During the late 1800s a baboon was employed by the railroad as a signalman. He never once made a mistake and worked for the railroad until his death.
This is an interesting claim that says a Baboon was employed as a Signalman by a railroad during 1800s, and that he never made a mistake while working for the railroad until his death. The story is a fact, but does not convey complete information.
The remarkable story of Jack as the signalman baboon was described in Nov. 11, 1990 edition of The Telegraph newspaper, the detailed story of which was published in the July 24, 1890 issue of the science journal Nature.
Story in Detail
Jack, the baboon was owned by a railway man James Wide who lost both his legs in a railway accident in 1877, after which he took a post as signalman at Uitenhage station in the Cape, South Africa. About 4 years later, he saw a Chacma Baboon leading an ox wagon. So he bought the unusually intelligent animal to pull him around on a trolley.
Jack was put in charge of the coal yard keys and also did the station’s gardening, until Wide learnt that the baboon was skilled at operating signals. Jack learned each lever by name and was able to push them into position when a train approached at Uitenhage station. Wide would hold up one or two fingers (as a signal to the animal) and Jack would then pull the correct lever. Finally, Jack needed no instructions from his master and he really knew which lever to operate for each approaching train. Although the baboon was always under the eye of his master James Wide, Jack never made a mistake or required telling twice.
This way the baboon Jack became popular for his unusual act and was one of the sights of Uitenhage for many years, astonishing all the people who witnessed his unusual feat of operating railway signals. However, when a prominent lady complained about this to the railway authorities, both Jack and Wide were fired. Nonetheless, upon pleading from James Wide, the system manager tested and verified the adeptness of baboon Jack at operating signals. Wide got his job back and Jack was also hired, becoming the only baboon in history to go to work for the railroad. From that day, the baboon was known as Jack the Signalman. After 9 years of living with Wide, Jack died in 1890 after developing tuberculosis.
This interesting story of Jack, the baboon acting as a railway signalman is a very good example to prove that wisdom along with practice can create wonders!
Hoax or Fact:
Fact with some missing information.
Stranger Than Fiction: Jack the Signalman
History Archive: Railway Industry – Jack the Signalman