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Visual Evidence

Image 1: The Railroad Brakeman

One of the most dangerous jobs on the early railroads was that of brakeman. It was not a job for the faint of heart. It required strength and coordination, not to mention courage. The brakeman had to climb to the roof of the railcar and turn the wheel that engaged the brakes on each car. The air brake was invented in 1869, but not widely used because it was deemed too expensive.  It was not until the 1880’s when railroads finally began widespread use of air brakes that the job became less hazardous.
Questions for Image 1
1.      What dangers faced the brakemen who climbed atop moving rail cars?
2.      What impact do you think the widespread use of the automatic air brake had on the number of brakemen needed on a train crew?

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