The Bussey Bridge Train Disaster

The recent terrible disaster at the White River bridge, on the Central Vermont railroad, was paralleled, and, with the exception of the fire feature, almost exactly duplicated at Bussey bridge yesterday, on the Dedham branch of the Boston and Providence railroad. At White river four cars were thrown from the track upon a bridge seventy feet above a river, and went down with the bridge, resulting in the death of thirty-two people and the injury of nearly forty more. At Bussey bridge six cars were thrown from the track upon a dry bridge forty feet above the highway, and, with the bridge, crashed down into the street, resulting in the death, according to latest reports, of thirty-two people, and the wounding of from forty to sixty more. At White river the engine and two cars passed safely over the bridge and their occupants escaped as by miracle. At Bussey bridge the engine and three cars passed safely over and their human freight escaped with only a jar.

One of the first bodies reached was that of a woman who was pinned down in the car, with the face jammed down between two sills, and in a most shocking condition, That she was alive seemed doubtful; still the body was moved, when, to the terror of her rescuers, it was found that the head and one arm were severed from the body as though done with a knife.”

— Boston Post

The Bussey Bridge, toward which 200 souls in nine fragile coaches were heading, was by any standards, a peculiar structure. It crossed the street at an incredibly oblique angle, its spindly iron trusswork bridging a gap of some 120 feet between high granite abutments. So sharp was the angle of the span that the floor beam which ran from the center of the truss on one side rested on the end of the truss which supported the other side of the bridge. Its design was such that certain structural members carried a disproportionate share of the load of every locomotive and car passing over the structure. And this was a violation of the laws of physics and mechanics that would not be tolerated forever.