On July 25, 1832, America recorded its first ever railroad accident. While only one person was killed, it served as the beginning of a long road to improved safety in our cross-country transportation.
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The accident took place on Granite Railway near Quincy, Massachusetts, after several people were invited to watch the process of transporting heavy loads of stone — after all, being able to quickly move literal tons of rock was a fairly new phenomenon. Of course you would want to see something like that for the first time.
Unfortunately, on the return trip, a cable on a vacant car snapped due to the heavy loads, and four men were pitched off the train and over a 34-foot cliff. The fact that only one man died was a bit astounding; the other four suffered serious injuries.
The adoption of rail came pretty quickly in America. People on this continent watched the way railroads were able to connect previously disparate parts of Europe and the United Kingdom, and it looked to be a lot more efficient than our previous attempts at transporting large, heavy loads: canals.
That said, in those early days, rail lines were fairly short and were largely used to aid in connecting canals or transporting heavy goods like building supplies from canals and to their ultimate location. It wasn’t until the First Transcontinental Railroad was built in the 1860s that Americans were able to freely travel across the country. It was Abraham Lincoln’s era-appropriate version of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway System.