“Baboon Railway Man” in South Africa: Baboon Labor Story of Railway Volunteer Jack | Cultural Perspective | udn Global

“It’s not a baboon, it’s my brother!” said Jack the baboon and his owner Wilder, who work at the Uitenhage station in South Africa. picture…

“The baboon railroad man who is already working before he evolves…?”

In South Africa in 1880, a British lady was on a train bound for Cape Town, the capital. Just like the daily life of the upper class at that time, she was enjoying the scenery and sunshine by the window gracefully.when menstruationUitenhage(now renamed Kariega) near the station, the train gradually slowed down. At this time, the lady suddenly saw a big monkey standing next to the railway track switch (switch)! She rubbed her eyes, thinking she was wrong.But the next scene refreshed her three views even more, because the monkey (actually a baboon) came to theSwitchNext to the signal pole, the switch and the signal plate are turned! Then the train started, and the lady saw the monkey standing beside the railway, monitoring the train like a station attendant, watching the train leave.

The lady was dumbfounded, and at the same time felt a bit of fear. She didn’t understand why such an important matter as railway safety would be handed over to a monkey. It was possible to send it off, so she immediately went to the train conductor to ask for clarification, but what she didn’t expect was that the train conductor didn’t take it seriously and advised her not to be angry, because the baboon had been working here for several years and had never Nothing went wrong.

After listening to the train conductor’s words, the lady felt that the strange knowledge had increased. After the train arrived at the station, the lady immediately complained to the superior of the South African Railway Bureau (British Colonial Administration), and the pressured Railway Bureau quickly dispatched commissioners to investigate.

After some training, Jack learned to follow the instructions to operate the switch and the signal lever, and he was able to skillfully turn the route and lift the signal…

▌Jump and Jack

As for why this baboon appeared on the railway tracks, the story must first jump back to 1877.

James Edwin Wide is a merchandise salesman for the South African Railways. The commodity salesmen at that time were not like today’s train attendants who sold with the train. They could only spend a short time at the window when the train stopped on the platform or hurriedly got on and off the train to sell and sell. But Wade was different. When it was running slowly, he waited for an opportunity to jump onto the carriage next to the track and continue to buy time to sell. Because of this skill, he also became the ace salesman of the railway bureau. “Brother” (Jumper) title.

Changing from a peddling brother to a jumping brother, the generous bonus also made Huaide work harder to hop around the carriages to collect gold coins. However, the good times didn’t last long. During a certain jump, Wade accidentally crashed into the space between two trains and fell. He lost both his legs in the accident.

Wade fitted himself with a prosthetic limb and said that he can still move. He hoped that the Railway Bureau would not dismiss him because of this, but perhaps because of his outstanding performance before, which brought a lot of revenue to the Railway Bureau. The South African Railway Bureau is also very happy. Humanely arranged for him a position that does not require a lot of walking, that is, the No. 1 volunteer at Uitenhage station.

The clever Wade converted the handcart on the track (for inspecting the railway track or transporting materials) into his own wheelchair, and used it as a means of transportation between his home and the station, but the half-mile journey was still too much for him. Wilder was miserable.

One day, when Huaide was shopping in the market, he saw a surreal thing—he saw a bullock cart coming towards him, and the one driving the bullock cart was actually a big monkey! At that moment, Wilder felt that the strange knowledge had increased, so he immediately stepped forward to ask the owner about this big monkey, more precisely, this South African big baboon (chacma baboon, scientific name dolphin-tailed baboon). After talking to the baboon’s owner, Wyder learned that the baboon could be trained to understand simple commands and was strong enough to do some pushing, pulling and carrying. Wyder immediately decided to buy the baboon to push him to and from work. , and began to negotiate with the master.

Wilder and Jack meet in the market.Figure / “Railway Jack” picture book
A South African station built in the 1870s.Figure/Wikimedia Commons

Maybe it was touched by White’s disability, or maybe White paid a good price. In any case, White successfully bought the baboon and named it Jack. Before leaving, the owner said to White: If you want Jack to work hard, you must give him a glass of “delicious brandy” every night, because without brandy, Jack will be angry and ignore everyone the next day.

At first, Wilder just trained Jack to push a handcart to take him to and from work every day, but it didn’t take long for Wilder to realize that Jack was much smarter than he imagined, and he could almost imitate most of his movements, which moved Wilder. Thinking about it, I thought maybe Jack could be trained to do other tasks.

One of Wade’s jobs is to distinguish the signal of the train whistle and provide relevant support. For example, when the steam train honks 4 times in a hurry, it means that the train needs to add coal, and Wade will start from the lock. Take out a key to the coal warehouse from the box in your chest, and give the key to the driver when the train passes the signal room. After working together for a few days, Jack started to notice this and quickly started grabbing the keys before the 3rd whistle and rushed out of the barracks to hand them out, much to Wilder’s amazement and conviction Jack can be more than just his caretaker and pet.

