Railway Safety and the Machine-Ensemble

L1070003 copy L1060710 copy

L1060715 copy

I’ve been working, over the summer, on my book about the safety posters produced by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. This has involved quite a lot of photography, and I now have a large number of high-re digital files of terrific poster designs.

In the book, I’ve used the term machine-ensemble. This seems to have caused some confusion. Largely, because it is a term that is unfamiliar to people. Actually, it’s quite easy to understand…and I’ve posted about the origins of this term, here


Nowhere is the machine ensemble more evident than in the extensive railway networks of the developed economies. As the machines grow in number and move more quickly; they become increasingly powerful. That’s just physics. But, their power is also expressed as a form of psychological brutality and experiences as trauma.

Nowadays, the machine-ensemble is solid-state and digital. Weirdly, it has no moving parts, but travels at the speed of light. We don’t know what digital disaster will look like. It could be nasty.

The posters, shown above, are specifically about railway safety. The first is from the 1930s. The second and third are from from the 1950s. They’re still about the dangers of a steam-powered machine ensemble. LC, the designer, is Leonard Cusden.

If anyone knows anything about Leonard Cusden, please let me know. I’d love to know more.

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