On October 22, 1895, the Granville-Paris train approached the Gare Montparnasse, its scheduled terminal destination. The train was running a bit late, and the locomotive driver was operating the train faster than normal to make up the time. That error, in addition to a reported failure of a Westinghouse brake, resulted in the debacle shown below:
The driver was in a hurry. Too much wear and tear on the brake or perhaps even a design flaw combined with the driver’s imprudent approach to the station to produce a dramatic failure in a system that was designed not to fail. After all, there was a stop at the end of the line. There was a wall at the edge of the station. Neither was able to prevent the locomotive from hurling onto the street below.
We cannot think of a better image and metaphor for the current state of global affairs than the wreck of the Granville-Paris train. The objective of the driver was to overcome the failure to deliver on his objective, an on-time arrival. Disregarding the safety implications and ignorant of the pending failure of a key component of his system, the brake, he oversaw a tragic failure of judgment and mechanism.
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