Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Red For Danger

Writing about Tyler equipment yesterday reminded me of a book I enjoyed reading when I was younger - "Red For Danger" by L.T.C. Rolt. Good grief! I see on UK Amazon they are looking for twenty five quid for a secondhand copy today, I wonder if I still have mine. I guess I maybe paid thirty pence for it! This growth of rip-off pricing on UK Amazon aimed at relieving 'the collector' of his cash is really something!

Oh! But let's not go there eh? That hobby horse can stay in the stable today! If you can find a copy in a junk shop or in your library this book is very thorough and readable compendium of British railway accidents from 1825 through to the 1980's. Not only does the author give a very well written presentation of some of our most notorious railway accidents but also analyses them into kinds of cause. Is there a North American equivalent of this book I wonder?

I guess in the end though nearly all causes come down to either not knowing or not thinking. Not knowing that cast iron can fracture, that gravity can be stronger than brakes. Not thinking that you didn't hear something right, that someone else might be mistaken.

In the end we only even learn through our mistakes, not everything can be foreseen. I'm sure that's as true now of sophisticated nuclear engineering as it ever was of gas-lit steam trains. In the end you can only predict those risks you have some ability or opportunity to foresee. The rest you learn about the hard way

I loved a little cartoon I once saw that showed a cave man dead on the ground next to a plate of dodgy looking mushrooms. His neighbour was busily carving on a big tablet of stone the reminder "Aminata phalloidies; deadly poisonous"


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