but it provokes criticism rather than praise. There has been similar experience in other States, and we believe we are warranted in saying that with several thousand patents to select from there is as yet not one that meets the requirements. There are many that would work well if all cars were equipped with them, but the one that will work satisfactorily with all others in use is yet to be invented.


The worst accident in the history of New England railroading occurred on the 5th of February last, to a train composed in part of cars that had just traversed half the length of this State and crossed the line into Vermont. Here thirty-four persons met death in its most horrible forms, and nearly as many more were badly injured. The primary cause of the catastrophe was the breaking of a rail, which derailed the rear car, and when it reached the bridge it was approaching hurled it and three others upon the frozen river forty feet below. But it is certain that the burning of the wreck which immediately followed the fall, the cars and their contents being set on fire by the stoves and lamps used for heating and lighting the cars, added greatly to the loss of life and the sufferings of the victims. These stoves and lamps were of approved designs and make, immensely superior on the score of health and comfort to the primitive patterns in use upon many of the cars in this State, and the terrible experience with them, which is but one in a long series of similar horrors, is a demonstration that no device or arrangement for heating and lighting passenger coaches by carrying fuel and oil in them is safe; that no stove is so strongly made, so securely closed, and so firmly fastened in its place that in collisions and other accidents it will not fire the wreck, and doom imprisoned passengers to the agonies of being burned alive. This has long been the opinion of those best qualified to judge, and it has now been firmly established in the minds of the people. The universal earnest demand of the traveling public, appalled by awful disasters, and shrinking from the fate of the victims, is for some plan or invention which shall supersede the car-heaters and lamps, whose glow has come to be more suggestive of torture and death than safety and comfort.

The obstacles in the way of such a deliverance are

many, but they are rapidly being overcome. The cars of the elevated railways in New York are satisfactorily and economically heated by steam from the engines. The Connecticut River road has for several years used a device for heating by locomotive steam, supplemented in case of need by that from a boiler under each car. The Boston & Albany has, during the past winter, warmed some of its cars from the engine, and since the Vermont holocaust many other roads have been testing similar devices. The success attending these experiments has been such that it is believed to have demonstrated the feasibility of steam heating from the locomotive, and to have shown that on ordinary trains it is not only the safest but the cheapest method. It remains to perfect the machinery, and perhaps to provide auxiliaries for use when trains are so long, grades so heavy, and the cold so intense that an engine cannot furnish both motive power and heat; but it seems evident that we are very near to a satisfactory solution of the question of heating passenger coaches without carrying live coals in them.

This Board has been asked by inventors to recommend several systems of heating, or the patented machinery thereof, and by passengers to prohibit the further use of stoves in cars in this State, but has not seen its way clear to take the initiative in so important a matter at present. It is very doubtful whether this State has the constitutional right to interfere in any way with cars employed in interstate traffic, as most of the cars in this State are. There is also to be considered the necessity that the system of heating upon through trains should be uniform, and situated as we are, with the terminals of our roads nearly all in other States, we are almost compelled to wait upon

the motion of those States or of Congress, even if it be assumed that a law or an order prohibiting here what they permit would be valid. As to cars engaged in state traffic, we must act decisively whenever the experiments

now being conducted by practical railroad men have shown us what we want and how to get it. The car of the future will be heated by steam and lighted by electricity or gas made outside, and neither the conservatism or the false economy of railroad managers must be permitted to stand in the way of its speedy adoption.


The whistling of locomotives is a subject that has occupied the attention of the commissioners in other States for years, and has lately been forced upon us by the complaints and petitions of prominent citizens of Nashua, Concord, and Manchester, who have prayed to be relieved of what they regard as an unnecessary and intolerable nuisance. It is one in which comparatively few people are interested, but to those few it is of vital importance. Human ingenuity has never produced a sound more shrill and startling than a steam whistle. It can be heard under favorable conditions ten or twelve miles, and at short range it penetrates all ordinary obstructions without loss of force or ferocity. When often repeated and long continued, it becomes to the sick, and to the well of sensitive nerves who live near it, an excruciating and destroying torture. The law of 1885 provides

“SECT. 4. When a locomotive approaches within eighty rods of a crossing over a highway at grade, the whistle shall be sounded by two long and two short whistles, and the bell shall be rung until the locomotive passes the crossing; provided, that no whistle need be sounded in cities and villages where upon petition and complaint the board of railroad commissioners shall decide that it is not necessary."

This law has been zealously respected by all our enginemen, and has doubled the whistling in the State. In some of our cities where crossings are numerous and close to many houses it has greatly aggravated what

was before a serious trouble. On one of the three lines in Nashua there are seventeen grade-crossings, calling for sixty-eight blasts of the whistle by every locomotive, including “shifters,” that passes from one side of the city to the other. In Manchester there are nine gradecrossings within a short distance in the compact part of the city on the Portsmouth road. These call for one hundred and forty-four blasts by the four engines that run regularly over that road between the hours of 4 and 9 A. M.

In Concord many of the best residences are located close to the tracks on which the thirty trains of the Northern, the Concord & Claremont, and the Boston, Concord & Montreal enter and leave the depot daily, and over which run three grade-crossings that call for an almost continual shriek. So much is compulsory. Add to this what may be called voluntary whistling, which serves to signal the arrival and departure of trains, to call trainmen to duty at the start, and notify wives and sweethearts of their safe return and readiness for supper at the finish, and consider that a blast is measured only by the guess, the caprice, or the endurance of an engineer, and it is easy to understand the intense feeling against this noise among its victims. But it is not easy to see to what extent it may be abated without jeopardizing the public for whose protection the law was intended. It is argued by those who have given the subject careful investigation that whistling causes, by frightening horses, more accidents than it prevents, that the indirect loss of life and health and the injury to property caused by it are very great and further, that inasmuch as people in general pay little heed to noise to which they are accustomed, its constant use greatly impairs its value as a warning.

On the other hand, the public has been educated to a belief that the whistle is essential to its protection, and the great majority who live remote from crossings,

« PreviousContinue »