boiler explosions and the like.

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at
Wed Apr 3 10:07:20 EDT 2019

If anyone is interested, the name of the story in TRAINS was "Big Bang No 
Theory".  I don't recall the issue.  The story was reprinted in the magazine 
of the National Board of Boiler and Pressure Vessel Inspectors.

The instantaneous release of pressure and the cnange of the superheated 
water into steam usually provided sufficient force to break the boiler from 
its attachments to the locomotive frame and propel it into the air.  The 
only exception that comes to mind was the explosion of Y-6 2153 at 
Wytheville in 1955.  The fact that the engine only had 130 pounds of steam 
and the water level was so low meant that the boiler didn't leave the frame 
but it did break the high-pressure frame casting behind the cylinders.  All 
the rest - the 2114 at Eastwood, the 1204 at Nolan, Clinchfield 740 south of 
Erwin, the NYC Hudson along the Mohawk at speed - most all of their boilers 
went airborne.

- Ed King

-----Original Message----- 
From: NW Mailing List
Sent: Tuesday, April 02, 2019 9:20 PM
To: nw-mailing-list at
Subject: boiler explosions and the like.

Regarding graphic descriptions of boiler blowup aftermath's:

The older newspapers were especially graphic with their details
regarding boiler events and their aftermath. A head here, an arm,
there; and so forth. They didn't hold back much way back when.
Somewhere around the turn of the century from 1899-1900 they got a lot
more tame and less lurid in their details. That said, whenever a
locomotive boiler went ka-plooey, anyone anywhere near the thing
visited the promised land. Ed King's excellent descriptions of what
takes place with a fraction of a second were quite sobering and worth
rereading whenever you expect to get anywhere near one of these
things. That was in an older Trains Magazine. He doesn't go into the
graphic nature of what happens to a human body, but does describe what
occurs at the cab and crown sheet. Kind of keeps your mind on an
honest track that way.

The descriptions elsewhere of the C&O Allegheny at Hinton are
particularly noteworthy from a C&O HS descriptive point of view:
picture this - the boiler of that engine became a momentary rocket
ship until its fuel was expended and in those brief moments, it blew
several hundred feet in the air and landed 100 yards ahead of the now
empty shell on an empty frame. Think about the force that entails
.......... or maybe not.

Bob Cohen

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