Thousands killed and injured
|Passenger Train of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, |
around 1895. Image from Wikimedia.
It was a hideous accident, but not an uncommon one. Coupling and uncoupling cars was part of the job for brakemen, and it was dangerous.
Researcher Evgenia Shnayde reports that brakemen often lost fingers when the couplings jammed or the cars lurched.
Lost fingers did not end careers. They became the mark of a brakeman; you could recognize one by their missing fingers. Considering the fact that one out of every 120 trainmen—-a railroad category that mostly included brakemen-—died on the job each year, it is not surprising that the majority of trainmen considered the loss of a finger to be a "minor" injury.
Source: A 2010 report, "When the Loss of a Finger is Considered a 'Minor' Injury", by Evgenia Shnayde for the Stanford University Spatial History Project
The truth is that all railroad work was dangerous, including railroad construction. And of course, it was dangerous to jump onto a moving train (as tramps did). But it was also dangerous to ride a train properly or even to be on railroad property. I'm not exaggerating. Here are some astounding statistics about railroad accidents in the United States during the year before Almus Hill was killed:
During the year 1889, accidents on railroads involving human life were:
Passengers killed: 315
Passengers injured: 2,138
Employees killed: 2,070
Employees injured: 20,148
Other persons killed: 2,997
Other persons injured: 8,602
Total persons killed: 5,282
Total persons injured: 25,888
But the reports do not cover the total mileage of the country; only 92.792 per cent of it. If the accident rate was the same on the roads not reporting, the total number killed was 5,693, and the total injured 27,888. These are the returns made by the railroad companies themselves, and they cannot well be suspected of exaggeration.
Source: I didn't record (and can't relocate) the source of this clipping, but I saved it from an old newspaper while I was searching for a report of my grandfather's accident.