TRIVIAL PURSUITS: How Can People Be Thrown From a Vacant Car?

July 26, 2011 ( - Yesterday’s “on this day” contained the following reference; “In 1832, the first recorded railroad accident in U.S. history occurred when four people were thrown off a vacant car on the Granite Railway near Quincy, Massachusetts.” 

Which led several readers to ask, “how do you throw four people off a “vacant” car?”   

Answer:  The victims had been invited to view the process of transporting large and weighty loads of stone.  The accident occurred while the wagon— (now) empty of stone but (now) carrying the four passengers—was ascending the Incline on its return trip, when a cable on a vacant car broke, throwing them off the train and over a 34-foot cliff.  

One man (Thomas B. Achuas, of Cuba) was killed and the others were seriously injured. 

By the way, the Granite Railway is popularly termed the first commercial railroad in the United States, as it was the first chartered railway to evolve into a common carrier without an intervening closure.  The railway ran three miles from quarries to the Neponset River. Its wagons had wheels 6 feet (1.8 m) in diameter and were pulled by horses.  The Granite Railway was actually formed to help transport granite – that was used to build the Bunker Hill monument.