Disaster in Smithville
1911 Roundhouse Blast Kills 9 Men, Injures 12 Others
Float but Bolts Fly|
This article begins with a letter from Clinton, Indiana which the author
states is "an old coal mining community."
Dear Texas Escapes,
sending some pictures from a magazine I own. It is the March 28, 1911 edition
of "Power", published by Hill Publishing Company. The article describes a locomotive
boiler explosion that claimed nine lives and injured 12 in Smithville
on Feb. 8, 1911. There are some very good photos with the article. Is this accident
known locally? I hope you are able to use this information.
Ed Maher, Clinton
Indiana (Little Italy)
courtesy Smithville Chamber of Commerce|
Reprinted from POWER Magazine - March 28, 1911
C. L. Greer
awful example of the destructive force of an exploding steam boiler was recently
had in the explosion of a Missouri, Kansas & Texas locomotive boiler in the little
town of Smithville on the
Colorado River in Texas.|
On February 8, a switch engine was brought from
the shop after being thoroughly overhauled. While steaming up preparatory to run
to another town, the boiler let go in one of the most disastrous explosions ever
wreck was so complete that it could not be ascertained at just which point the
rupture first occurred. The whole firebox end of the engine was blown to pieces
and the cab to splinters. A portion of the roof sheet of the firebox was hurled
a distance of three blocks, landing on the street, while smaller pieces flew twice
as far. This portion is shown in Fig. 5. One large piece crashed through the roof
of a business house several blocks away. At some places the rivets were sheared
completely while at others the sheets, 1/2 inch thick, were torn like paper.|
|Figure 1 shows a general
view of the wreck. The wrecked engine, before the explosion stood between the
two engines indicated by the arrows.|
When the explosion came, the tender
was thrown back into the turntable pit and the front part of the boiler was shoved
a distance of about 100 feet, with the drivers plowing in the ground. The rear
pair of drivers were shoved completely off their axle, as shown in Fig. 2, and
were dragged along by the connecting rods while the axle was bent to the arc of
a circle. These wheels are pressed on their axle under a pressure of 90 tons.
|The two engines in
Figs. 3 and 4 which stood on each side were badly damaged, the cabs being almost
entirely blown away. |
The engine shown in Fig. 4 was shoved off the track
and dropped into the pit below while the rail on the far side was broken by the
Fig. 5 shows the braces and stay bolts were broken
and twisted from the sheets.
| In Fig. 2 may be
seen some of the sheared rivets still in the holes.|
Four men lost their
lives and twelve were injured. Two men in the cab and one on top of the boiler
were blown to atoms, being identified only by hands, feet and bits of clothing.
It is the general opinion that the cause of the explosion was a defective
steam gage. The man on the engine was setting the pop valve and it is thought
that the gage stuck when the pressure reached 155 pounds, as the gage stood at
that point when found.
It is thought that the man screwed the pop valve down too tight and the gage failed
to register the rising steam.
When the pop safety valve was found it
was screwed almost entirely down and when tested it took a pressure of 600 pounds
to make it pop.
People who were near the site before the explosion stated
that before the explosion, steam was issuing under the jacket and apparently came
from the seams, which were strained to the leaking point."
The Smithville Chapter of the Katy Railroad RRYMCA poses
for a photograph (two members absent and one man short).
Photo courtesy Smithville
Chamber of Commerce