There was a man named James “Jumper” Wide, who worked for the railway in Uitenhage, near Port Elizabeth, in the late 1800’s.

“Jumper” got his nickname by jumping between train cars. This was until he miscalculated and lost the use of both his legs. I wonder if people still called him Jumper, or if everyone immediately started calling him James?

The story gets even more bizarre – James had a pet baboon named Jack.

Over time James trained Jack to help push his wheelchair around, and even to change the train signals. As you can imagine if Jack got a signal wrong, trains could crash, and mass casualties would probably ensue.

What’s more impressive is that Jack apparently never got the signals wrong, and upper management believed in his skills so much they employed him at 20c per day, and half a bottle of beer per week.

He worked for the railway for 9 years before unfortunately succumbing to tuberculosis.

Some of Jack’s remains can be found at the Albany Museum in Grahamstown.

Jack.signalman
image from Wikipedia