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THE WRONG SIGNAL
What Happened to a Man
Who Realized He Was
Sending His Wife and
Baby Into a Wreck
A faint whistle came down the
canyon. My blood ran cold. I
realized I had giyen "32" the
wrong signal. "Seven" should
have been held at Butte, to allow
the special a clear track to a
freigt tie-up down the road.
For 30 hours I had been alone,
without sleep, in the signal tower.
A lump was rising in my throat,
my heart beat rapidly, 'I stood
breathless, I -felt paralyzed.
Two trains were coming to
ward one another at the rate of
SO miles an hour. There would
be a pile of debris in a few sec
onds. I could hear the crash of
the steel monsters, see the flying
iron, steel and timber, hear the
groans of the injured and the
prayers of the dying. I could see
before me a burning pile, the
effigy of my neglect.
Hours seemed to pass. I stood
" 1" The key clicked.
J'C" was my call.
Sweat broke out from every
pore and ran down my body in
icy rivulets. I knew that the near
est station operator was trying to
reach me for our midnight con
versation. The spell seemed to
be lifted from me as I realized
what I was responsible for.
I was going mad. The whistle
sounded again. This time there I
was a faint answer from an op
posite direction. My key clicked
again. I came to my senses.
"Wife and baby aboard," "was the
message. I rushed down the lad
der and threw the red block. I
heard the puffing of two engines,
approaching from either side.
Small, lurid, hellish streaks were
shooting heavenward, as firemen
were cramming more coal be
neath the boilers, sending the
steel monsters swiftly to their
doom. The superintendent and
my wife and baby were rushing
on to death a death that I pray
ed might be instant. "Operator
to blame," rang in my ears.
I ran up the track. I flashed
my lantern The express round
ed the curve. I ran, slipped, fell
and the lantern chimney crashed.
The light went out and I stood
there in the darkness waving the
nickel-plated frame of the lantern
and crying at the top of my voice.
Closer came the express andas
a mocking echo came the throb
bing of the special. A red flilm
shot across my eyes. I fell to my
knees. The train was upon me.
I threw the lantern frame at the
I fell forward across the track.
I hid my face in the hot cinders.
In the light of one of" the cars I
thought I saw my baby, her little
hands waving in childish inno
cence at her father murderer of
I heard the crash. My ears be
came deaf. When I heard again
it was the mournful screeching
of an engine whistle arid the
clanging of a bell. I heard the