Railroad Temperance Regulations
BY WILLIAM E. JOHNSON
A TWENTY-FIVE pound bicycle will carry an average-sized man
at a high rate of speed and in comparative safety, yet in the
organization of a modern express train from 3,000 to 4,000 pounds
train weight per man are required.
In 1829, when Erickson's little two and a half ton locomotive,
the "Novelty," ran for a little ways at the rate of
thirty miles per hour, a contemporary writer declared that the
feat was "the most wonderful exhibition of human daring and
human skill that the world has ever known." And there can
be no doubt that he voiced the popular wonderment of the time.
Today, four hundred ton express trains thundering along at
the rate of seventy-five miles an hour attract no attention whatever.
It is in the daily program of traffic and transportation. A four
hundred ton train traveling at the rate of seventy-five miles
an hour or one hundred feet per second generates a force twice
as great as that of a 2,000 pound projectile fired from a one
hundred ton gun-an energy far beyond the power of the mind to
We now have these monster trains, through sunshine and storm,
through darkness and light, driving at deadly speed over our more
than 200,000 miles of trackeight times enough to belt the
earthguided and checked by block systems, semaphore signals,
dispatchers with reins of lightning, and manned by an army of
more than a million employees.
The ease with which a misplaced switch, a misread message,
a loosened spike, an undelivered telegram, can send one of these
mountains of iron and steel crashing into another demands a caution,
a clearness of vision and mind unsurpassed by any other calling.
From the Grand Central station in New York alone 464 trains dash
in or out every day, a train for every three minutes of the twenty-four
hours. The passenger enters the Pullman knowing absolutely that
his life is in the keeping of others, yet he goes to sleep with
precisely the same assurance of safety as if in his own home.
In fact accident insurance companies consider "traveling
men" as "preferred risks," and insure them against
disaster where they refuse altogether or demand higher rates for
risks on a farmer or mechanic. Only about one passenger is killed
for every 2,000,000 passengers carried, a ratio of improvement
over the records of ten years ago by about thirty-three per cent.
Yet despite this low rate, the enormous amount of traffic is such
that, during the statistical year 1902, 8,588 persons were killed
and 64,662 injured. While the ratio of persons killed or injured
in proportion to the traffic is constantly decreasing, the volume
of traffic is increasing so rapidly that the actual total of killed
and wounded steadily increases.
Aside from the hundreds of thousands of dollars in destroyed
property, these accidents involve the railways in heavy expenses
for damages, litigation and attorney's fees. Without discussing
the causes, it will not be disputed that the average citizen is
prone to look upon the railways as legitimate prey for schemes
that would not be tolerated in dealings with a private citizen,
and that the average jury is prone to decide doubtful questions
in favor of the plaintiff, widow or cripple.
Each dollar paid out in damages or in loss for wreckage, represents
earned money paid out for avoidable purposes. For if there had
been no misplaced switch, if there had been no misread message,
and if there had been no other "ifs," there would have
been no accident and the cost thereof would have gone to swell
the dividends, the sole purpose for which the railways are operated.
Dividends are the nerve centers of railway management and,
whatever affects the dividends is sure to command immediate and
searching attention. The operating management that can show the
least proportion of avoidable expenditures, that can develop the
promptest and most satisfactory service to its customers, wins
the approval at the annual meetings. The first essential to such
a service and such a success is clear heads and steady hands in
the operating department, and in which the wine glass has no place.
This is the basis and reason for the recently developed stringent
regulations as to the use of intoxicants which now pertain in
all of the railways of the country. Thus the transportation lines
have come to be, as the Railway Age said a few years ago,
"one of the grandest and most effective temperance organizations
Until about four years ago, this movement was spasmodic and
a matter of single action on the part of individual railways.
After every accident it was the custom of the superintendents
and managers to make microscopic examinations of the causes, the
first search being usually directed to learn "if anybody
had been drinking." Too frequently it was found that such
was the case, and a vociferous warning against drink "to
excess" would follow. These I warnings" gradually succumbed
to "rules," generally directed against "drink to
excess," in turn these gave way to "drinking while on
duty," some being more stringent, and a few requiring even
total abstinence. This was the situation up to April 12, 1899,
when the American Railway Association adopted standard rules one
of which read:
"The use of intoxicants by employees while on duty is
prohibited. Their habitual use, or the frequenting of places where
they are sold, is sufficient cause for dismissal."
This is the standard rule of the association today and as such
is in force on practically every railway in the United States.
It is in force on approximately 160,000 of the 202,472 miles of
main track in the country.
From the standard prohibition of the "habitual use"
to absolute prohibition is merely a matter of striking out one
word, and a large number of roads have amended the standard rules
in this way. No roads have weakened the standard rules, and all
changes made have been in the direction of making them more stringent.
Such, for example, is Rule 22 Of the Toronto, Hamilton and Buffalo
Railway which tartly reads, "The use of intoxicating liquors
is forbidden under any circumstances." Rule 19 of the Pittsburg
and Lake Erie Railway is even more drastic. It reads:
"The use of intoxicants, visiting saloons, whether on
or off duty, gambling or playing cards in or around stations,
or upon trains or cars, or in or upon the property of this company,
by employees, is strictly prohibited. The violation of this rule
will be sufficient cause for discipline or discharge from the
Precisely the same language is used by the Bessemer and Lake
The very first sentence of the application form used by the
Vandalia line is a total abstinence pledge, reading,
"I hereby make application for a situation as
if employed agree to observe all the rules and regulations of
the company, to abstain from the use of intoxicating liquors,
to avoid saloons and places of low resort, to conduct myself properly
whether on or off duty and to perform my duties to the best of
A similar total abstinence pledge is exacted from applicants
by the International and Great Northern.
