On this day in 1867, the Angola Horror occurred. It was a big train wreck and fire that killed roughly 50 people. It was the New York Express, running from Cleveland to Buffalo. But the train was having problems. By the time it reached Angola (roughly 30 miles before Buffalo), it was running almost three hours late. As a result, the crew were pushing to make up time. You’ve got to believe that the crew were under intense pressure from the company management. After all, those are hours when the crew were paid (maybe) but the company was not making any extra money.
Part of the problem was that the tracks in the two states were different widths: 4’8.5″ in New York and 4’10” in Ohio. But there were specially designed (if unstable) cars that could deal with this. But the last car had a slightly bent axle. When it went over the break in two rails while crossing a bridge, it jumped the tracks. This, of course, dragged the second to the last car off too. I don’t want to get into it, because it’s very upsetting, but all but two people in the last car died — many were burned alive.
The Angola Horror led to a number of reforms — including the standardization of track widths. But we all know that none of that was necessary. In a libertarian utopia, the businesses would all see it to their long-term advantage to make sure that their passengers were safe. It was doubtless government interference that caused this wreck and those deaths. Right?!
But let me just say something on a personal note. I try never to go outside. But the few times I have over the last couple of weeks, I’ve noticed that people are more insane on the road than usual. It’s the holiday season and everyone is in a mad rush to get places. But it really doesn’t matter. Just slow down. You are far less likely to be burned alive if you do!
Afterword: Angola Horror Didn’t Change History
According to Wikipedia, the young John D Rockefeller was supposed to be on the train, but he just missed it. If you’ve been reading me for a while, you know how I think the world would have changed if he had died: not at all.