After some training, Jack learned to follow Wilder’s instructions to operate the switch and the signal pole, and he was able to turn the route and raise and lower the signal board proficiently. I also learned to listen to the driver’s whistle, distinguish whether to add water, coal, forward and backward, or switch the car next, and make corresponding operations. For Wyatt, it is really exciting, because from now on, he just needs to be a supervisor and lie down to do it, and the other Jack can almost do it all by himself. Of course, Wyatt has never hesitated to give Jack the fruits, cereals, snacks, etc. A reward for a hard day’s work.

Soon, the staff of the railway bureau knew the volunteer of the baboon at Uitenhage station, and also knew that Wilder and the baboon had a good relationship. The two often hung shoulder to shoulder like brothers. Jack gradually became a star at the train station. Everyone likes to ask Jack to help with some things. Jack has always worked hard and won the love of his colleagues. The news gradually spread and attracted many tourists and residents, even local politicians and opinion leaders. It should be noted that the signal room at Uitenhage station has become a well-known tourist attraction. Jack’s super popularity has also increased a lot of revenue and reputation for the South African Railway Bureau and Uitenhage, and Jack’s zero-error work performance has never changed for the railway cause any trouble.

In this way, the happy years lasted for four or five years, until the complaints of the lady and other passengers occurred.

Jack pushes the handcart to take Wilder to and from get off work every day. Figure/Twitter
The staff of the railway bureau all know the baboon volunteer at Uitenhage station, and also know the relationship between Wade and the baboon…

▌Baboons are not waste

At first, the South African Railways only knew that there was a station worker at Uitenhage station who was injured due to a work-related injury, and hired an assistant to work. But when the investigator came to Uitenhage and saw Jack, he wrote a report and submitted it to the General Administration without further ado. Huaide was dismissed on the grounds of competence and the relevant supervisors were held jointly and severally liable.

Although Wade was fired, he always believed that Jack was an “employee” who was competent and even better than everyone else, so Wade went to petition many times, and the station staff and cadres also stood up to testify that Jack had never made any mistakes. Coupled with the fact that fans who love Jack continue to go to the local government to protest, the senior management of the South African Railway Bureau, who did not expect to cause public outrage, actually agreed to re-evaluate and promised to give Jack a chance to test.

To ensure that Jack can handle the most complex situations, the examiner places Jack in front of a set of control rods configured in the same configuration as the signal room, and then issues a series of different variations of the whistle to it. After the test results came out, the senior management of the railway bureau was shocked, because Jack got a perfect score! Even better than other human employees.

The South African Railway Bureau decided to formally re-employ Jack, not only gave Jack an official employee code name, but also gave him a salary comparable to that of humans in the same position, which is 20 cents a day (about 5 U.S. dollars today), and a daily salary of 20 cents. Staff meals and a glass of beer on weekends. In addition, when the railway bureau heard that Jack liked to drink, they specially batched the goods to the station and gave Jack a small glass of brandy every day. drink.

Since then, at this small transfer station heading to Port Elizabeth, Cape Town, people passing by can see Jack busy in and out, and people will give Jack bananas, drinks, etc. as tips from time to time , thank Jack for bringing joy and peace to their journey, and Jack seems to enjoy this job very much. After turning the switch, he will stand by the railway with Wilder and watch the train leave.

Figure / “Railway Jack” picture book

According to reports, Jack worked for the South African Railway Bureau for a total of 9 years without any mistakes during this period. Jack died of tuberculosis in 1890. After Jack passed away, Wilder was heartbroken, and it also made people sad that a sincere friendship across species ended, but this one can be called the baboon version.“Sea Diver”The story of the story has also become a local legend in South Africa, passed down to later generations, and Jack’s skull is also stored in the Albany Museum (Grahamstown) for display, for future generations to remember this good story.

“Jack knows what a signal pole is and what each pole does as well as I do,” said George B. Howe, director of the South African Railways. He visited Wilder and Jack around 1890. “I was so moved to see how much he loved his owner. They were all sitting on the cart when I approached. Jack had his arms around his neck and his other hand was stroking Wilder’s face.”

It turns out that hiring Jack is a wise move for the railway bureau, because Jack not only attracts tourists from all over to take the train, but also is a loyal guard who often drives away vandals and thieves. In addition to being a guard and signalman, Jack also received training in cleaning and handling railway ties during his time at the company.

The story of Jack and Wilder has successfully told the world that as long as the employer is willing to treat its employees equally and give them opportunities, then the employees will be able to repay the corresponding performance, even far exceeding the expectations of the employer. At least, as the ceiling of the baboon world, Jack also showed the fact that even if you want to find a monkey to work, you can’t get it done with just one banana.

The South African Railway Bureau decided to formally re-employ Jack, not only gave Jack an official employee code name, but also gave him a copy of the same position as a human…


This story was first reported by The Nature magazine on January 24, 1890, and was corrected for the first time since the publication of Nature magazine on October 25, 1990. The text corrected some of the process of Wilder and Jack’s encounter, and The place where the story takes place, etc., but it does not affect the general content of the original story.

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