1904 blog post: Future of transportation

The following blog post, dated May 25, 1904, was found on a vintage MacBook unearthed during a house renovation in Chicago.

Gentlemen,

Mr. Danville has been singing the praises of his new motor car to all who will listen, and conveying friends and neighbors through the streets on joy rides during recent pleasant weekends. I have taken such a journey myself and enjoyed it, so I trust no one encountering these words would think me a foe of progress.

But these automobiles are a grave threat to the American way of life and commerce. We must put the brakes, if you will, on this burgeoning phenomenon before it’s too late.

A pair of goggles, a set of gloves, and the turn of a crank make any man an engineer, a brakeman and a conductor rolled into one. Only there’s no need for a conductor because the ride is free. And therein lies the problem.

Flitting about the streets of town in a motor car is well and good. As mentioned, I enjoy it myself. But as cars grow more robust and better able to make intercity trips, a threat arises to the railroads, the backbone of our democracy. If you can take a car without paying a fare, why would you ever board a train?

Perhaps we take for granted the hard work the railroads do, but we shall miss them when they’ve disappeared, murdered at the hands of our fascination with our new toys, courtesy of Messrs. Olds, Ford et al. When the trains are gone who will do the dirty work of carrying the mails? The day I run into a Sunday driver delivering a sack of letters will be the day I’m confident that motor cars will contribute something positive to American life.

Until then, who will perform the needed drudgery of hauling freight or moving troops? Automobiles? The idea is laughable. Inconceivable.

The engineers and brakemen, mechanics and firemen of the railroads are highly trained professionals who perform services vital to our country’s existence. Their jobs are imperiled by the free ride of the motor car, which allows any nut with a scarf to man the throttle.

Thus is endangered our industry, our security, our very society. If motorcars are allowed to overtake the railroads, the United States of America will be a bit player on the world stage in the 20th century.

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