Bussey Bridge

South Street at Archdale Street, Roslindale

On March 14, 1887, the 7:00am commuter train left Roslindale station on its way to the Forest Hills stop. On board were somewhere between 200 and 300 passengers. As the train crossed the Bussey Bridge, the iron structure gave way and the passenger cars fell 40 feet or more (estimates vary) right through the bridge, killing at least 23 people and injuring more than 100 others.

Caption of illustration: “Massachusetts – the recent disaster at Forest Hills, on the Boston and Providence Railway – extricating the killed and injured immediately after the accident. Taken from a photo by D.W. Butterfield, Cambridgeport, Mass.” Source: Digital Commonwealth.

The Bussey Bridge was originally made of wooden trusses that were coated with tin for reasons of fire prevention, earning it the nickname “Tin Bridge.” By 1876, however, the entire bridge was made of iron. Following the fatal tragedy of 1887, an official investigation determined that bridge had been improperly designed and manufactured, and that it had gradually weakened from heavy usage. The Massachusetts Board of Railroad Commissioners also concluded that the Boston and Providence Railroad Company had been negligent in its managerial and inspection responsibilities. As a result of the disaster, railroad inspection regulations greatly improved across the country.

The wreckage also attracted a great number of viewers. Some claim that the viewing subsequently led many to decide to move to the area due to its beauty, thus spurring the growth of Roslindale.

Today, the rebuilt bridge, now made of cement and stone, stands as a memorial to the victims. The year of the accident, 1887, is engraved at the top of the bridge, and a small plaque explaining the event hides in the shadows on the left side (on the abutment) of the bridge on the Washington Street side.

Bussey Bridge, Summer 2014. Photo by Eleni Macrakis.

Getting there:

Orange Line or MBTA bus to Forest Hills Station. (0.8 miles, about a 16-minute walk.)

To learn more:

Boston 200 Corporation. Roslindale. Boston, Boston 200 Corporation, 1975.

Larry Pletcher, Massachusetts Disasters: True Stories of Tragedy and Survival. Guilford, Connecticut: Morris Book Publishing, 2006.

Anthony Sammarco, Roslindale. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing, 1997.

Massachusetts Board of Railroad Commissioners, Special Report by the Massachusetts Board of Railroad Commissioners to the Legislature in relation to the Disaster on Monday, March 14, 1887 on the Dedham Branch of the Boston and Providence Railroad. Boston: Wright and Potter Printing Co., State Printers, 1887.

Edward J. Sweeney, “Bussey Bridge Train Disaster,” Yankee Magazine, Vol. 39, No. 3. March 1975.

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