THE SIGNALMAN

The signalman wrenched the last heavy lever into place and watched the long freight train slide passed him.

He sat back at his old, beaten up desk, checked off the last piece of paperwork and filed it away.

That was it. No fanfare, no applause, no big farewell. Tomorrow morning the computers would take over, doing it all automatically.

He would start his new job as a supervisor, a new desk and chair in a modern new building in the centre of town, only a short walk from his house. The signalman smiled. He couldn’t wait to get started.


ceayr3
© CE Ayr

Written as part of the Friday Fictioneers challenge hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields (more details HERE). The idea is to write a short story of 100 words based on the photo prompt (above).

To read more stories based on this week’s prompt, visit HERE.

85 responses to “THE SIGNALMAN”

  1. A lovely little tale of technological change and its effect on people. I wasn’t expecting his response at the end, and, in truth, I was a little disppointed by it. I suppose because the trope of skills and pride disappearing is one we understand, whereas his reaction wasn’t motivated. It would be a more interesting one than the standard trope if we knew why he felt this

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Neil. I wanted to show that not everyone is scared or put off by technology change making life easier. The natural thin is to feel sorry for the workers, but I’m sure there are some who welcome change. With more words I would have emphasised cold days, broken old machinery, train delays, old bones and tired muscles, and so his reaction is to a nice comfortable new job to see out his final years of work.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. I have to agree with Neil. We’ve seen leaps and bounds of technological progress in my field (printing) over the last 40 years, but at the same time a tremendous loss in craftsmanship. Anyone can push a button, but it took real skills back in the old days.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree with that Roger, and the same applies to a lot of creative industries. However, does a signalman require craft or artistry that is a loss to the world if it becomes pushing buttons instead? Pleased I’ve started a bit of a debate with this one.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Iain,

    Like Neil, I was expecting a different ending. Somehow I was comforted by his response to change. Nicely done.

    Shalom,

    Rochelle

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Rochelle, I was hoping to show that it’s possible see the good in change and the advances that technology can bring that helps us. It’s not all bad 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. on first read I conjured up an old man as the signalman, but then I re-read it and thought, this man is happy because he can out some of his training to use. that must have included training in automation. Additionally if he lived in a country with extreme weather conditions he would certainly welcome sitting behind computers and controlling the trains like he has always done. Nice little compact story Iain Kelly.

    Like

  4. Ah, very nice. I see signal man was happy, too, to get on with something else. Pretty good little yarn you’ve spun, Iain. Something positive. Nice!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, it felt like it was time for something a little more positive this week!

      Like

  5. Nicely told. I remember an episode of the second season of The Wire where the longshoremen’s union leader watches a presentation on automatic loading docks and sees the writing on the wall. All he can see with this technological wizardry is his children’s hungry faces.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love The Wire and remember this episode. Sometimes though I do think there is a romanticised idea about some of these industries and jobs – longshoreman would be one definitely – where it’s just obvious that machinery would make it all work better and smoother. It is a worry though in the decades to come – what jobs will there be left for humans to do?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I, too, thought of The Wire as I read this. Which is maybe why I why I was surprised by the narrator’s reaction. Nicely done, so much conveyed in so few words.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. A warm story with circles of underlying messages. Somehow, the traditional approach will be missed. Well-written.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Matthew. I agree it will be missed and hopefully maintained somewhere, but time and technology move on for us all eventually.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. A smooth and happy transition.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m so pleased he was pleased!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Such a refreshing twist at the end there, Iain. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Sandra, a happy ending for a change.

      Like

  10. I like the fact he was happy with the change in his job. We sometimes forget that technology – as well as putting folk out of work and breaking traditions – often makes peoples’ lives one hell of a lot easy. Just think of farming – one industry where back breaking labour has been reduced greatly. Nice tale, Iain and a lovely, upbeat ending

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Lynn, a happy ending for a change this week. And I’m glad you got the intention I was aiming for.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I love that you sent us on a different ending! I, too, was expecting sadness or anger and am happy you showed the other side.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Dale, glad you liked it 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  12. This tugged at my nostalgia and I was hoping that the last line was sarcasm but as I can see from the other comments, it wasn’t. My reaction was ‘Nooooooooo’. I am always so sad that things are torn down and replaced to make way for advances.
    Please forgive me Iain as my mind won’t let me believe he was happy in the end. Nostalgia beat reality for me on this occasion. Great piece, I always love writing that I battle with.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wasn’t expecting such strong reactions to this piece! Glad it provoked a strong response from you. As I say, I do think some of the industrial jobs that are being replaced are often romanticised, and those that have actually spent years doing the hard work and labour night actually be pleased to get some help! Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂

