Last revision: 1-31-2024


(click on image for a PDF of this and the below images) Courtesy of somebody who probably does not want to be associated with Wx4 Staff comentary

Smokey, the Dog Formed by a Committee

Railroaders are often described as a giant family, and in some respects this is true. Wx4 Staff, on the other hand, regards the railroad business as more of an insular cult, run by executives who labor in furtive denial that mainstream America has seen considerable social progress since the smokestack age of the 19th Century of which they so struggle to emulate. In other words, the industry tenaciously clings to the sensibilities of the distant past. Also, railroaders don't get out much, which may be a good thing for the rest of humanity.

We could now commence with a full-blown essay supporting this thesis via an invocation of haughty concepts supported by quotes from Plutarch ("What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality."), Friedrich Nietzsche (re the workplace: "To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.") and Maynard G. Krebs ("WORK?!!!?"), but instead we are going to employ a sure-fire method more suited to a foamer website: show and tell.

Witness this ARA Safety Section Committee on Education poster. Perhaps a bar graph featuring maimed children might have been mainstream stuff in the Middle Ages, but by the time of its publication in 1934... well, we doubt that it would score many points at a PTA meeting. On the other hand, this would be nothing compared to the ensuing riot of PTA mothers following their discovery of on image, featuring Smokey's last moments, juxtapositioned on a third grade classroom wall between finger paintings of kitties.

Aside from all of that, and correct us if we are getting this wrong, doesn't it appear that little Billy has just tossed a ball for Smokey to fetch smack in the face of a speeding locomotive - this following his loss of a leg during a prior playdate-gone-grisly down in the yards? How could the committee's collaborative efforts be so clueless that they would arrive at such a patently stupid role model? Wx4 can only give its stock answer to one of railroading's imponderables:

By and large, railroaders are intelligent people, who all too frequently come together to do stupid things.

And what about poor Smokey? If Samuel Clemens had lived long enough to encounter this, he likely would have remarked that Smokey was a cat formed by a committee. We would opine that being a railroad industry committee creation can be a humiliating thing, even for a fictional character, especially when the quality of work evidently is the railroad equivalent to an automotive industry "Friday car".

Finally, you may have noticed that this poster is actually a 1992 reproduction done by Norfolk Southern. This leaves us sorta non-plussed regarding their thinking (or lack thereof), but it does confirm our premise that railroaders don't get out much.

.The flip side of the flip side
As audience-inappropriate "Get off the track, Smokey" was, Norfolk Southern included a dead-on-target pair of safety messages on the flip side. (larger image in PDF). Trashy double entandres have always been popular fare on our railways, although these days, Staff wishes that women employees would tone them down a little. Yes, this poster ostensibly admonishing employes to maintain good work habits probably gained considerable notice down at the roundhouse, but only because its creators knew that if you removed the "Just Married" placard from the radiator, the scene conveys a whole different safety message, and a pretty effective one at that.

Staff wonders what is in the old head's grip,