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This monkey operated train signals for nine years without making a single mistake

He became an African railway signalman's trusted work companion and made his job much easier with his skills and precision.

This monkey operated train signals for nine years without making a single mistake
Cover Image Source: YouTube | Half as Interesting

We might have seen or heard how sometimes animals and humans work alongside each other in harmony without creating chaos and disrupting lives. The same happened with James and Jack. Upon seeing Jack, a baboon, expertly leading an ox wagon at a market, James Wide, an African railway signalman known as Jumper, decided to hire him as his assistant. Jumper's legs were severed due to a train accident. Even though he had wooden legs and a wooden cart to do his job at the Uitenhage station, he still needed assistance. However, he never thought he would find that through the monkey, who became his trusted work companion

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Erik Karits

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Erik Karits

Jack gained popularity for his adept management of train signals. The monkey even got so good at wheeling around Jumper's cart, changing the train signals and handing the conductor the keys that he never made a mistake for all the nine years he worked with the disabled signalman at the station. The signalman and his baboon, Jack, worked at Cape Town, South Africa, on the Port Elizabeth Mainline Railroad in the late 1800s, per History Daily.

He was a quick learner and would pick up on things while watching Jumper, per All That Interesting. Jack's training was relatively simple. Jumper taught him how to change the signal by holding a finger or two and teaching him to pull the lever related to that action. Jack also observed that Jumper would get up to give a conductor his keys whenever a train came into the station and blasted four whistles, a signal that the conductor needed his keys. Soon enough, Jack started understanding this signal and would deliver the conductor his keys without any assistance from Jumper whenever he heard the four whistles go off. Jumper's work had become easier after Jack's arrival, making things quite smooth sailing for the duo. When people learned of a baboon operating the train signals, they were intrigued and would often come around to see what was happening.

Nevertheless, the sight of a baboon, albeit a highly intelligent one, operating train signals was undeniably unusual. Hence, quite a few people raised concerns about the safety issues of Jack operating the signals even though Jumper closely monitored everything. The authorities were informed about these unusual workings and surprisingly, they had no clue that a baboon had been operating the signals even though many people knew that Jumper had hired an assistant to help him around. As soon as the authorities realized what was happening, they fired the duo. Jumper requested the authorities to give him a chance to explain himself.

He also requested the authorities to observe Jack at work once. Somehow, the railroad manager who had arrived to address the concern agreed to test Jack's skills. An engineer was instructed to sound the train's signals and the manager watched in wonder as Jack correctly changed the signals and kept looking at the train to ensure that he wasn't making a mistake. Just like Jumper, the manager was impressed by Jack and decided he was indeed up for the job. He even made Jack an actual employee by offering him 20 cents and half a bottle of beer per week as salary, per the outlet.


Jack didn't disappoint either of the two people who put their faith in him. He never made a mistake for the next nine years. Later, he contracted tuberculosis and passed away. His skull has been on display at Albany Museum in Grahamstown, South Africa, for people to witness his reality. K. T. Johnston wrote a picture book named "Railway Jack: The True Story of an Amazing Baboon" about Jack and Jumper to celebrate the service of animals and the unexpected friendships they create with humans.

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