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Monday, November 25, 2013

"Clearing the Wreck: Around the Scene of the Locomotive Explosion", November 15, 1892

News traveled fast in 1892 of the train engine explosion that killed my great-grandfather. By the next day, details of the accident were published in the New York Times and various other city newspapers throughout the country. Yet, the most detailed coverage can be found within the local paper: the Pottsville Daily Republican.

Two weeks ago on the 121st anniversary of this horrible accident, I published an article describing the event and sharing details of my great-great-grandfather William Cowhey's funeral, which was fit for a hero. Within this article and one last Monday, I have shared with Small-leaved Shamrock readers the two articles that appeared within the Pottsville Daily Republican two consecutive days after the accident. I have transcribed them for easier reading. This second article appeared on page 1 of the paper on Tuesday, November 15.

The Pottsville Daily Republican ran this article on page 1 the day after the accident, Tuesday, November 15, 1892. The three scans above overlap slightly, but by enlarging them you can read the text of the full article which I've also transcribed below.

Around the Scene of the Locomotive Explosion. 
The Inquest Will Not Be Held Until He Is Able to Testify - His Conditions Improving Slightly - Particulars Coming Out Slowly. 
John Day, a well preserved man of over 70 years of age who ran an engine for over thirty years and has worked on the railroad ever since [1862?], was the watchman on duty Sunday night where the engine exploded on the Reading railroad, at Conner's, a small station three miles south of here, whereby five men were killed outright and one very probably fatally scalded. Day says it was 12:15 when engine 563 pulled up and stopped just south of his watch-box, where the wagon road between Cressona and Schuylkill Haven crosses the railroad, and sorted out a long string of cars onto the side track. Owing to difficulty experienced in getting out some bent coupling pins they laid there fully twenty minutes, after which they started north again for Palo Alto with the balance of the train but they had trouble starting and they made very poor headway, and he judges that they had allowed the steam to run down. They made several starts and stops before they could get by his place, and when they had gone beyond it a little over 100 yards, they stopped again, and immediately thereafter the explosion occurred. 
He was [?] stunned himself and greatly bewildered and when he was starting to go up to the head of the train, brakeman Dobbins came running to him with his clothes all afire and crying to him to help him extinguish the fire on his person. Day aided Dobbins in tearing off the burning clothes, afterwhich at his request he gave Dobbins some water with which he washed the dirt out of his eyes and from his face and hands. Dobbins said to him: "They are all killed; oh, see if you can't help Harry Allison." By this time men came running up from the Mine Hill junction dispatcher's office and the Schuylkill Haven railroad yards, and after sending out flagmen to stop all trains search was made for the victims of the catastrophe. Cowhey and Moyer were found on the south bound track just above his watch-box, where they had dropped after being blown against a wall of rock several hundred feet high. Engineer Allison and his fireman, Mackey, were found underneath the engine, and Kendricks, the conductor of the ill-fated crew, was blown several hundred yards into a field to the east of the tracks. Before the accident the engine was headed north, and by the force of the explosion it was turned upside down the tracks on top and heading to the south, virtually making a back somersault to the east of the track. The cylinder head and front of engine were a hundred feet still further south. 
The explosion occurred directly beneath the long iron bridge of the Lehigh Valley and Schuylkill railroad which crosses the Pennsylvania railroad, turnpike, canal, the junction railroad river, valley and Reading tracks at a height of about 50 feet. This bridge was not injured in the least. 
The bodies of the victims were gathered together and taken into Day's watch-box and after being viewed by the Coroner were sent to their late homes. The faces of all but one were unrecognizable and their identity was disclosed by the clothing and bodily appearances alone. 
At six o'clock last evening all evidences of the wreck had been cleared away excepting the frame of the immense boiler and fire box, which was lying along-side the track. Company officials were early on the ground and thoroughly examined into the cause of the accident, and this was made plain late yesterday afternoon when they loaded up the crown sheet and sent it to Palo Alto. 
On the crown sheet is unmistakable evidence that the explosion was caused by low water as the iron is badly burned to a deep blue color and the marks show just how high the water was. Friends and all railroad men, after seeing this, acknowledge that there was no other cause. It is thought that in the excitement in trying to get the bent coupling pins out and shorten the delay on the siding as much as possible, that unintentionally the water was allowed to get low. 
Day says that Dobbins told him that when the engine stopped, at Allison's request, he had got down on the tank to get a bucket of water with which to extinguish a fire that had started on the jacket, and that Allison had just started his pumps. 

