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Creating an Industrial Empire in 19th Century Parallel World

Chapter 29 A Tragic News That Shocked The Country

A week later. In Pittsburgh Pennsylvania.

In the quality control center of the Axelsen & Nielsen Air Brake Company. Poul performed an inspection in the quality control, which is the most important part of every manufacturing process as it will determine if the product is defective or not.

He watched as the quality control officer conducted a visual inspection, mechanical testing, and chemical analysis on the air brake and locomotive draft gear device, which is mostly made of cast iron. So far, they are doing quite well until one of them earned his attention.

"Check it again," Poul said as walked forward to one of the quality control officers who jolted in his seat as he heard his boss's voice.

"What's the matter, sir?"

"The one you performed a test on just now, has five millimeters of impression diameter. The passing number is two point five to four point seventy-five millimeters of impression diameter," Poul said as he checked the testing equipment for himself. "Yeah, I was correct. Above five millimeters is considered a defect, why did you mark it as passed?"

"Eh?" the officer rubbed his eyes and took a look at the measurement again. Poul was right, it was five millimeters. A bead of sweat formed on his forehead as he feared that he might lose his job. "I'm sorry, Mister Poul…it won't happen again."

"Make sure you don't" Poul chided him lightly. "Our company's purpose is to create a device that would make trains safe. If the device we created is defective, then how are we going to live up to that purpose?"

"I'm very sorry, boss! I swear I will thoroughly inspect the air brake before I mark it."

"This is only your last chance. I won't allow defective products to leave my company. Is that understood?" Poul raised his voice as he wanted everyone to hear his words.

"Yes sir!" the quality control officers replied in unison.

Poul nodded in satisfaction. "Good. Now carry on with your work."

"Yes sir!" They replied in unison.

As he resumed watching over their performance, one of the workers walked up to him.

"Sir Poul. Sir Jonathan wants to see you in the office. He said it's urgent."

"Did he tell you what it is?" Poul arched his brow, wondering what type of urgency they are dealing with here.

"No sir. He just said that you are needed in the office right now," the worker answered.

"I see, so I guess it's that serious huh?" Poul hummed. "Okay, I'll go there."

After saying that, Poul quickly exited the factory and jogged into the main office. Poul took a deep breath before going in. Inside, he saw Jonathan sitting behind a desk with his face covered with an unfolded newspaper.

"Let me guess, another railroad company got interested in the air brake and ordered thousands?" Poul said as he walked over to a chalkboard with papers posted on it. The papers contained graphical reports of the performance of the Axelsen & Nielsen Air Brake Company and the Axelsen & Nielsen Union Switch and Signal Company.

"Oh look at these exponential curves…so sexy," Poul said in a seductive tone. "I wish that it continues growing that way."

"You are partially correct. The Louisville and Nashville Railroad Company, Illinois Central Railroad Company, and the St. Louis Southwestern Railway Company granted us a contract of retrofitting fifty percent of their locomotive fleet. Well, fifty percent may be a huge percentage but the number of their locomotives is not. So I'd say we'll take the job."

"We just keep receiving and receiving orders from one railroad company to another. Looks like we will have to upgrade our factory to increase our production capacity to meet the demand."

"Oh it will take a lot more than that," Jonathan said as he continued reading the newspaper. "As I said, your guess was partially correct. Though there are some important deals made, it wasn't the reason why I called you here."

"So tell me what it is already," Poul demanded. He sat down in the other chair across Jonathan's table and waited impatiently. "Could it be that one of the trains fitted with air brakes got into an accident?" Poul thought. "Shit…I knew this would happen."

"No that's not it. Have you read the news?" Jonathan asked.

"I haven't touched a newspaper for over ten days thanks to our demanding work. So are you going to keep me in suspense or are you going to tell me?"

Jonathan sighed and tossed him the newspaper. "See it for yourself."

