Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Horse Sense vs.Railroad Crossings

Osseo, MI, was on the old (original) road of the NYC/LS&MS. This photo made me wonder if markings for railroad crossings back in the horse & buggy days didn't need bells, flashing lights and gates because a horse had enough sense to not go in front of a train. I read an article about "horse sense" that talked about a horse refusing to cross a bridge soon before it collapsed because the river was running high and fast. One theory was that, since they effectively walk on just one toe, they have evolved to sense the firmness of what they were walking on; and the horse sensed unusual vibrations. If so, I'll bet they can detect the ground vibrations of an oncoming steam locomotive. Because of the moving linkages and pulsating pistons, a steam locomotive "pounded" the rail. That is the excuse given today by some railroad executives to not allow steam excursions on their tracks.

Albert Spencer posted
LS&MS Railroad crossing in Osseo, Mich about 1904
Albert Spencer Osseo was on the Old Road. Toledo to Elkhart. NYC/LS&MSRR
Harold Fannin That crossing has a bell on it,are you sure of the date of the photo?
Albert Spencer About 1904. could be a little before or after.
Harold Fannin I didn't know that crossing bells went back that far.
Of course, a horse & buggy went a lot slower than today's cars and trucks giving people more time to look for trains and react in time as they approached the tracks.

I'll bet horse sense was smarter than some people's "common sense." I just read that railroads have reduced fatalities due to derailments, crew mistakes, wheelset failure, etc. so that now the largest category of fatalities is people trespassing on the tracks: in vehicles, deliberate suicide, taking engagement or modelling photos, using a shortcut, etc.

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