Harry C. Allison, the engineer of No. 563, was a native of Panther Valley, a short distance west of Cressona, where he was born about 44 years ago. He early went to railroading, and was one of the most careful of the many engineers in the employ of the company. He was a Union soldier during the Rebellion, and was a member of Gowen Post No. 23, G.A.R., and Seneca Tribe No. 41, I.O.R.M. he leaves a widow and a married daughter, the wife of Bert Nimbleton, to mourn his loss. His only son was buried a little over a week ago. His funeral will take place on Thursday afternoon from his late residence, 606 Bacon Street, Palo Alto. 
Charles J.C. Mackey, fireman, resided at Port Carbon. He was about 28 years of age, and leaves a widow and one small child. He was a prominent and active member of the following organizations: W.C, No. 134, P.O.S. of A; Grant Commandery, No. 36, P.O.S. of A; Golden Rule Castle, K. of P.; Schuylkill Lodge, I.O.O.F., No. 27, and of the Port Carbon Band. He was the efficient secretary of the latter organization. 
Charles H. Kendrick was also a resident of Port Carbon, and was about 32 years of age. He, too, leaves a widow and four small children to mourn his loss. He was the conductor of the ill-fated train.  
William Cowhey resided at Mt. Carbon, and was in his 59th year. He was twice married. Four grown up children blessed by that union survive him. His second wife he leaves a widow, with eight small children ranging from 14 years to an infant of but a few months old to mourn his sudden death. The deceased was a soldier on the Union side in the late rebellion, and a prominent member of Gowen Post No. 23, G.A.R. 
William H. Moyer is a native of Summit Station, on the S. and S. R.R., where he was born about twenty-six years ago. He engaged as a railroader about five years ago and removed to Palo Alto three years after accepting the employment as fireman. He leaves a widow and two small boys, aged 4 years and 19 months respectively. His funeral will take place on Wednesday. Interment will be made at Summer Mountain cemetery. He was a member of the Summit Station Lodge of the I.O. of O.F. 
The explosion occurred immediately under the overhead bridge of the L. and S. V. railroad. The engine 563 was of the L class, which are used to draw freight. Although she was running north the force was so great that she was lifted completely from her frame and turned southward, in the opposite direction. Everything about her has been shivered to pieces and she was, to use a "railroaders" term, "turned completely inside out." The railroad track for a short distance was also torn up. It is truly wonderful when the wrecked condition of the engine is taken into consideration that the bodies of the victims were not more badly mutilated. Excepting Cowhey and Moyer, whose bodies and faces were somewhat battered, the others were not so badly mangled or defaced. 
At four o'clock this morning, Deputy Coroner, Dr. H.G. Weist, of Schuylkill Haven, was aroused and immediately summoned a jury. The Coroner B.C. Gulgin, also appeared as early as possible and they with the jury viewed the scene of the accident. No testimony will be taken for a day or so to await the condition of the injured man, Michael Dobbins. 
The jury consists of Messrs. Hock, Fry, Greisinger, Jones, Brown and Brennan.  
The steam crane which is used to remove debris and other material in the event of a collision or any other accident on the railroad, was broken a few days ago, and the wreck crew was therefore very much hampered in removing the wreck. The wreckers under Yardmaster Wm. Sabold worked very faithfully notwithstanding their great drawback. 
The Reading railroad has been very unfortunate during the past year, with the number of explosions of locomotives which have occurred. One old railroader this morning assigned the following as the prime cause why these engines have exploded. He said in substance the crews are compelled to run their engines at a very high pressure to draw the very heavy trains which are put behind them for the past year. That to keep up the great pressure of steam and the quantity used the fires are forced and the exterior of the boilers are burned out, and something must give way, he added.

This article has been posted in honor of the 121st anniversary of William Cowhey's death on November 14, 1892. I have also shared it as part of Amanuensis Monday, a Geneabloggers Daily Prompt dedicated to the transcription of important documents such as this newspaper article detailing the accident that took William Cowhey's life.


jutka said...

Lisa! So nice to hear from you! Thank you for the Thanksgiving wishes. Hope you're all doing OK. I alway enjoy reading your postings. Have a wonderful holiday season and take care!


jutka said...

Lisa! So nice to hear from you! Thank you for the Thanksgiving wishes, hope you're all fine, I always enjoy reading your blosgs.
Take care, Jutka


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