The Grand Trunk Railway rule reads "intoxication, or the
use of intoxicating liquors, will be sufficient cause for dismissal."
Absolute prohibition, whether on or off duty, also prevails on
the Georgia Southern and Florida Railways, Indiana, Illinois and
Iowa Railway, Iowa Central Railway, the New York, Ontario and
Western and the New York and Ottawa Railways. Various other roads
ask and encourage complete total abstinence without demanding
Under date of March 22, 1904, Mr. Arthur Montzheimer, president
of the Association of Railway Superintendents of Bridges and Buildings,
well explains to the writer the theory of these stringent regulations.
"Practically all of our members are opposed to the use
of intoxicating liquors. We realize that men who use no intoxicants
make better, steadier workmen than those who drink intoxicants,
"Further, that a man who does not drink intoxicating liquors
can be trusted to attend to the company's business more faithfully
than a man who is in the habit of drinking."
The protection of the public from drunken railway employees
has generally been left to the railways themselves by the law-making
power. Michigan, however, early gave the matter legislative attention.
Before the Civil War the legislature of that state enacted a law
absolutely prohibiting railways from employing any save total
abstainers in their operating departments. This law read:
"No person shall be employed as engineer, train dispatcher,
fireman, baggage master, conductor, brakeman, or other servant
upon any railroad in any of its operating departments, who uses
intoxicating drinks as a beverage."
The penalty for a violation was fixed at $25, but a proviso
was attached rendering it inoperative unless it could be proven
that a responsible officer of the company was aware that the employee
was not an abstainer. After the war, this proviso 'Was stricken
out and the penalty was raised from $25 to $500, in which form
it continues to the present time.
Michigan law also makes it a misdemeanor for an employee of
the operating department of a railway to be intoxicated while
Last year (1903) the Canadian parliament enacted a most drastic
provision of this sort in the Dominion Railway Act of that year.
Section 295 of the act reads:
"Every person who is intoxicated while he is in charge
of a locomotive engine, or acting as the conductor of a car or
train of cars, is guilty of an, indictable offense and liable
to ten years' imprisonment."
And it was further provided that,
"Every person who sells, gives or barters any spirituous
or intoxicating liquor to or with any servant of or employee of
any company while on duty, is liable to summary conviction. to
a penalty not exceeding fifty dollars or to imprisonment with
or without hard labor for a period not exceeding one month, or
Besides these laws, the operating rules of the Canadian railways
are very similar to the rules of railways in the States, though
a greater portion of them require absolute total abstinence on
or off duty.
The railway development of European countries has forced the
consideration of this same question, but of more recent and in
less coherent form. A few years ago Otto De Terra, the director
of the German government railways, attempted to form all of the
government railway employees into a total abstinence organization.
With this view, he founded the Vereinigung Enthaltsamer Deutscher
Eisenbahner (Union of Temperance Railwaymen) and issued a proclamation
inviting all employees to join. De Terra pursued his plan so vigorously
and so radically that he gave offense in influential quarters.
This led to temporary friction but he continued to pursue the
work of his organization more vigorously than ever until it is
now a very flourishing concern and encouraged by those who first
The desirability of abstinence in the higher classes of industrial
occupations is no new idea. It took deep root in the public mind
as far back as 1833, in the early days of the temperance reform
in this country. In that year and for a few years preceding, especial
attention of temperance leaders was given to the industrial phase
of the liquor problem and large numbers of farmers, and factories
and transportation concerns discontinued the use of "grog"
rations in .their enterprises. In 1834, the American Temperance
Society reported' that there were then about 1,000 American ships
ploughing the seas without liquor in any form. The results of
the reform were so gratifying that on October 2 of that year,
the New York Board of Underwriters at a meeting held in the office
of the American Insurance Company of New York City passed the
"Resolved, That the different marine insurance companies
in the City of New York, will allow a deduction of five per cent
on the net premiums which may be taken after this date, on all
vessels and on vessels together with outfits, if on whaling and
on sealing voyages, terminating without loss, provided the master
and mate make affidavit, after the termination of the risk, that
no ardent spirits had been drunk on 'board the vessel by the officers
and crew during the voyage or term for which the vessel and outfits
While the principle was early recognized, but little was done
in the direction of demanding abstinence from intoxicants on the
part of industrial employees until after the Civil War and especially
within the past fifteen years. The American repugnance to even
seeming to indicate what his brother should eat or drink was exceedingly
strong. The personal liberty of the individual was regarded with
almost superstitious sacredness. But the rapidly developing complexity
of transportation, the increasing demand for clear heads and steady
hands, and especially the fierce competition of the times evolved
a new conception of "personal liberty." It came to be
regarded as within the personal rights of travelers to demand
that their lives be not placed in the hands of employees addicted
to the cup. It came to be regarded as within the rights of an
employer to select his helpers from among that class of applicants
whose personal habits were not so likely to involve him in the
expenses of a disaster arising from a drunken frolic in which
he had no part. This, of course, is equivalent to demanding that
the employee either "qualify" or resign and engage in
some occupation where total abstinence is not demanded.
Deducting the number of officers and employees that do not
come under the rules of the operating departments, there are now
approximately one million railway employees under this abstinence
rule of the American Railway Association or under a rule still
more stringent. This list of employees for years has been increasing
at the rate of from 75,000 to 100,000 per year. This number of
new abstainers is therefore called for each year to fill well
paying and permanent positions. The moralist can speculate but
can not estimate the power of such an influence in a nation.
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