Shifting Engines as Fire Fighters

Shifting Engines as Fire Fighters

A Wilmington, Del., paper gives the following details of the work done by shifting engines in fire protection: Writers of railroad fiction have always delighted in personifying the shifting engine as a disconsolate little locomotive that puffs around unhappily on sidetracks in the freight yard and watches with longing eyes the massive big passenger engines that walk away majestically with splendid big express trains and thunder out into the delights of a long journey through green fields and picturesque mountain passes. No longer does the shifting engine take a back seat for the passenger locomotive. Statistics just compiled by the Pennsylvania Railroad Company show the shifting engine has “busted” the passenger engine’s monopoly on all thrills. It means something now to be a “yard shifter” for the Pennsylvania Railroad. To protect its property from loss by fire the Pennsylvania management has had “shifters” equipped with special fire-fighting apparatus. Not only does the insignificant little “shifter” get all the excitement of going out and fighting the flames that threaten railroad terminals, grain elevators and freight stations, but very often proves the savior of the precious cargo consigned to the keeping of the heroic passenger locomotive. Figures show that the shifting engine has been instrumental in cutting down the Pennsylvania Railroad’s fire losses by big amounts in seven years. The average fire loss on the Pennsylvania system is approximately $350,000 on an average valuation of $284,000,000, or 12 ½ cents per $100 of risk. The following record shows the number of fires extinguished during these seven years by employees of the company with “shifting fire engines”:

Although the number of fires in 1914 was greater than any other year, the amount of loss was less. Many 1914 fires were from causes over which the railroad company had no control. Incendiaries started twelve fires, boys were responsible for two, tramps for fifteen, lightning for seven and carelessness with matches and tobacco for sixteen. The shifting engines have saved the company many thousands of dollars. In a resume of the operations of its railroad insurance plan the Pennsylvania company states that through its own insurance fund it now assumes a fire and marine risk of more than $400,000,000 and that its insurance fund is greater than the net surplus of the third largest fire insurance company in this country.

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