N&W in 1911--Explosives

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Tue Aug 3 20:57:16 EDT 2010

Bluefield Daily Telegraph
February 21, 1911

Bumping Car Was Labeled As Containing Pent-up Disturbance Producer
Bluefield narrowly escaped a terrible catastrophe Sunday when a freight car labeled in glaring letters, "explosives" crashed into the bumping post at the end of the freight shed almost opposite Bland street. The car was lifted from its wheels by the terrible force of the impact, but fortunately the contents of the car were not disturbed to such an extent that an explosion could result. A number of people viewed the car as it settled against the bumper and many of their faces blanched when they thought of the damage which might have been done if the contents of the car had exploded. At the time when the accident happened a number of people were walking the street and a crowd was standing around that busy corner. If an explosion had occurred it is likely that all of the store fronts on Princeton avenue in the neighborhood would have been ruined and it is more than likely that a number of people would have received serious injuries if they had escaped death.
The city of Bluefield has no ordinance with regard to the handling of explosives and although under the old councils there were several attempts to pass ordinances relative to this subject a lobby strong enough to prevent the passage of such ordinances was always present. Nearly every day in this city wagon loads of dynamite and powder pass through the streets [and] the constant danger from the open handling of these explosives has never been provided against.
[The N&W 's Bluefield freight station in 1911 was located along the north side of Princeton Avenue near its intersection with Bland Street, the heart of the business section of Bluefield where an explosion would have been catastrophic. Two later mishaps did result in explosions in N&W's Bluefield yards, however. On January 26, 1916, nine cars ran away from a switching crew in the East Yard and crashed into a car containing black powder. The resulting explosion injured five men and blew out windows in buildings several blocks from the site of the explosion, and it propelled burning hay from one of the cars for hundreds of yards, setting several small fires on housetops and in woods. Later, on June 23, 1923, a seemingly greater explosion occurred in the West Yard, when a train of 70 cars ran away and crashed into a car of black powder, which exploded and set cars and their contents on fire. Although no one was injured upwards of fifty cars were involved in the derailment and much of the electrification's overhead wires in the vicinity were destroyed. (The 1916 and 1923 info is from the newly published book, "Wheels Aflame, Whistle Wide Open," available from the N&WHS Commissary.)]

Gordon Hamilton
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