100 Years Ago in American Machinist

| March/April 1997

Reprinted with permission from American Machinist, 1996. A Penton publication. Sent to us by Allen C. Gruver, 1450 Beaver Valley Pike, Willow Street, Pennsylvania 17584

In the July 2, 1896 issue of American Machinist, an article, 'A Fly Wheel Explosion' described an accident at the mill of the American Wire Company, Cleveland. The explosion was so massive, a correspondent for the magazine immediately wired reports of the accident back to the editors to get the news out to the readers.

At midnight, a 50,000 lb. flywheel burst while it was on a steam engine running the billet train of the continuous rod mill. The wheel was 24 feet in diameter and four feet wide and ran at 75 rpm. The explosion was so powerful, all the electric wires in the plant broke almost simultaneously, leaving everyone in total darkness.

Evidence gathered during an investigation into the accident showed that the cause of the explosion was the engine. A 28x60 inch Harris Corliss engine was running faster than normal, which placed a heavy stress on the governor belt.

An engineer attempted to save the flywheel by closing the throttle. But, he could not act fast enough to keep the belt from breaking. The engine ran out of control, eventually destroying the flywheel.

Sections of the flywheel flew far in many directions. The first parts dropped into a pit, tearing up the floor and knocking the engineer into the basement. He was almost senseless from a blow in the side. However, a downpour of cold water from a broken pipe revived him. He struggled through the debris to a trap door 25 feet away and crawled another 40 feet to a boiler to try to close the crown valves. A rescue crew found him in the boiler room in an exhausted condition, but not seriously hurt.