Thursday, May 14, 2015

Cross Crossings Cautiously

Above is a postcard version of the 1924 poster used in the Careful Crossing Campaign by the American Railway Association. This campaign is described in an July, 1922 article Careful Crossing Campaign Gets Nation's Support by the National Safety Council. Here is an excerpt from that article:
Over a million and a quarter of the Cross Crossings Cautiously Bulletin have been distributed and conspicuously placed throughout this country and Canada. A replica of the poster in the form of a "sticker" to be used on outgoing United States mail has been purchased by the railroads to the extent of over 6,000,000. About 60 percent of all the moving picture houses in the country are daily using as a colored slide a copy of the poster. Most of the radio broadcasting stations have carried the message to their numerous receivers.
 Here is the 1922 poster image that accompanied that article:

Below is a stamp/sticker with the 1923 Cross Crossings Cautiously design, which was also reproduced on a postcard. I don't have that postcard, but I saw an example on eBay with a message printed on the back. The message urges joining the CAREFUL CROSSING CLUB by mailing five of the postcards to auto driving friends to help reduce deaths and injuries at railroad crossings.

The video below is worth watching if you have time. As the YouTube description says:
This engaging Kodachrome drama (formatted for television broadcast) from the Union Pacific ostensibly deals with safety at railroad grade crossings, but it's also about much more: youth's feeling of invulnerability; the highway patrolman as an authority figure; the look of the rural and urban West in the late 1950s; the urge to speed through a sparsely populated agricultural landscape; and the train's role as farmer's servant and potential killer.

For More Vintage Images


  1. They could do well with a reissue of the stamps and postcards here, as people are still beingkilled on railroad crossings with almost monotonous regularity. A "Cinderella stamp," I believe the term is.

  2. Fortunately the trains around here aren't moving all that fast but I still feel just a tad uneasy crossing the tracks where there are no signals of any kind.

  3. There is a fascination with accidents at rail crossings on Youtube, but somehow that 1950/60 video has more charm. We call rail crossings "Level crossings"....not sure how that expression developed, I suppose that it took time for the early rail pioneers to work out it was awkward taking your horse and cart over two raised iron rails !!

    1. They are called grade crossings here, but I have always just called them railroad crossings.

      level crossing
      1. (Railways) Brit and Canadian a point at which a railway and a road cross, esp one with barriers that close the road when a train is scheduled to pass. US and Canadian name: grade crossing

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  5. Quite fascinating. And despite all the warnings, people are still regularly killed in crossing accidents in this country.

  6. A fascinating account of the campaign with striking images. This is still an issue in the UK and 90 years on we could do with something similar here.

  7. Just this week a tractor driver has been killed when his vehicle was sliced in half by a train at a level crossing. Still it happens.

  8. The art design for the first card is quite dramatic. The style of these public service warnings are classics of government media. The tongue twister alliteration is clever too.

  9. I'm not often around crossings where there aren't lights and an arm coming across the road traffic whenever a train passes. But I do hear trains frequently and know many folks in our rush rush civilization are not happy to sit for 5 minutes waiting for the train. I always turn off the car engine and do something de-stressing for myself while waiting. Especially on days when I'm in a rush also!

  10. I notice that in all the images above, none of the tracks have crossing guards (if that's what they're called - the bars that lower to stop cars from crossing). I suppose in those days the sound of the train's whistle was the biggest alert that a train was approaching. There seems to be an increase in train accidents these days, most notably appropriate for this post is the one in which the driver of a van tried to cross the tracks before the bar hit her van. The van and driver didn't make it.

    At our local state fair this summer that there was a booth encouraging people to be more careful around train tracks. In the past it was just a booth. This year they were handing out fans and stickers.

    Do you remember when train tracks stood up from the surface of the road. I think they were at least 6 or more inches tall. It was an effort to go over them. Once over the first track, the wheels when down between the two and then had to go up and over again. I can't imagine anyone thinking they could race an oncoming train to get over them. As a kid we used to count the cars, and the superstition was that you would live as many more years as there were cars.

    Great images, Postcardy.

  11. I particularly liked the stamp -- that sort of abandon of dashing across the rxr crossing seemed almost incongruous. When I got the train crossing lecture from my dad, just before I turned 16, he couched it in terms of the law of gross tonnage --- and the vehicle always loses. Still sticks in my memory.

  12. Great illustrations. And could quite easily be referring to Australia as our country roads also have these kinds of crossings and the associated accidents.

  13. The wonderful art work in the first postcard is dramatic. It must have looked impressive as a poster.

  14. I'm always shocked at the number of people who try to beat the train at the crossings.

  15. Darn I knew what was coming by the end of that incredible should be seem especially by new drivers, video. There sure isn't anything like being a little dead. Concentrate on driving, that is the key to staying alive. Excellent video.


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