Thursday, July 18, 2013

Frog wars

From the woefully incomplete Wikipedia article, "It is generally the case that the second railway to arrive [at a junction] has to bear the cost of the special trackwork needed to cross the first. This includes the cost of any interlocking tower or signal box."

Thus, there was tremendous incentive to be the first railroad to reach a prime location, incurring extra costs on any latecomers.

This was called a "frog war", named after the "frog", the specialized rail piece that goes in the center of a junction and looks like a jumping frog.

Frog wars were dangerous.  In one case, after which is named the Grand Crossing area of Chicago, the second line was built secretly, to avoid the cost of the proper precautions, leading to a crash that killed 18.

I recommend "frog war" as also pertaining in software, where the second person to check in a change in a given location incurs the cost of merging with the first change.

I've lost a couple frog wars recently, but I'm hoping to win this next one...