THE RAILROAD ORDERS

An English journalist observing the Battle of Bull Run wrote that the odds of the combatants suffering death or serious injury was hardly worse than that of those working on the railroad. Though the comment was probably meant to be tongue in cheek, it did make a valid point; railroad work in the 1860's was quite dangerous and accidents leading to death and disability were altogether too common. It was for this reason that the railroad workers embraced the concept of the fraternal benefit society to provide themselves with death and disability coverage. Given the hazardous nature of their job, it was the only way many of them could obtain insurance.

There were a number of such societies formed. Shown here are jewels from the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, the Grand International Auxiliary to the BLE, the Order of Railroad Telegraphers, the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen, the Lady's Auxiliary to the BRT, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen and the Brotherhood of Railway Carmen. The jewel on the lower right emulating a pressure gauge is almost certainly railroad though it is difficult to determine which order. It is marked A.R.R.A.B.M. and INDIANAPOLIS 1910.

Though the fate of most fraternal benefit societies was to become commercial insurance companies, the railroad orders evolved into labor unions. In 1969, the four largest, the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen, the Order of Railway Conductors, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen, and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers merged to form the United Transportation Union. 

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