The Railway Watchman and the Little Boy (Short Story)
During the ancient period, watchtowers were vital in overlooking the surrounding–for a watchman to see the situation and decide to send a warning or herald for a coming harvest. There are boundaries we need to put barriers to protect and prevent someone from getting hurt. Many centuries ago, there were objects and things that possessed magical power that can ward off the evil and bring luck to the owner. If the ship is the lumbering hulk of the sea, the road has its clunking train with sprightly speed. Everyone will be completely engrossed in the sound of steam whistled from its engine’s metal innards.
In a bustling train terminal of old Manila, where train travels to or from the north or south ends of Luzon. Many captivating moments were registered in the mind of a young boy named Gabriel. In his youthful mind, there were many questions that need an answer, like the many different kinds of signage he saw in the crossing, but one thing he got interested in was the saltire sign also called Saint Andrews Cross. In what the signage was referring to was where his fate will take him.
Once in the train station, the conductor called that all passengers be aboard, as the train will be leaving. The lady said to the conductor, “Please wait my son Gabriel is still outside.” Her husband got off to look for Gabriel.
During the occupied time of lifting their luggage, Gabriel had let go of his mother’s skirt. Gabriel was persuaded to see what was happening in the run-round loop track. In there, he saw locomotive being attached to the opposite end of the train. The need to detach and reattach the locomotive motivated little Gabriel to approach the watchman inside his wee shed just near the level crossing. Gabriel politely asked the old watchman, “Sir, what is the purpose of that detaching and attaching of the locomotive?” The old watchman puffed on his tobacco before he replied to Gabriel, “That’s what you called the terminal headshunt where it allows the locomotive to dissociate itself from its train. That is the intent of moving it to the opposite end and then pulling the train out of the station into another direction.” Gabriel excitedly answered, “That’s interesting, and may I know your name, sir?” “You can call me, Filomino or Pilo for short,” as the watchman puffed again on his tobacco. Gabriel aimlessly looked at the cross signage and then asked, “Mr. Pilo, what is that cross signage for?” The watchman while pointing toward the location of the signpost said, “That is the ‘saltire’ or the ‘Saint Andrews Cross’ that is to warn road users for a coming train. I am responsible to stop passersby with vehicles or no vehicles and to clear the tracks.” “I have witnessed many accidents afar from this point, as many people braved in crossing the track in a way to cut their long walk heading to the other side of the road,” continued by Pilo.
It must be fairly evident now to Gabriel that he needs to dwell on the age-old warning of Stop, Look and Listen which is the most sensible thing that he can do.
Mr. Pilo gave Gabriel some tips to remember while riding a train. During his travels, Gabriel should stay track on the exact location of every signal that he gets to see and try to remember any remarkable things behind those signals. Gabriel should be aware not only on the physical condition of the train but also of the crew who is manning the train.
Mr. Pilo shared many stories to Gabriel, like accidents whose fate caused by humans themselves. Lack of awareness was one thing that caused many railways’ death. Mostly careless crossing, unaware that there were two tracks to look at — the northbound and the southbound that caused their untimely death. Mr. Pilo as an experienced watchman and a book fanatic about train survival guide had also shared few tips that might help to survive a train mishap. Mr. Pilo pointed out the importance of finding the safest seat which will prevent him from any kind of collision. It will be a safe seat in the middle section of the car during a collision and if it was a derailment–the one seated on a car at least one or two back from the center of the train will be a safe seat. But nobody will ever foresee an accident. If one had to choose which side of a seat was safer, one must grab an aisle seat which was the rear-facing aisle seat toward the back of the train. It was also self-explanatory to always pay attention to announcement from train conductor for any situation inside and outside the train. Mr. Pilo also explained the importance of using every emergency alarm to alert the train driver. If there was a need to jump off a train, one needed to jump off at the end of the last car. The last car was at least running slow and it was safe to jump off at this pace. Mr. Pilo talked about the location of all emergency windows and the proper pulling off the rubber ring colored red to lift it and also with the panel of its doors. Mr. Pilo also advised Gabriel to familiarize himself with the different emergency signs located inside the train. Mr. Pilo finally instructed Gabriel that during a helter-skelter situation, he must always be alert in analyzing the situation and must be loaded with much of unswerving determination to survive and save other lives if he can.