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RAILROAD ACCIDENTS. 1

IT is a melancholy fact that there are few things of which either nature or man is, as a rule, more lavish than human life;—provided always that the methods used in extinguishing it are customary and not unduly obtrusive on the sight and nerves. As a necessary consequence of this wastefulness, it follows also that the results which ordinarily flow from the extinguishment of the individual life are pitiably small. Any person curious to satisfy himself as to the truth of either or both of these propositions can do so easily enough by visiting those frequent haunts in which poverty and typhoid lurk in company; or yet more easily by a careful study of the weekly bills of mortality of any great city. Indeed, compared with the massive battalions daily sacrificed in the perpetual conflict which mankind seems forever doomed to wage against intemperance, bad sewerage and worse ventilation, the victims of regular warfare by sea and land count as but single spies. The worst of it is, too, that if the blood of the martyrs thus profusely spilled is at all the seed of

2 RAILROAD ACCIDENTS.

the church, it is a seed terribly slow of germination. Each step in the slow progress is a Golgotha.

In the case of railroad disasters, however, a striking exception is afforded to this rule. The victims of these, at least, do not lose their lives without great and immediate compensating benefits to mankind. After each new "horror," as it is called, the whole world travels with an appreciable increase of safety. Both by public opinion and the courts of law the companies are held to a most rigid responsibility. The causes which led to the disaster are anxiously investigated by ingenious men, new appliances are invented, new precautions are imposed, a greater and more watchful care is inculcated. And hence it has resulted that each year, and in obvious consequence of each fresh catastrophe, travel by rail has become safer and safer, until it has been said, and with no inconsiderable degree of truth too, that the very safest place into which a man can put himself is the inside of a first-class railroad carriage on a train in full motion.

The study of railroad accidents is, therefore, the furthest possible from being a useless one, and a record of them is hardly less instructive than interesting. If carried too far it is apt, as matter for light reading, to become somewhat monotonous; though, none the less, about these, as about everything else, there is an almost endless variety. Even in the forms of sudden death on the rail, nature seems to take a grim delight in an infinitude of surprises.


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