Confluence, PA Railroad Tunnel Explosion, Oct 1883

Brooks Tunnel PA  today.jpg




Confluence, Pa., Oct. 30. -- A terrible disaster occurred near Brooks Tunnel, on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, Sunday morning about nine o'clock
resulting in the instant killing of five men. The railroad company had been strengthening and widening the tunnel, and some distance outside a magazine had been erected, in which was stored twelve hundred pounds of dynamite for blasting. About the hour named a freight train had just passed through the tunnel and was side-tracked to allow the passenger train, overdue, to pass. Four of the crew walked back to the vicinity of the magazine and were engaged in conversation with the watchman, when people living in the vicinity were startled by a terrible concussion. Houses for fifteen miles around were shaken to their foundations, and windows for a distance of seven miles were shattered. Horror-stricken, the people ran from their houses, and upon investigation it was found, the dynamite had exploded with fearful effect. Everything in the vicinity gave evidence of the terrific force of the explosion. Trees were uprooted, huge rocks torn asunder, and telegraph poles for half a mile prostrated. Nothing remained of the magazine. Portions of human bodies -- legs, arms, hands and heads -- were picked up half a mile distant, but they were so badly disfigured as to be unrocognizable. On the site of the building was a hole ten feet or more in depth and twelve to fifteen in diameter. For several hundred yards up the track the ballast and rails were spattered with blood and bits of human flesh, while the stout planks of which the shanty had been built were reduced to splinters not larger than a Lucifer match. High up the side of the mountain, on the topmost branches of a huge chestnut, was a bit of blue cloth waving in the wind. A great toe of one of the victims was picked up half a mile up the mountain. The remains of one man, identified as that of CHARLES TISSUL, were found near the spot. The face and scalp and part of the breast were blown off, but the trunk and the limbs were intact.
The remains of the four other victims were not sufficient to fill a gallon pail. It seems that all the victims except TISSUL had entered the powder-house, for what purpose will forever remain a mystery; that the latter stood leaning against the doorway, and that within a few minutes after the quartette entered the explosion took place. The building contained 1,150 pounds of dynamite, packed in convenient sized boxes, and it is the most reasonable supposition that one of the men picked up a box to utilize it as a stool, and either jostled it about or let it fall. The jury rendered a verdict of accidental death, and the fragments of flesh were buried at Confluence yesterday morning.
The names of the unfortunate men are as follows:
GEORGE REYNOLDS, engineer, Confluence, Pa.
CHARLES TICE, flagman, Confluence, Pa.
ROBERT HAMMOND, watchman, Cumberland, Md.
W. A. DEAN, tunnel blacksmith, Cornwallis, Va.
R. BURCHFIELD, helper, Cornwallis, Va.

Waterloo Courier Iowa 1883-11-07