N&W in 1911--Explosives

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Wed Aug 4 14:04:25 EDT 2010

Did it occur to anyone that the car labeled explosives in this article
might have happened to be EMPTY at the time ?

Neil K. Yerger

_audreyly at aol.com_ (mailto:audreyly at aol.com)

In a message dated 8/4/2010 6:49:46 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time,
nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org writes:

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
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

Gordon Hamilton

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