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Boston & Worcester Railroad: What's in a Name?

On June 17, 1840, railroad locomotives crashed head on; this first "Cornfield Meet" of the Boston & Worcester Railroad was recorded in Westborough.

Boston & Worcester Railroad ~A Cornfield Meet, June 17, 1840

Since the Boston & Worcester Railroad was built in 1834, the system ran on a single track and relied exclusively on a telegraph system between local stations to maintain a safe-run schedule. However, this system was by no means foolproof. It wasn’t until 1843 that a second rail was added, significantly reducing the number of accidents while increasing the number of runs on the line. 

On June 17, 1840, the first head-on collision or Cornfield Meet of the Boston & Worcester Railroad was recorded in Westborough. The scheduled trains where running late due to the unusual heavy traffic generated by a political convention in Worcester. The accident was on the single track and involved a passenger train, the Lion, and a freight train named the William Penn.

The Lion, one of the first locomotives of the B&W, was given the OK to leave Westborough and proceed to Worcester. This train was a combination of passenger cars and refitted freight cars for passenger use to handle the enormous crowds that were heading to Worcester for a political rally for presidential candidate William Henry Harrison. 

At the same time, a regularly-scheduled freight train pulled by the William Penn, built by Baldwin Locomotives Co., started out from North Grafton heading to Boston. Without warning the trains met head on in the pastureland of the Nichols farm near the Fisher Street bridge

The estimated 20 injured passengers were loaded into the last car of the train and pushed by volunteer passengers to the Westboro Hotel for medical treatment. Although badly damaged, the two engines were returned to the Boston garage where they were rebuilt and returned to service. In 1853 the Lion would be returned to the garage, rebuilt and returned to service as the “Brookline.” Train service was halted for the day while railroad officials cleared the tracks.

This accident gave name to the Fisher St. Bridge as the: Seventeenth of June Bridge.

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