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Railroad steam engine explosions.

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Railroad steam engine explosions.
Posted by Modelcar on Monday, April 3, 2017 3:33 PM

Hello to all:

Recently I came across a photo showing the front of a sizable steam engine that had been destroyed by an explosion.  The front was blown open and boiler pipes faned out in all directions....Seemingly, almost the full length of 'em.

Item:  Years...no...decades ago, I witnessed the result of one of B&O's larger steam engines that had exploded the night before. I was young.  Can't tell any exact model it was....It was on a coal drag on the Somerset & Cambria branch of the B&O and the location was just north of Listie, PA.  Several of us "kids" rode our bicycles 4-miles the following day to see the results.  That's a few years ago....About 1944....and the site was beyond  awesome.  The only remaining structure of that engine was the massive frame....steam cylinders...rods...wheels, etc.....Everything else was blown away in chuncks and pieces.....Can't be specific  where or how far away what was remaining of the boiler assy.  There must be photos of that terrible incident someplace....Although I realize not like there would be today....Any ideas out there....

Quentin

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Posted by tree68 on Monday, April 3, 2017 4:26 PM

Local newspapers would be your primary source.  Many newspapers have archived their past issues on-line (our local paper is searchable almost back to the Civil War) and are quite searchable.  By the 1940's photos in even small papers were common.

If there's anything that's going to hold you back here, it's that the incident occured during the war, so it probably wouldn't get the coverage it might have seen just a few years earlier or later.  And that will probably include pictures.

Boiler explosions, while not common, weren't exactly rare, either.  So unless said explosion caused greater mayhem than the immediate area, it probably wouldn't have caused a great stir in the news outside the local area.

If it happened in today's media-happy world, all you'd have to do is search YouTube... 

LarryWhistling
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Posted by samfp1943 on Monday, April 3, 2017 4:34 PM

LInk @ http://i.imgur.com/Vlevp7q.jpg

Found the above while Searching "Steam Locomotive Explodes"

 

 

 


 

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Posted by Paul_D_North_Jr on Monday, April 3, 2017 4:36 PM

Quentin -

It might be in this article, or one of the "disasters on the rails" type of books:

boiler explosions were rare but spectacular
by KING, ED 
from Trains April 1995  p. 66

Maybe wanswheel Mike can help you out ? 

- PDN. 

"This Fascinating Railroad Business" (title of 1943 book by Robert Selph Henry of the AAR)
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Posted by Paul_D_North_Jr on Monday, April 3, 2017 4:37 PM

samfp1943
LInk @ http://i.imgur.com/Vlevp7q.jpg 

Found the above while Searching "Steam Locomotive Explodes"

Just activating that link. Thumbs Up

"This Fascinating Railroad Business" (title of 1943 book by Robert Selph Henry of the AAR)
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Posted by Paul_D_North_Jr on Monday, April 3, 2017 4:43 PM

Psge 4 of the Dec. 11, 1944 Pittsburgh Press seems to indciate near Willock, PA:  

https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/147502518/ 

Also, search Google Images for "boiler explosion B&O 1944" - though I can't tell if it's one of those or not. 

- PDN. 

"This Fascinating Railroad Business" (title of 1943 book by Robert Selph Henry of the AAR)
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Posted by ACY Tom on Monday, April 3, 2017 5:39 PM

I guess this is it:

B&O Q-1c 4240, built by Baldwin August, 1913, Construction number 40193.

Crownsheet failure; low water at Listie, Pennsylvania, September 19, 1942. Two killed and three injured.

The locomotive was reboilered during 1942 with the boiler from P-1d 4-6-2 5070, which in turn received the boiler from Q-1c 2-8-2 4294 (which was eventually scrapped in 1945). It is unclear whether 4240 returned to service in that form, because before the end of 1942 she was converted to class T-3 4-8-2 5555 at Mt. Clare Shops (Baltimore).

She was the first T-3, and was renumbered 700, effective January 1, 1957. She was one of many T-3's operated on lines west of New Castle, Pennsylvania in the 1950's, and was used on at least one fan excursion in the last days of steam. She was dropped from the roster on Aug. 19, 1960. 

I saw number 700 on the dead line at Willard, Ohio, in the summer of 1959. I was 13. 

This info came from B&O Class Q, by Julian Barnard (Barnard, Roberts & Co.); and Steam Locomotives of the Baltimore & Ohio, An All-time roster, by William Edson, (self-published), Potomac, MD, 1992.

