Harper's New Monthly Magazine,  8 (1884), 266–73.

Approaches to New York

Alexander Wainwright


Essay, Travelogue


Railways, Accidents, Machinery, Electricity, Telegraphy, Engineers, Gender

    Observes that the lines of the 'Hudson River, the New Haven, and the Harlem [railway companies] meet at a point some five miles above Forty-second Street, and enter the city on the same track', and explains that all the 'trains are operated by the block system, which in its perfection not only precludes the possibility of collisions, except through the failure of the signalling machinery or the carelessness of those in charge, but also, it seems to us, embodies with a force that cannot fail to excite wonder, the highest results attained in mechanical science. Electricity, captive and subject to an ivory disk not larger than the tip of a lady's finger, conveys by semaphore the invisible, inaudible, and unmistakable messages that need no transcription, and that control the movements of hundreds of trains rushing to and from the city in a chain which with a few connections would be endless—control them not merely by indicating to the engineers what it is proper to do, but more effectually by making it impossible for the engineers to do otherwise, except in the face of extreme peril' (271). Also notes that 'Trains, like ships, are cast in the feminine gender by their operators' (272).

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