Belt-Wheel Wreck at the Plant of the Tennessee Fiber Company

Reprinted from Power Magazine, August 1905 issue, was submitted
by Richard Mock, 159 Dirkson Ave., West Seneca, New York 14224.

On June 14 a belt-wheel in the plant of the Tennessee Fiber
Company at Memphis, Tenn., burst and did a considerable amount of

The wheel was 20 feet in diameter, 30 inches face and weighed
25,000 pounds. It was located on a 24 x 48 George H. Corliss
engine, running normally at a speed of 72 revolutions per

The wheel was completely wrecked. Its rim was broken up into
numerous small pieces and every spoke was broken off short at the
hub. The engine was also wrecked completely. The main pillow-block
was split from bearing to foot; the connecting-rod was pulled in
two; the girder-frame was broken near the middle of its length; the
cylinder-head was knocked out and the cylinder was split; the
valve-motion was demolished. The entire engine was, in fact, a huge
junk heap after this accident occurred.

Heavy pieces of cast-iron hurled from the bursting wheel badly
damaged the building and destroyed a considerable amount of piping
and other apparatus. Huge pieces, thrown vertically, crashed
through the roof and fell back again, cutting wide swaths on both
their upward and downward flights.

The escape of the engineer was most miraculous. He was passing
in front of the wheel, and when the crash came was only a few
inches to one side of the plane in which the flying missiles were
hurled. He lost no time in getting out of his perilous position,
and, fortunately so, for one of the pieces, hurled through the
roof, fell back on the very spot where he had been standing.

The cause of the accident was not definitely determined. It is
known, however, that it was not due to racing. Had racing occurred,
the pieces of the wheel would have been thrown through much greater
distances than they were.

All of the circumstances indicate that the pillow-block gave way
first and that the wheel was broken by being hurled against the
side walls of the wheel-pit.

There was a binder-pulley between the flywheel and the receiving
pulley. The engine was carrying its maximum load. It is likely that
a heavy pull on the belt, due to the combined effect of the
binder-pulley and a sudden load on the engine, ruptured the
pillow-block. When this occurred the shaft was pulled forward from
its bearings, taking with it the wheel, the crank, the
connecting-rod, the piston-rod and the piston. The wheel struck
against the brick side walls of the wheel-pit and was broken; the
piston struck against the front cylinder-head and caused the
breakage of the connecting rod; the piston then being free was shot
by the steam pressure rearward through the cylinder knocking out
the rear cylinder-head in its flight and causing the splitting of
the cylinder; the rest of the damage was caused by the pieces of
cast-iron hurled from the wheel as previously described.

The Tennessee Fiber Company suffered no loss from this accident.
They were protected by a flywheel policy, under which they were
promptly reimbursed. The Fidelity & Casualty Insurance Company
of New York were on the risk.

Farm Collector Magazine
Farm Collector Magazine
Dedicated to the Preservation of Vintage Farm Equipment