Tom

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Posted by BaltACD on Monday, April 3, 2017 6:05 PM

DOT investigations of various accidents by all carriers

http://specialcollection.dotlibrary.dot.gov/Contents

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Posted by Modelcar on Monday, April 3, 2017 6:48 PM

ACY:  This is awesome.  You have located the very incident I described.  Had the date a bit off, but....I was 11 yrs. of age.  Got to thinking of that bike ride.....It was more than 4 miles...More like 5 +.  How did we do that and back home {Stoystown}, by dark....Somehow. ACY, thank you so much for finding and showing it to me and of course others.  The fact that engine was rebuilt and put back to work is quite a story.  As I described it earlier.....From the frame up....it was gone...!  That's my memory.  I'll have to do a little checking to maybe contact the whereabouts of a photo.  If none...wouldn't surprise me.  Closest paper at that time....A small one:  Somerset Daily American {I think}....and a larger one would have been down in Johnstown:  The TribuneDemocrat.

Again, thank you.  Q

 And:  Thanks to Paul North & Larry.....I'll have to do some more looking,  maybe some paper might....but kind of doubt it.  As was stated, it was War time....Not every one had a camera then.  Now camera's are everyplace via, phones.

Quentin

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Posted by Modelcar on Monday, April 3, 2017 7:06 PM

Yes, Paul.....Saw that same engine in photo earlier....Photo I saw was from the other side.  The "splayed" tubes caught my attention.  That's the very one that reminded of the experience I related today....Q

PS:  Believe when an explosion occurs at the crown sheet...I believe it has the power and force to lift the whole boiler off the chassis...Hence leaving what I saw...Just the heavy parts of the engine below.

Quentin

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Posted by Modelcar on Monday, April 3, 2017 7:15 PM

Sam...Note my comment on that photo above...Q

Quentin

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Posted by Modelcar on Monday, April 3, 2017 7:16 PM

samfp1943

LInk @ http://i.imgur.com/Vlevp7q.jpg

Found the above while Searching "Steam Locomotive Explodes"

 

 

Quentin

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Posted by Modelcar on Monday, April 3, 2017 7:18 PM

The reminder I stirred up Larry....should make you feel good in the Diesel.

 

Quentin

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Posted by ACY Tom on Monday, April 3, 2017 7:32 PM

Actually, not many (if any) parts from the original 4240 were used in rebuilding her to T-3 number 5555.  All of the forty T-3's and T-3 subclasses were constructed by using lengthened boilers from older Q-1 Mikados and P-1 Pacifics. The frames for the new 4-8-2's were all-new castings with integral cylinders, so 5555 used the boiler from 5070, and probably not much from 4240. I have no idea whether 4240's tender survived. If it did, it wasn't used on 5555, but it might have been used behind an E-27 Consolidation or some other engine. B&O did a lot of that. 

Tom

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Posted by BaltACD on Monday, April 3, 2017 7:33 PM

Evening news this evening reported a industrial boiler explosion in St. Louis.  Killed one in the plant where the explosion happend, and killed two, two blocks away where the boiler landed through the roof of another business.

https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/missouri/articles/2017-04-03/officials-3-dead-in-reported-boiler-explosion-in-st-louis

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Posted by tree68 on Monday, April 3, 2017 8:53 PM

Modelcar

The reminder I stirred up Larry....should make you feel good in the Diesel.

Diesels do bad things, too, but usually it's just one cylinder....

The linked image, with "spaghetti" looks like the back tube plate got pushed forward, pushing the tubes out the front of the locomotive....

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Posted by Semper Vaporo on Monday, April 3, 2017 9:01 PM

 

The "Spaghetti" sticking out the front are the super heater pipes.  The crown sheet ruptured downward and the explosive force in the firebox blew down the flues, shoving the pipes out the other end.

 

Semper Vaporo

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Posted by wanswheel on Monday, April 3, 2017 9:33 PM

Somerset Daily American, Sept. 21, 1942

https://newspaperarchive.com/somerset-daily-american-sep-21-1942-p-1/

The death toll in the terrific explosion of a Baltimore and Ohio railroad freight engine on the Somerset-Cambria branch at Listie early Saturday morning increased to two with the death of Clarence Ohler, 23, of Sand Patch near Meyersdale, later Saturday morning.

Ohler died of severe steam burns over the entire body just a short time after the discovery of the body of John L. Berkley, 62, West Race street, Somerset, who was thrown from the engine cab for a distance of 500 feet and instantly killed.

Berkley met instant death. The clothes were torn from his body, which was badly burned and mutilated. Ohler’s death occurred in a Somerset ambulance en route to a Pittsburgh hospital, where Ohler would have undergone special treatment for the burns he suffered.

