Brandtsville, PA Train Cars Explode At Wreck Site, Apr 1963

Train Wreck Site One Tank Cars Explodes

TANK CARS EXPLODE AT WRECK SITE.

MANY INJURED; CHLORINE FUMES ENDANGER AREA.

Mechanicsburg, Pa., (AP) -- Three railroad fuel tank cars exploded nearly five hours after a train derailment Sunday, spewing flames and jagged metal over a wide area.
At least 17 firemen and railroad workers were taken to hospitals for treatment of burns, injuries and inhalation of chlorine fumes. Two were detained for observation. An undetermined number of persons were treated at the scene.
The cars exploded separately within 10 minutes, the third being the most serious and the one which sent the mushroom of flame towering several hundred feet into the air.
"It was a funny feeling to see guys running in front of you, their coats and hair smoking," said ROBERT MOYER, 27, Mechanicsburg.
Authorities had ordered the sparsely populated area evacuated several hours earlier when chlorine fumes leaked from one of the cars.
It was feared for a time that the chlorine would contaminate the Yellow Breeches Creek, which supplies drinking water for West Shore suburbs of Harrisburg some 20 miles northeast of the wreck scene.
The wreck occurred in open farm country near the village of Brandtsville in York County, about five miles south of Mechanicsburg.
The derailed cars were part of a 45-car freight being operated by the Western Maryland Railroad over the Reading Railroad's east-west freight line between Hagerstown, Md., and Harrisburg.
A railroad official said the 10th to 32nd cars jumped the double track and two tank cars carrying liquefied petroleum gas caught fire at their safety valves.
The fire appeared to be under control when the first car of liquefied petroleum gas exploded with a dull roar nearly five hours later.
A spokesman for the Reading said in Philadelphia it appeared the derailment was caused by a broken wheel on one of the cars carrying liquid propane gas. He said the explosion followed a fire started by the sparks as a result of the derailment.
Wreck crews from Reading and Rutherford were summoned, as was a team of chlorine experts from Nitro, W. Va. A tank car leaking chlorine gas had to be sealed before the immediate area was safe and residents could return, State Civil Defense Director RICHARD GERSTELL said.

The Titusville Herald Pennsylvania 1963-04-29