Driving in a big city can be tough enough, what with pedestrians darting out everywhere and potholes and taxi drivers that seem to have a death wish. But hey, at least you don't run the risk of getting hit by a giant goddamn train every day.
This isn't a trolley or a grade crossing, either, but rather a real train, coming down a real street. It's like that train in Inception.
For over 80 years, freight trains would rumble down the West Side of Manhattan carrying goods up to the stock yards in Midtown, as shown in the glorious photo up top from the H.A. Dunne Archives (where you can buy prints). In 1929 the tracks were elevated and the High Line was built, ending the practice of trains driving down 10th Avenue and just going around hitting everything in their path. Instead, they rumbled above everyone's heads, just going around rattling and making a bunch of noise before the High Line itself was turned into a pretty neat park.
In case you were not one of those people who felt like getting hit by a train on your morning commute, a guy with a flag would ride on a horse in front of the train.
That was it. Your entire warning, besides the noise of the train itself, was a guy with a flag. No, not a bell, or a flashing light, or anything that would remotely help in case you had your back turned. A guy, with a flag, called a West Side Cowboy. They looked like this:
Now I feel totally safe.
Photo credits: H.A. Dunn Archive, Friends of the High Line