In the meantime the three injured members of the train crew are being treated at Somerset Community hospital, to which place they were rushed as patients Saturday morning immediately following the explosion.

Most seriously injured is Arthur Hartzell, 24, of Somerset, who suffered steam burns over the entire body almost as serious as those of Ohler. Hospital attendants said Sunday night that Hartzell was in a serious condition but has a chance to recover.

Also in the hospital are Burdine S. Wilson, 54, of Berlin, suffering scald burns and extensive injuries, lacerations and bruises, and Jacob G. Cook, 56, Meyersdale, minor scalds and lacersions of the face. The conditions of both Wilson and Cook were reported to be improved but they were not considered to be out of danger. All are suffering from shock.

Although an investigation is underway by officials of the Pittsburgh office of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad, the interstate commerce commission and the Somerset county coroner, no cause of the explosion has been given as yet. Dr. P. C. Bosch, Somerset county coroner, said Sunday night that there would be an inquest but no date had been set.

Berkley and Ohler were engineer and fireman, respectively, on the second of two engines, commonly known as a “double-header” in railroad language, and were assisting in pulling a train of coal cars toward Somerset on the grade at Listie.

The first engine of the double-header was driven by Cook with Wilson as fireman. Hartzell was the brakeman and is believed to have been somewhere near the second engine when the explosion took place.

About 1:05 Saturday morning, the time at which Berkley’s watch had stopped, the boiler of the second engine suddenly exploded with a terrific force, rose high into the air and traveled almost in a single piece, for a distance of more than 1000 feet before it struck earth directly in front of a small house.

The explosion threw both Berkley and Ohler from their cab, Ohler being knocked to the ground a short distance away and Berkley catapulted through the air into a stream 500 feet away, where his body was discovered sometime later.

Hartzell also was said to have been thrown by the force of the explosion of the second engine.

The huge flues in engine Number two, a conglomeration of pipes, weighing tons, also was thrown into the air and traveled for a distance of some 300 yards before it landed beside the railroad tracks. The force of the explosion sent the flues sailing over the top of the first engine and smashed the cab in which were riding Cook and Wilson, then broke steam pipes and fittings on the engine as it just missed smashing into the boiler of the first locomotive.

Cook and Wilson were also thrown from their cab to the ground by the force of the crash. Strangely enough, not one of the coal cars was derailed nor was the track bed, with but a few minor exceptions, damaged.

Within a short time after the crash residents of Listie were on the scene. Some expressed the opinion that they thought the world was coming to an end and another said she thought it was an actual air raid.

Paul Wolford, Listie merchant, said, “It was a sort of long, thundering noise. The windows at our home, 2,000 feet away, rattled and the house actually quivered on its foundations.”

Mr. and Mrs. Baptist Magnetti and Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Magnetti are residents of the house near which the boiler landed.

Mrs. Baptist Magnetti declared, "We got scared. The noise was terrible. I thought a big airplane had crashed right outside the house. We looked out the window but couldn’t see anything except dirt, steam and dust in the air. There was a terrible hissing sound.”

An auto parked in front of the Magnetti house was sprayed with steam and the paint chipped off. On the hood of the car was an engineer’s cap, believed to be that of Berkley.

Officials of the railroad have refused to release any information on the cause of the explosion, stating that interstate commerce commission rules do not permit officials to assign reasons for accidents pending completion of investigations.

Wrecking crews of the B and O were on the job almost immediately and the track was opened late Saturday morning to traffic. The two engines were brought to Somerset and it was expected that they would be taken to Connellsville.

It was said in Somerset Sunday night that Berkley had taken the Listie run Saturday morning in place of another engineer, who was unable to take charge of the engine and that it was not Berkley’s regular run.

Hartzell had been a bridegroom of but little more than a month, having been married to Thelma Grace Heiple August 16 at a double wedding ceremony preformed by the Rev. Dr. George L. Roth in the St. Paul’s Reformed church, at which time Hartzell’s sister, Helen Allene, was married to Charles H. Moyer, a state motor policeman.

John L. Berkley, who was employed by the Baltimore and Ohio railroad for 36 years, was a son of Israel and Lydia Shoemaker Berkley and was born in Somerset county.

Surviving are his widow, Mrs. Carolyn Hoffman Berkley, and the following children: Edward Berkley, Somerset; Mrs. William Menser; Mrs. Raymond Ruth, both of Johnstown, and William and John Berkley, Jr., both at home.