      Like

  13. I like the signalman’s attitude. Change does not always have to be bad. Great take on the prompt. I loved it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Many thanks, it seems to have divided opinion, I liked his attitude too 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Some old story. There are forward thinkers and backward goers. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  14. “And he lived happily ever after.” 🙂
    A well captured, satisfying moment in his life.
    (I tried your link to “read other stories HERE” and got nowhere. If no one else has this problem, then I must conclude my whatever isn’t in sync. Sigh.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comment. I’ll double check the link, thanks for pointing it out 🙂

      Like

  15. It is good to have work, and if the job gets lighter so be it.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I very much liked your story, Iain. Your words were very evocative and created a picture of what it is like to work as a signalman. I loved the contrasts that you created. He is leaving work in isolation to be a supervisor – working with people, not trains and machinery. He’s exchanging an old, beaten-up desk for a new desk and chair in a modern new building rather than a draughty signal box. He will have a short walk to work. No wonder he’s smiling. I would be too! In fact, I am smiling just thinking about it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your lovely comment Edith, I’m glad it gave you a smile and you saw the positive contrasts 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  17. A sad tale with an ending of hope and joy!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. This reminds me of the story a young woman I worked with wrote for a college class. It was to be the reaction of a slave newly freed after the Civil War. Her take? He didn’t WANT to be free, he felt safe right where he was. I wasn’t expecting that nor was I expecting your ending. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Alicia, interesting parallel.

      Like

  19. he got lucky. management must have thought he could still be trained. sadly, it wasn’t always the case. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sadly not, but a happy ending in this case.

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Lovely, a case where someone is happy the more menial side of their job is being automated and they’re not being laid off.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly, many thanks.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. A lovely surprise ending. Despite our nostalgic attachment to older ways, there’s a lot to be said for a warm and comfortable workplace.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Especially when it’s snowing like it is here today! Thanks Siobhan.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. I am so glad Lain you chose pragmatism over nostalgia. A really positive spin to what otherwise is a depressive reality. I particularly liked the visual contrasts you were able to draw out.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Ha, I love the way you turn nostalgia on its head here. Not everything modern is bad, and old stuff may be romantic, but also often inconvenient.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, glad you saw what I was aiming at 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  24. Despite the happy ending, it still made me a little sad. A bygone era to be sure.
    Thank you for stopping by my blog and commenting 🙂

    – Lisa

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Lisa, a lot of mixed reactions to this one, thanks for commenting 🙂

      Like

  25. Winds of change. I think somehow the old switches were more reliable. At least on my line.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hopefully when the work is finished you’ll get the benefit of modern technology without the unreliability.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have my fingers crossed. But they are not replacing technology only stations! Sigh…. so probably not

        Liked by 1 person

  26. Love the end… change is not always bad. Good for him to get an upgrade in job.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Nicely done. You got it all in

    Liked by 1 person

  28. His reaction to the march of technology makes a refreshing change at the end and a good twist, although like others I have a certin lament for the loss of old skills

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Michael, this seems to be the most common reaction.

      Like

  29. A bag of mixed emotions. Time to move on and embrace the new.

    …when I grow up! My tale.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Really enjoyed your story. Lot’s to think about either way, but I loved the positive take. Out with the old & in with the new, at least for him. Great twist that I didn’t see coming. Also, thanks for the feedback today, I really appreciate it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comment Steve. Look forward to reading more of your work.

      Liked by 1 person

  31. I like his acceptance to change. The nostalgic feel at the beginning added to how far he had come in his job and ability to change.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. At first I was a little sad… I thought that much like many other jobs, technology was taking this poor guys job away. Was very happy to see it turned into a promotion for him and he can finally enjoy a break in his manual labor.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, glad you saw the positive in the story 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  33. A nice bit of fiction here, Iain. I think it is the rare person who accepts change the way your signalman does.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Honie, I agree.

      Like

  34. At least he gets a slower pace to retire from.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. Ha ha, I thought he was going to hate hate the thought of a desk job!

    Liked by 1 person

  36. Like some of the other commenters, i enjoyed the surprise happy ending. Technology isn’t always a bad thing, although there are many occasions when has a negative impact on lives

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Like everything it brings benefits and penalties in equal measure, although I think we are predisposed to fear change. Thanks for reading.

      Like

      1. I agree. I really don’t like change but I know it’s (mostly) an irrational fear

        Liked by 1 person

  37. Alas, far too common, how everything has become automated. I know it’s progress, but I am becoming “that” older woman who sees doom and gloom in change. Simple, lovely tale.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Dawn, I too feel like I’m part of that older generation already!

      Like

  38. lovely story and great use of that prompt.

    Liked by 1 person

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