Terror Of Trains

It was once as big as fear of flying, and it helped show the way to psychotherapy and the modern treatment of traumatic stress

When four airplanes crashed in acts of terrorism on September 11, 2001, killing thousands of Americans, many of the millions who watched the horror on television made a secret vow: I am not going to step onto an airplane again. They knew this decision was irrational, and ultimately untenable, but it seemed the one small thing that a terrorized populace could do. We could opt out of the technological sophistication that had made such wholesale slaughter of innocents possible.

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The Absolute All-american Civilizer

A lot of people still remember how great it was to ride in the old Pullmans, how curiously regal to have a simple, well-cooked meal in the dining car. Those memories are perfectly accurate—and that lost pleasure holds a lesson for us that extends beyond mere nostalgia.

Not long ago I received a very angry letter from an old friend. It was a response to my suggestion that liberal arts colleges might give students some instruction in technology; that is, give them some feeling for how the world they are living in works. My friend’s argument was that from the Love Canal to Three Mile Island, and from the grid locks of Manhattan to the boeuf bourguignon on the plastic airline trays, the technological world was not working very well and never would.Read more »

Farewell To Steam

The iron horses that built America are nearly all gathered on the other side of Jordan

It was the way they worked the cord and changed the steam pressure that made the whistle almost seem to talk. Of course, there was a regular language of signals—two long blasts for starting up; one long tremolo for approaching a station; and, at grade crossings, the familiar whoooo, whoooo, hoo, whooooooooo! mournful and infinitely expressive—but within these supposed rigidities there was plenty of room for individuality. An engineer was a man of importance, admired by young and old, and the whistle was his signature.Read more »