Safety Cord, The

Satirising the ineffectiveness of procedures governing use of emergency cords

From the "Referee": Apropos of the Pullman¹ accident,[Note 066.1] it seems that when the alarm-cord is pulled the driver must not stop until he has looked both sides of the train, and if he can't see anything wrong himself he is to go on. No wonder the cord has never been found of the slightest protection!

The Safety Cord

I was an engine-driver on the North South East West line,
He was on his locomotive on a starry night and fine
He was filling up his cutty¹ when his stoker¹ touched his arm,
Saying, "Joe, the cords agoin' - someone's givin' the alarm"

In a carriage sat a madman cutting everybody's throat
Pausing now and then, poor fellow, on his awful work to gloat!
He had severed half a dozen. One man cried and pulled the cord:
"Here's a pound² if you will spare me!" Which was all he could afford.

Then the stoker and the driver, they looked all along the train,
But, not seeing any danger, on they went full speed again.
Then the driver lit his cutty, and had settled down to smoke
When the cord again was tugged at, tugged at till it almost broke.

Out of the window there had fallen one of England's leading men
He had fallen on the metals - the express was due just then.
If the train stopped they could save him; it was flying fast away
And helpless on the metals, one of England's greatest lay.

Then the stoker and the driver, they looked well on either side,
But swiftly on its journey still the fiery engine hied;
It had reached a mile a minute - that's considered rather fast -
When the cord again was jerked at, tugged so hard it broke at last.

The madman had been crawling by the footboard¹ with a knife
He had been in every carriage and had taken every life;
And his task now being finished, he had pulled the cord to say
If they'd stop the train a moment he should like to get away

Then the driver and the stoker glanced along the train once more,
But as neither saw the madman, they went on just as before
And when they reached the station they were much surprised to find
All the passengers had perished save the great man left behind

Shall we blame the engine driver? No; his duty it was plain
If he couldn't see the mischief he was not to stop the train
Let us blame the cord providers who put up directions full,
And then tell the engine-drivers they're to let the people pull