Early on in the book, the engineer running the Comet stopped for hours at a broken signal and spent hours waiting for someone to tell him what to do.

However, later we see that almost every engineer working for Taggart Transcontinental volunteered for the first run of the John Galt Line (and that numerous other staff members volunteered for other positions as well). The only exception were 3 who were incapable of doing so for various reasons (e.g. the fact that one of them was in jail for reckless driving).

I suppose that it's possible that the aforementioned engineer of the Comet was either one of the three or had left the company by then, but there's a good chance that he was one of the people to volunteer. Even if he wasn't, odds are there were plenty of people like him who volunteered.

That being the case, Dagney decided who got to drive it by randomly drawing a name. There's no indication that either her or Eddie had done anything to screen out the obviously bad engineers. She drew one of the best engineers on the line, but that appears to be more luck than anything else.

Why did all of the engineers volunteer? And why would Dagney leave the selection to chance?


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For the same reason that a lot of people responded positively to Reardon's speech at his trial.

As Hank Reardon reflected at his trial:

The guilt is ours, [Hank] thought. If we who were the movers, the providers, the benefactors of mankind, were willing to let the brand of evil be stamped upon us and silently to bear punishment for our virtues - what sort of "good" did we expect to triumph in the world?

He looked at the people around him. They had cheered him today; they had cheered him by the side of the track of the John Galt Line. But tomorrow they would clamor for a new directive from Wesley Mouch and a free housing project from Orren Boyle, while Boyle's girders collapsed upon their heads. They would do it, because they would be told to forget, as a sin, that which had made them cheer Hank Reardon.

Why were they ready to renounce their highest moments as a sin? Why were they willing to betray the best within them? What made them believe that this earth was a realm of evil where despair was their natural fate? He could not name the reason, but he knew that it had to be named. He felt it as a huge question mark within the courtroom, which it was now his duty to answer.

In a real sense, then, people wanted to believe the truth. Given a reason, they could "come out of their stupor" in a sense. These people, while they were "caught up" in the bad philosophy of the day, apparently lacked the fundamental malice of Jim Taggart and Wesley Mouch. They were still capable of responding to the truth, unlike people like Dr. Robert Stadler (who knew better) or Wesley Mouch (who was fundamentally malicious and power-hungry).

In terms of why Dagney seemingly chose at random, the book doesn't really answer this. However, I suspect that the fact that someone volunteered would, in and of itself, seem to suggest that they were up for the job. In that moment, they saw the value of the John Galt Line, which suggested that they would be able to run it.

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