16 February 2013

Both Men were Blown Away, and Killed Instantly (Terrific Explosion, Pt. 5)

[Part 1 is here.]

"Theories Advanced.
The testimony of the foreman showed that at 7 o'clock he had noticed two gages of water in the boiler and twenty pounds of steam. Thirty-five minutes later the explosion occurred. It was thought to be impossible that the water supply could have diminished to the danger line within that time or that the steam could have been run up to the 160 pounds pressure point.

Several engineers who went out to the scene of the wreck and examined the pieces of the boiler give as their opinion that the metal had been "cooked," and that steam did not cause the explosion. "I have worked on an engine twenty-five years," said one, "and I never saw steam shatter a boiler in that manner. I never saw gas fail to shatter one in that way. What I mean by gas is that peculiar kind of force that is generated when cold water is poured on red hot metal. The steam presses against all side of the boiler at one time, and with equal force in all directions. It bursts out at the weakest place, and may blow a hole or crack that boiler and all the water and steam will rush out; but when you see the boiler shivered and blown to atoms, it is a pretty good indication that the contact of cold water and red hot iron had something to do with it."

The railroad authorities combat this theory with the statement that there is a soft metal plug in all locomotives hollers, and when the water gets below a certain point this plug is exposed to the fire, melting immediately and preventing an explosion. Boiler-makers say, however, that these plugs often become encrusted with dirt and rust and cannot be melted out. The only men who could throw any satisfactory light on the subject are dead. They are the negro, Uriah Cornelius and Mr. McDonnell.

Others who undertake to arrive at a cause reason it out this way:

That is was necessary for the negro to get up to 160 pounds of steam before Mr. McDonnell could see the pop valve at the proper point, and in trying to accomplish this in the quickest possible time, he forgot to keep up his water supply, and that the less water he kept in the boiler the faster he would accumulate steam; that with the blower on, the two gages of water were quickly consumed, and when he looked and saw that the supply was low he turned in more water, as he had done perhaps thousands of times before without serious results. That the sheets in the boiler had already become heated and the contact of the cool water did the work. Both men were blown away, and killed instantly. It is claimed that this is a more plausible theory than the one that Mr. McDonnell's pop valve refused to work and caused the steam to burst the boiler.

However, the matter is simply one for conjecture, and men may always differ about it.

Mr. McDonnell was putting in a new pop valve, because on the day before the old one refused to work. It was necessary to set the new valve, and 160 pounds of steam was needed. Then, after it was set, the valve would open whenever 160 pounds of steam was accumulated, and there would be no danger of a steam explosion.

Condition of the Boiler.
After the explosion it was found that the top of the boiler was turned back at the front end, although at that point 150 bolts had held down the top." [Macon Telegraph (Georgia), 3 January 1902, Pgs. 1 & 5]

The finale is next with "Who the Victims Are."

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