Congress passed the Railroad Safety Appliance Act in 1893 following decades of rail building across the United States. It provided uniformity to railroad safety standards.
The legislation, in part, barred railroads from using locomotives not equipped with a power driving-wheel brake and appliances for operating the train-brake system. Trains needed a sufficient number of cars equipped with power or train brakes, allowing the engineer to control a train’s speed without requiring a brakeman to use a hand brake.
The law allowed railroads to refuse cars from railroads not in compliance with the brake mandate.
It also barred common carriers from using cars not equipped with automatic couplers, eliminating the need for workers to go between the ends of the cars.
The measure was initially titled “An Act to Promote the Safety of Employees and Travelers upon Railroads by Compelling Common Carriers Engaged in Interstate Commerce to Equip Their Cars with Automatic Couplers and Continuous Brakes and Their Locomotives with Driving-wheel Brakes, and for Other Purposes.”