I have spent 4+ decades in the railroad industry, specifically freight and not passenger. That career has been split nearly 2/1 between domestic and international railroads with the latter being that of Egypt and Kazakhstan primarily. Regardless of the country and the type of railroad, there is one common driving issue. That is the point of VITALITY in providing safe train movements. Simply stated, Railroad Vitality is the means that ensures that only one train occupies a given portion of a track at any single point in time AND in moving forward to a designated extent. While there is equipment, e.g., wayside (RR's traffic lights), on a railroad that indicate track occupation by a train, that equipment is not VITAL. Such equipment only indicates a status of the track but is not the means that generates the train's 'movement authority' to be where it is and where it may proceed. Unfortunately, there so many individuals, including experienced RRers, that consider the signals to be vital. This last point was not really important until I was given the responsibility by a major freight railroad to develop the first system in North America to prevent train accidents due to human errors. That system is referred to as Positive Train Control (PTC), and it is now installed on the majority of rail tracks in the U.S. PTC is NOT vital, but it was falsely considered so by many individuals that could have led to an extensive and costly overdesign by those folks. Fortunately, my concerted effort to properly distinguish between vital and non-vital systems prevailed.

The concept of VITALITY can be applied to our lives as well as to how we keep our life's movements safe ... so as not to 'crash'. As with wayside signals on the railroads that indicate track occupancy only, BUT do not provide 'right to be there, there are so many indications as to our presence, our status, on the track of life. Unfortunately, these indications (possessions) are often used by many to foolishly determine their human vitality, their life's safety. The possessions are endless: sheepskins on the wall, BMW in the garage, corner office, Elder in the church, the neighborhood, club membership, etc. All of these can provide a false sense of vitality if indeed an individual does not have the proper mechanisms / means to recognize those actual issues that can threaten his/her existence.

For railroads, vitality is provided by having both the Knowledge of train positions (and speed in some cases) and the Intelligence (human, analog / digital analysis) to properly use the knowledge. But, how do those two factors apply to individuals?



When it comes to the source of an individual's intelligence there has been substantial studies as to nature vs. nurture, i.e., genetic vs. environment respectively. Specifically, credible studies have been made using twins, both fraternal and identical, recognizing that the former do not share perhaps 1/2 of the same genetics. I best quote the following from a source (not known at this point) on the internet.

"Given that identical and fraternal twins share the same environment, researchers were able to disentangle genetic and environmental factors, allowing researchers to reasonably attribute any similarity or difference in IQ between identical and fraternal twins to DNA. The researchers discovered that certain brain regions were highly heritable. It demonstrated a nearly identical correlation between the IQ scores of identical twins. While random pairs of people would be expected to have no correlation, fraternal twins demonstrated a certain degree of correlation between their IQ scores. However, it was less similar than that of identical twins. Even identical twins raised in separate households had a higher degree of similarity in their IQs than fraternal twins raised in the same household."

The bottom line of the above is that genetic factors play a significant role in an individual's intelligence.

Additional studies have been made as to children adopted. Again, I quote:

"As per adoption studies, adopted children exhibit intelligence similar to their biological parents, while their environment is more closely matched to that of their adoptive parents. This also provides evidence for the existence of a genetic component to intelligence.

Additionally, intelligence has been shown to run in families. Children born to parents with a high IQ are more likely to have a high IQ as well. This implies that parents pass on intelligence-related genes to their children."

In short, the above supports the point that genetics plays a significant role in the level of one's intelligence. However, as I present below, the environment can play a most important role in one's vitality as to obtaining knowledge regardless of inherited intelligence, I believe.



I am the product of a blue-collar environment. That is, my father was a steel worker, and I attended middle-class public schools in Pittsburgh - not private instituitions for the well-bred and/or well-off financially. Additionally, my BS/MBA are from Penn State and the University of Pittsburgh, respectively. - again non-prestigious institutions. There is no significant evidence in my family tree of other than average intelligence in either my father's or mother's family trees. Yet, it was my reportedly high IQ that got me scholarships, fellowships and loans for those instituitions to provide me the financial means to pursue higher education. In truth, I cannot definitively say that I did or did not inherit my level of intelligence given my parent's background. But what I do know is that my primary sources of knowledge have been such that I believe I have a high level of vitality. Contrarily, I argue that there are those with high IQs but with relatively little accumulated knowledge that have weakened vitality. Switching to the opposite positions, there are clearly individuals with low IQ but with substantial, relative accumlated knowledge that have a medium level of vitality. Lastly, there are those with low IQ and little accumulated knowledge that are the most vulnerable to life's perils.

One can view the 4 situations above as a VITALITY matrix.



This is where Hillary Clinton's point that "it takes a village' (orignally from Africa) applies. I believe we as a society are still failing to provide the nurturing of knowledge across a broad range of individuals of both low and high IQ. Granted, it is not necessarily a lack of trying in many cases. Economics, race, social class and other criteria place formidable barriers. Hence my opening statement: Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing.



For the understanding of those interested in the vitality of RR operations, there are two primary methods in the U.S. freight railroads that are extremely different as to technology. The first is 'signaled territory' where electronic circuits in the rail determine the presence of a train. The second is 'non signaled territory' where a manual or computerized 'train sheet' is used to keep track of the assignment of tracks to trains. The former is a century-old as to concept and quite complex as to ensuring its viability.  The latter is straightforward as to tracking the movement of trains, whether manually or via a computer. Both approaches are quite safe with the former providing much better throughput in complex operatons.



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