Brunswick, ME Railroad Station Boiler Explosion, Dec 1907



The handsome little station of the Maine Central railroad at Brunswick, was badly demolished at midnight Saturday by an explosion, caused by the blowing up of one portion of the steam heating plant. Two people were killed and several others injured, while the damage to the building will amount to nearly $5000.
The dead are WILLIAM B. WOODWARD, custodian of the building and night baggagemaster and WALTER W. HARRIS, a night car inspector. The injured are EDMUND TARRIER, a coal heaver, who had a thigh broken; FRED SYLVESTER, American express employe, cut by flying glass and wrist broken; CLINTON J. BAILEY, nervous shock; MRS. BAILEY, foot badly bruised by falling tiling.
The accident happened a few minutes after the night train for Portland had pulled out of the station and the east bound had been gone about ten minutes. The usual Saturday night crowd which is always to be found on the station platform had disappeared and only the Bath and Lewiston trains were left standing, both being about ready to pull out, when there was a dull, muffled sound, impressing one at first of an earthquake, and suddenly the man holes over the coal bins were blown off and the gables on the station came tumbling down. The floor tiling was raised, a portion of the wooden awning opposite the ticket office was crushed, and great seams were opened in the walls of the structure.
It was the work of but a few minutes for the few people left about the depot to realize that there was an explosion in the steam heating apparatus and a general alarm was sounded, and a call sent for the fire department. The two train crews left at the station commenced to take hold in a quick effort to clear away the debris and also assisted Chief Colby of the police and fire departments in issuing orders for a general search for the dead and injured, but owing to the immense clouds of steam thereabouts, it was almost impossible to accomplish any tangible work at first.
CLYDE L. PENNEY, night telegrapher, was in his office, when the explosion occurred and the force of the explosion lifted his chair several feet. He escaped through a nearby window as did ROBERT MUIR who was in the office with him. Although the wires of the Western Union had been badly mixed by the explosion, MR. PENNEY was enabled to get a line to Portland and at once made a report of the accident and then gave a call for the fire department and sent for the physicians and surgeons which the town affords and the work of rescue then commenced.
The body of MR. WOODWARD was found in the basement beneath a pile of coal, and was so badly disfigured as to be hardly recognizable. The body of HARRIS was found on the platform near the ticket office where he had been struck by a heavy piece of falling granite and instantly killed. TARRIER'S body was found nearby, but life was not extinct and he was quickly sent to the Sisters of Mercy hospital at Lewiston and yesterday it was reported that he would speedily recover from his injuries. FRED SYLVESTER and ALONZO TOTMAN, Express employees, had miraculous escapes as they were hauling a truck load of express matter past the ticket office at the time of the explosion. SYLVESTER was knocked down and the truck slid along over his body where it stopped. A large amount of debris came down on the goods on the truck, but they did not break through and thus SYLVESTER'S life was spared. TOTMAN ran away when he saw the man holes blown off and thus escaped injury as did also FRANCIS DUMONT, another night car inspector.
MR. and MRS. CLINTON BAILEY of Portland who were bound to the eastward where MR. BAILEY hoped to receive medical treatment for a nervous trouble, were in the station at the time, and while MRS. BAILEY was struck by a flying piece of tile and her foot injured slightly, she did not realize it for some time after owing to the excitement of the occasion, but MR. BAILEY was deeply affected by the exciting period and the serious shock to his entire mental system.
Conductor DUDLEY of the Lewiston train was standing in the waiting room when the explosion came but made a miraculous escape through a window and was unharmed.
Supt. Fred E. Sanborn and Asst. Supt. H. E. Manchester of the Maine Central Railroad arrived about two hours after the explosion and commenced an investigation and gave the following announcement of their work, placing the blame upon the dead custodian, MR. WOODWARD:
"We have investigated the matter and find that MR. WOODWARD had been heating the building with the boiler nearest the wall until Saturday night, when he thought that on account of the cold wave it would be well to start a fire in the second boiler. This he did, so far as we can learn, about 9 o'clock."
"This second boiler had been 'cut out' of the hot water heating system up to this time and after the explosion we found both the outlet and return valves tightly closed, indicating that he forgot to open them to allow the water to circulate."
"Of course under these conditions the water standing in the second boiler was confined and soon became steam. Having no vent an explosion was inevitable."
"The damage to the building and heating apparatus is now fixed at $4,000."

Bath Independent And Enterprise Maine 1907-12-04