Omaha, NE Locomotive Explosion, July 1933

3 DIE IN TRAIN BLAST, BLAME CREW.

LINCOLN MAN AMONG VICTIMS OF EXPLOSION.

BURLINGTON OFFICIAL CLAIMS ENGINE OF AK-SAR-BEN TRAIN BLEW UP AT OMAHA BECAUSE EMPLOYES FAILED TO FEED WATER TO BOILER -- KARL ZIMMERMAN OF LINCOLN KILLED.

Omaha, July 19 -- (AP) -- Carelessness was blamed today by J. H. Aydclott, general manager of lines west, for an explosion in a Burlington railroad locomotive's boiler at the Union station here last night which killed three men, injured 13 and caused damage estimated at $115,000.
Aydelott expressed belief that the engineer and fireman on the Ak-Sar-Ben limited, crack Denver-Chicago train, failed to watch the locomotive's gauges and "failed to feed water into the boiler when it was needed." Aydelott believes the explosion was caused by the tremendous pressure of steam when water from the tender was turned into the boiler and hit the white hot crown sheet.
The dead:
CHARLES E. UTTER, engineer, Creston, Ia.
KARL J. ZIMMERMAN, fireman, Lincoln.
JAMES M'RAE, 29, negro "red-cap," Omaha.
The blast occurred, with a deafening roar and a blinding flash as the big locomotive coasted slowly into the station at dusk. Hurled 100 feet in the air, the ten-ton boiler tore through a section of the concourse, after completely wrecking the 160,000 pound locomotive, leaving only the denuded wheel trucks on the tracks.
Near-panic ensued momentarily among the crowd at the station and on nearby trains. For several hours police fought to keep back a crowd estimated at 15,000 as wrecking crews worked feverishly to clear away the twisted mass of steel.
All-night inspection of the wrecked engine by Burlington officials and John Welch, federal locomotive inspector, Aydelott said, revealed that the engine was in perfect condition when it left Lincoln last night on its run to Omaha.
He said it would cost about $100,000 to put the engine in service again. Damage to the overhead concourse linking the union and Burlington stations will amount to approximately $15,000.
"The evidence is perfectly clear," Aydelott said.
"The inspection showed that the firebox was in perfect condition and that every staybolt was in place. The valves and cocks were open and were perfectly clean. There was no possibility of a false indication by any of the gauges on the amount of water in the boiler."
"There was plenty of water in the tender and the feed water heater was in good condition. There was no obstruction to prevent water being pumped into the boiler."
"It is perfectly clear that the explosion occurred because the fireman and engineer failed to feed water into the boiler when it was needed. They let the water in the boiler get too low. When water from the tender was turned into the boiler, hitting the white hot crown sheet, the tremendous pressure of steam caused the explosion."
Paul Steinwender coroner's investigator, said there will be no inquest into the deaths.
ZIMMERMAN'S body was thrown about 150 feet north of the place where the explosion occurred. The engineer was blown south. His body was found on the platform a few feet from the engine. McRAE was standing on the platform just opposite the engine when it blew up. His head was almost sheared off by the flying metal and he was scalded by tons of boiling water. He died three hours later at a hospital.
After clipping the top from the concourse section but leaving its floor almost uninjured, the boiler landed 75 feet from the engine.
R. B. PAUL and STEPHEN PETERS, veteran Burlington employes, were standing on the platform as the train came in.
"My back was to the engine," said PAUL. "There was a blinding flash and a deafening roar. It took me up in the air and dropped me down on the platform more than a car length back."
PAUL'S back and legs were blistered by escaping steam. PETERS also burned, said he was knocked down once and then a second time as he tried to get up.
MISS CLETA MINTER, Omaha, a stenographer employed by the Standard Oil Co., was in a coach on track 4, across the platform from the Ak-Sar-Ben, waiting for her berth to be made up. She was planning a trip to Chicago to visit the World Fair.

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