A Menace to the Traveling Public — Investigation of Food Products in Massachusetts — Infant Mortality — Medical Notes

1906 Boston Medical and Surgical Journal  
A noteworthy article appears in the July 21 number of the Outlook on a matter regarding which the public is in much ignorance. In fact, the article is written for the purpose of bringing to popular attention a serious menace to travelers, ordinarily unrecognized. Its author, although his name is not disclosed, is clearly one who speaks with authority, as his introductory remarks show. After graduation from college, the writer, in order to gain practical experience in railway matters, filled
more » ... matters, filled various subordinate positions on a western trunk line. He finally became a conductor on a freight train, and while serving in this capacity had certain experiences which he very rightly now brings to public attention. The subject which he discusses is the fatigue of train crews under existing conditions. As he states the matter, " It is about weariness sheer exhaustion, to speak forcibly and yet truthfully that I wish to write a few pages in order that the public may appreciate fully how completely their lives and property depend upon the mental and physical condition of our freight train crews." The remarks which follow apply particularly to single track roads of which there are many still in existence. Alluding to a recent head-on collision between a passenger and a freight train with disastrous results, the writer states that the real reason was that the freight train crew concerned in the collision had been fifty-nine consecutive hours on duty, which offered a sufficient explanation for the statement given out by the road that the freight train crew had violated the despatcher's orders. Apropos of this experience, the writer of the article narrates, in vivid style, some experiences of his own while acting as a freight train conductor. On one occasion the train crew over which he had jurisdiction worked for fifty-two hours without cessation, and fortunately without accident, due rather to good fortune than to the efforts of the wholly exhausted men constituting the crew. This sort of thing it appears is not at all uncommon during times of activity in the ' transportation of freight, and particularly where rival lines are concerned. We quote two pertinent paragraphs from this suggestive and timely article: " Nobody will question the necessity of a good night's rest to the performance of keen, accurate, and efficient work, and yet how many people are there to-day who realize that the freight train crews of our railroads, especially in winter and on single-track lines, are often on duty for twenty-four to thirty-six hours without sleep? The artisan, the laborer, the miner, the millhand and the clerk work but ten hours at the most during the twenty-four, and yet the men who share with the eight-hour trick despatchers the responsibility for the safety of the traveling public, rarely doff their overalls short of the sixteen-hour mark. They are paid overtime of course they are and at an increased rate per hour or per mile; but ask a dozen engineers and freight conductors whether the hardship of overtime is counterbalanced by the extra wages, and, unless some member of the group is trying to pay off a mortgage on a neat little cottage and lot, every man's answer will be an emphatic negative. Work that is paid for in blood should be prohibited, and the toilers supplanted by fresh, wide-awake comrades. "The human factor, especially on single-track roads, the mileage of which far exceeds that of double-track lines, plays an important part in the safety of train movement, chiefly because the block system, owing to the enormous expense of installation is little used. But even where block signals are in operation, what meaning has the rigid semaphore and gleaming red lamp for sleep-closed eyes? And since the human factor is to be reckoned with, and since mechanical device cannot always guard against the failings of the human make-up, let us support the Interstate Commerce Commission in any and all measures to regulate the hours of work and of rest in the train service of our railways." The foregoing record of personal experience from the pen of a most intelligent observer cannot fail to be salutary. There is much talk of the failure of the mechanical devices and the una-
doi:10.1056/nejm190608021550511 fatcat:f7eg5ghg2nhzjdka5apn2icuza