Also surviving are the following brothers and sisters: Samuel Berkley, Somerset; Nelson Berkley, Friedens; Harvey Berkley, Listie; Mrs. William Brougher, Somerset; Oran Berkley, Clearfield; Mrs. Curtis Davis, Somerset; Earl Berkley, Ferrellton; Lloyd Berkley, Pittsburgh; Milton Berkley and Mrs. James Liberty, both of Somerset.

Funeral services will be conducted this Monday afternoon at 4:30 at the late residence with the Rev. Galen R. Blough officiating. Burial in Somerset County Memorial park in charge of Charles R. Hauger.

Clarence Ohler was a son of Elmer and Edna Francis Ohler and was born in Somerset county. He lived in Sand Patch for a number of years.

Surviving are his widow, Mrs. Margaret Maust Ohler; two children, Bernard and Kenneth, both at home, and one brother, Clyde Ohler, Sand Patch.

Burial, in charge of a Meyersdale mortician, will take place near Meyersdale.

NDG
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Posted by NDG on Wednesday, April 5, 2017 2:14 PM

 

Thank You.

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Posted by Norm48327 on Wednesday, April 5, 2017 2:47 PM

I have to give away the fact I'm older than dirt, but in 1905 my grandfather was killed in a derail and boiler explosion on the Pere Marquette near Traverse City, MI. I believe it was mostly a logging railroad at the time. I haven't been able to find much information about it. My dad was only two at the time so I never had the privelige of knowing my grand dad, and dad never spoke much about it.  My dad was onlytwo when that happened so I'm sure he had little memory of that.

Tracing one's history and geanology can be a mojor challenge at times.

Norm


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Posted by rcdrye on Thursday, April 6, 2017 6:32 AM

The term "Crown sheet failure" is sort of a catchall.  In many cases of crown sheet failure what happens is that the water level in the boiler gets low enough that the crown sheet is bare on top, with no water to protect it from overheating.  When water is admitted into a boiler in that state, it "flashes" and creates steam very quickly in an overwhelming volume and pressure which is what makes the boiler explode.  Some years ago an improperly installed residential boiler in my town exploded and lifted a two story house off its foundation. 

Some steam locomotives intended for operation on steep grades had crown sheets installed at special angles to make sure the sheet stayed covered.

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Posted by RME on Thursday, April 6, 2017 8:59 AM

rcdrye
When water is admitted into a boiler in that state, it "flashes" and creates steam very quickly in an overwhelming volume and pressure which is what makes the boiler explode.

Not even remotely close.  The Leidenfrost/Eisenhoffer effect will keep any appreciable mass of water from flashing merely from contact, even at elevated boiler pressure, and it is possible that the pop capacity of a typical large locomotive boiler would accommodate any rise for that reason alone.

The proximate cause of most locomotive boiler explosions is the rocket effect when a crown sheet actually separates from the stays mechanically and relieves pressure into the firebox area.  Then a great mass of water flashes to steam, some of it distributed through the water in the convection section, in a short time, and the combination of flashing water and steam develops high momentum -- note that the pressure never goes significantly above regulated boiler pressure at the moment of failure, even if there is a significant amount of red-hot plate present.

The more malignant form of boiler explosion, which was called 'fulminante' in the 19th Century, occurs when pressure in a typical cylindrical vessel that is not quite full of water is relieved.  The relieved pressure leads to nucleate boiling throughout the volume of water in the vessel, which causes the periphery of the mass to accelerate much more quickly than in jet effect, even to supersonic velocity.  When this mass front is focused onto boiler plate, it produces far more shock and instantaneous pressure than the first case, and it should not be surprising that there is brisant effect on the plates leaving very small pieces instead of a twisted but recognizable structure.  Remember, though, that this effect is no more driven by steam pressure than sonoluminesce or cavitation are.

(Incidentally, the presence of Nicholson syphons can be a contributing factor toward crownsheet failure, rather than a 'safety device' that pumps water from the throat over the crown to 'keep it cool'.  What happens in reality is that the flow from the syphons is not adequate to keep the whole of the plate wetted, and the other areas quickly progress as in any ordinary crown overheat to the point where the insulating film of steam precludes contact and rapid heating of the plate from the fireside ensues.  Any actual "cooling" from the stochastic syphon flow will just heat-treat and quench the steel in random and changing regions, and both the metallurgical changes and the differential heat stress are Not Good For Crownsheet Integrity.  This, I believe, was one of the logical conclusions from the investigation of C&O Allegheny 1642's explosion.)

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Posted by CRIP 4376 on Monday, April 10, 2017 6:34 PM

Argent Lumber Company #6 had a crown sheet explosion in 1955 that killed two.  It was rebuilt and still runs on the Midwest Central in Mount Pleasant, Iowa.

Ken Vandevoort

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