July 25

This Day in History

General Interest

Jul 25, 1832:

The first railroad accident

The first recorded railroad accident in U.S. history occurs when four people are thrown off a vacant car on the Granite Railway near Quincy, Massachusetts. The victims had been invited to view the process of transporting large and weighty loads of stone when a cable on a vacant car snapped on the return trip, throwing them off the train and over a 34-foot cliff. One man was killed and the others were seriously injured.

The steam locomotive was first pioneered in England at the beginning of the 19th century by Richard Trevithick and George Stephenson. The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad began operation in 1828 with horse-drawn cars, but after the successful run of the Tom Thumb, a steam train that nearly outraced a horse in a public demonstration in 1830, steam power was added. By 1831, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad had completed a line from Baltimore to Frederick, Maryland.

The acceptance of railroads came quickly in the 1830s, and by 1840 the nation had almost 3,000 miles of railway, greater than the combined European total of only 1,800 miles. The railroad network expanded quickly in the years before the Civil War, and by 1860 the American railroad system had become a national network of some 30,000 miles. Nine years later, transcontinental railroad service became possible for the first time.

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