By Michael Perna Jr., Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – Jesse Johnson (known as J. J.) Coburn ventured off to California at the age of 18, back in 1850. He joined relatives there that had gone west for the Gold Rush.
After a few years, with many exciting adventures, he came back to Worcester with “some savings” and then worked in the metal and old iron business for a time. He then decided to develop Lake Quinsigamond as a “pleasure resort and a site for summer homes.” He built the “Quinsigamond House” – a hotel – on Ramshorn Island, got steamboats running on the Lake, and then created “Lincoln Park,” a very early amusement park, on the Worcester shore. He also developed the Lake View neighborhood with many streets and homes.
In order to bring patrons out of Worcester down to his Lake resort, he began running the narrow gauge Worcester and Shrewsbury Railroad from Union Station down to the corner of Lake Avenue and Route 9. Our photograph shows the line’s Engine Number 3 – there were eventually 10 engines, as it is reported that daily passengers during summer months numbered in the thousands. The little railroad, known as the “Dummy,” actually never ran into the (then) little village of Shrewsbury, despite several attempts to extend the line. It was eventually electrified into a trolley line, then replaced completely when bus service was instituted.