cornfield meet

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Two locomotives involved in a “cornfield meet” in the early 20th century, apparently on the Boston and Maine Railroad according to the cab-side lettering

Either from the fact that early train collisions often occurred out in the country alongside a cornfield rather than in a station or siding; or from staged events where two old steam locomotives were purposely run head on at each other, often in an open field, for public entertainment. In the latter idea, the term may jocularly echo field meet as a spectacle in the field involving opposing contestants.



cornfield meet (plural cornfield meets)

  1. (US, rail transport) An accidental head-on collision or near head-on collision of two trains. [from 19th c.]
    • 1943, Railroad Magazine, volume 34, New York, N.Y.: Frank A[ndrew] Munsey Co., ISSN 0033-8761, OCLC 5465534, page 100, column 1:
      Do you think it's possible for two trains to have a cornfield meet right in the middle of an automatically protected block? Of course it is, if one of the hoggers is drunk or asleep at the throttle []
    • 1968, Robert C[arroll] Reed, “Head-on Collisions”, in Train Wrecks: A Pictorial History of Accidents on the Main Line, New York, N.Y.: Bonanza Books, Crown Publishing Group, OCLC 560766988, page 55:
      One such instance when a conductor failed to follow a prescribed timetable resulted in a head-on smashup on the Long Island Railroad at the end of the Civil War. On August 28, 1865, General Grant and General Sherman collided in a pasture at Jamaica, New York. Five passengers were killed in this cornfield meet.
    • 1997, Jim Shaughnessy, “The Hunted Traps the Hunter”, in The Rutland Road, 2nd edition, Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, →ISBN, page 26:
      [A] couple of passenger trains staged a cornfield meet in the deep cut on Mount Holly, which the road settled with "gratuities" amounting to $50,000. By this time the Rutland had built up enough fiancial stability to weather these incidents with a minimum of distress.
    • 1998, Ian Savage, “Preface”, in The Economics of Railroad Safety (Transportation Research, Economics and Policy; 7), New York, N.Y.: Springer Science+Business Media, →ISBN, page xi:
      One hundred years ago, staged railroad accidents were popular events. [] "Head-on Joe" Connolly made a business out of "cornfield meets" holding seventy-three events in thirty-six years.
    • 2007, Eddie Campbell, The Black Diamond Detective Agency: Containing Mayhem, Mystery, Romance, Mine shafts, Bullets, New York, N.Y.; London: First Second Books, →ISBN, page 137:
      [A 1899 man discovering ragtime:] Now they're writing music that sounds like a cornfield meet.



See also[edit]


  • Robert L[undquist] Chapman, editor (1986) New Dictionary of American Slang, 3rd edition, New York, N.Y.: Harper & Row, →ISBN, page 83.
  • Terry L. McIntyre (winter 1969) , “The Language of Railroading”, in American Speech, volume 44, issue 4, JSTOR 454681, pages 243–262.
  • Eric Partridge (1931) , G[odfrey] Irwin, editor, American Tramp and Underworld Slang [...] With a Number of Tramp Songs. Edited with Essays [...] by G. Irwin. With a Terminal Essay on American Slang in its Relation to English Thieves’ Slang by Eric Partridge, London: Eric Partridge, OCLC 753255579.

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