Poul caught the newspaper and skimmed through the articles quickly. As he read, he saw a series of headlines stating: One of Wanderbilt Express Trains Caught in a Catastrophic Accident. Poul read on as he wanted to learn more about the accident. It was stated that two of Wandervilt's daughters and a Senator from New Brunswick were on that train. They died, along with thirty passengers. Five are in critical condition. It is dubbed as the worst train accident in the century.

"This is quite sad. I believe he is one of the owners who are slow to adopt our air brake systems right?" Poul asked.

"Yes. This is going to be a bad optic for his company. I just also read on the news that his stock is falling. I heard the news from Mister Morgan. He asked us if we could entertain journalists from the New York Times, Hartford Courant, and the Washington Post for comment."

"Wait, why would they like to hear our comments about this accident?"

"Because just like every businessman out there, he saw an opportunity from tragedy. He wants us to blame him for the accident for not adopting our air brake system while appearing sensitive and concerned for those who have passed away. Can you do it?"

"You are asking me to face the journalist all by myself while subtly slandering Wanderbilt?"

"Morgan said you'd say that so he wants you to be assured that every businessman does that on a regular basis."

Poul scoffed. "Well, Wanderbilt owns the largest railroad company in the United States of Avalonia, I'm sure this tragedy would be a wake-up call for him to adopt the air brake system."


One day later, in the Axelsen & Nielsen Air Brake Company Headquarters. Journalists from three major news agencies arrived. They congregated inside the office. They wore formal clothes just like everyone else. Black suit, top hats. Instead of a microphone or camera, they were holding notes and pencils.

"Uhm…Poul Nielsen, are you ready?" one of the journalists asked. He is a black man, appearing to be in his middle thirties. His name is Donovan Johnson from New York Times.

Poul nodded.

"So, Mister Nielsen. Can you explain to us briefly how your air brake systems work?"

"Well, the air brake system is a type of braking system for locomotives that uses compressed air that pushes the piston, which in turn pushes the rod where the brake shoe is connected. And the brake shoe is pressed against the wheel where the resulting friction slows the train down through a principle of the first law of thermodynamics," Poul explained.

"Have any of the trains retrofitted with your systems got in an accident?" Donovan followed with another question.

"No, because if the train fitted with our air brake system got in an accident, we would have been informed."

"So you are saying that your air brake system works?"

"I can guarantee wholeheartedly that my air brake system works. Because if not we would have been out of business."

The journalist erupted into chuckles as they scribbled down notes, taking note of what Poul was saying.

"Have you heard about the train accident of one of Wandervilt's express trains? Where two of his daughters and a Senator from New Brunswick died, along with thirty passengers."

"Yes, I was aware of the news."

"Care to take a comment about that."

Poul sighed and thought of the words Jonathan said to him about defaming Wanderbilt. They are running a business here, and Wanderbilt company is a huge untapped market for them. If they get him to adopt their air brake, that would mean a fortune for the company. But it also carries risk, what if Wanderbilt got pissed about his comment. Instead of attracting him, they would only push him away.

Well here goes nothing. Poul continued.

"To be honest. I am filled with less grief than anger because none of this would have happened if Wanderbilt adopted our air brake system," Poul declared. "He was one of my potential clients but he showed no interest in the safety features our product brings on his locomotive. Hear me now, everyone, as this is the last time you'll hear it from me. Our company was born out of tragedy and we vowed to make a device so that it won't happen again, and no lives are taken away from a mechanical failure that can be easily solved. But it turns out, Wanderbilt only cared about the money flowing into his pocket, not the lives that his locomotive is carrying from one point to another."

The journalist was taken aback at Poul's statement but regained composure quickly.

"Just to be clear on that point, Mister Nielsen. You said Wanderbilt is one of your potential clients but refused to adopt the system under the pretense that he didn't care for the lives of the passengers that his locomotive is transporting. Are you saying that the companies who didn't adopt your air brake system don't have an iota of concern for the lives of their passengers?"

Poul scoffed softly and chuckled. "You know that I can't say that, Mister Donovan. But I believe that you all can," he smiled.

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