I’ve spoken before of morality tales told through sets of ‘comic strip’ magic lantern slides. Most are of the ‘don’t do this, or else’ variety but occasionally a set was produced which dealt with social issues in a more subtle way. This one is called ‘The Signal Box’ and highlights the dangers caused by railway staff working excessive hours.
We are so used to our railways being a very safe form of transport that when something does go wrong, it’s headline news. We’ve forgotten that, even fifty years ago, train crashes were not uncommon, often resulting in fatalities and serious injuries. Victorian rail travel was particularly hazardous, with regular accidents caused by human error ….. signalling mistakes, poor maintenance and faulty equipment. Indeed, the crash that resulted in the greatest ever loss of life on Britain’s railways was caused by a signalman who didn’t follow safety procedures which had been specifically put in place because of similar, previous, serious incidents.
‘The Signal Box’ tells of a signalman who takes his son to work with him ….. not a good idea unless it’s an employer-authorised ’take your child to work’ day. He’s distracted for a moment (due presumably to working excessive hours) and then realises that the lad is on the railway track. He has to make a split-second decision to either save his son’s life or stop two express trains colliding head-on. The story has a happy ending (which is rare for a magic lantern story set), thanks to quick-thinking action by his remarkable wife. Why was she there, you might ask, as did he! There are lots of health and safety lessons here and had he done a proper risk assessment following HSE guidelines, this dangerous situation could have been avoided but then there wouldn’t have been a story to tell.
If you would like to see all of the slides and hear the script that goes with them, I’ve put a video on my YouTube Channel. Making YouTube videos of my slide collection is a new venture that I estimate will take about five years to complete, so please forgive the rough edges ….. I’m working on my technique!