Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 8.djvu/53

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43
ORIGIN AND DEVELOPMENT OF ENGINEERING.

and might be reduced by slackening that speed. It increases with the extent and variety of the traffic on the same line. The public, I fear, will rather run the risk than consent to be carried at a slower rate. The increase in extent and variety of traffic is not likely to receive any diminution; on the contrary, it is certain to augment. I should be sorry to say that human care may not do something, and I am not among those who object to appeals through the press and otherwise to railway companies, though sometimes perhaps they may appear in an unreasonable form. I see no harm in men being urged in every way to do their utmost in a matter so vital to many. It is practicable, by certain corrections of the official returns, to make some sort of comparison between the accidents in the earlier days of our own railways and. the accidents occurring at a later date. I have endeavored to make these corrections, and I believe the results arrived at may be taken as fairly accurate. From the figures it appears that the passenger mileage has doubled between 1861 and 1873; and at the rate of increase between 1870 and 1873 it would become double what it was in 1873 in twelve years from that time—namely, in 1885. The number of passengers has doubled between 1864 and 1873, and at the rate of increase between 1870 and 1873 it would become double what it was in 1873 in eleven and a half years, or in 1 885. Supposing no improvement had been effected in the working of railway-traffic, the increase of accidents should have borne some proportion to the passenger mileage, multiplied by the proportion between the train mileage and the length of line open, as the number of trains passing over the same line of rails would tend to multiply accidents in an increasing proportion, especially where the trains run at different speeds. The number of accidents varies considerably from year to year, but, taking two averages of ten years each, it appears that the proportion of deaths of passengers from causes beyond their control to passenger miles traveled in the ten years ending December 31, 1873, was only two-thirds of the same proportion in the ten years ending December 31, 1861. The limit of improvements will probably be reached before long, and the increase of accidents will depend on the increase of traffic, together with the increased frequency of trains. Up to the present time the improvements appear to have kept pace with the increase of traffic and of speed, as the slight increase in the proportion of railway accidents to passenger miles is probably chiefly due to a larger number of trifling bruises being reported now than formerly. I believe it was a former president of the Board of Trade who said to an alarmed deputation, who waited upon him on the subject of railway traveling, that he thought he was safer in a railway-carriage than anywhere else. If he gave any such opinion, he was not far wrong, as is sufficiently evident when it can be said that there is only one passenger injured in every four million miles traveled, or that, on an average, a person may travel 100,000 miles each year for forty years,