The last five posts have been about accidents that occurred on trains. The posts, in a way, also highlighted that trains in the 19th century and early 20th Century were not only an important mode of transportation, but carried cargo—human and freight, and communication in the form of mail. The trains knitted the United States together—coast to coast. It shortened the time it took to get from New York to San Francisco and destinations in between. Tens of thousands of workers built and maintained the tracks to keep the trains running and tens of thousands more worked on the trains as engineers, porters, and conductors. Trains were vital to the economy and could mean the economic death of a town if the train tracks didn’t go through it. In the History and Description of Harrison County, Given in Townships, published in 1868 in Magnolia, Iowa, the author, G. F. Waterman, wrote, [the railroad was] “the destroying angel for small towns” if they passed by, leaving “the town in the most extreme throes of misfortune.” (page 25) The train could be the life blood for a community bringing goods, services, people, and business. The two fledgling towns Waterman wrote of, Jeddo and Buena Vista, ceased to exist when the train track did not cut through them.
As one would imagine, workers knew of the importance of what they did and took pride in the jobs they had. Workers joined organizations such as, Benefit Association of Railway Employees (BARE), Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers BLE), Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen (BLF), Brotherhood of Rail Road Track Men (BRRTM), Brotherhood of Railway Carmen (BRC), Brotherhood of Railroad Clerks (BRC), Brotherhood of Railroad Brakemen (BRB), and Brotherhood of Railroad Telegraphers (BRT). They proudly joined the organizations in life and proudly displayed them in death, such as this metal marker from the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Engineers (BLF & E).