Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 30.djvu/599

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MARCH, 1887.



THE American Railroad, as an institution, is not immaculate. Its general offices are no more insured against entrance of designing and wickedly-minded men than is the pulpit, the Sunday-school, or the strawberry-festival. Granted, however, that, like most human concerns, the American railroad needs reformation, the very considerable question arises, Where shall we look for the reformer? It has not yet come, perhaps, to be a principle in economics that the safest and most expert administrator of a specialty is the one who has had the least practical experience thereof. But there nevertheless appears to be, if not an exact enunciation of such a principle, a by no means unusual tendency to such a practice. A great transatlantic steamship, en route from shore to shore, or a limited express train, with its costly freightage of packed Pullman, express, and baggage carriages, easily represents millions in money value, besides its human freightage. The captain, the conductor, the engineers, and crew are picked men, raised to their several responsibilities through every lower grade of drill and experience, adapted each to his part by long usuetude: who have been intrusted with all this precious burden by those who must answer with their fortunes, their liberty even, for the waste of its loss. Let the great steamship founder, the limited crash through a trestle—living or dead, these men will be found at their posts. But there will never fail of gifted gentlemen, eminent conversationalists, ready writers to the newspapers, who happened to be in their downy beds while these men were perishing, but who, nevertheless, will tell us exactly what this company and their picked employés should have done, and how the catastrophe might have been avoided. The design of this paper is to call attention to a recent capital instance of this tendency.