908 Chestnut, Grand Forks, North Dakota
This is not a very pleasant story to read, but after reading in the Album about a boiler explosion that happened on the 27th of Feb., 1882, I would like to tell you about a boiler explosion that took place on October 20, 1884.
This boiler, built by the Ames Engine Works, was a Michner dry bottom, as it was called by inspectors and boiler men. It had been condemned, but the owner decided to steam it up and finish his threshing for fall as he only had a few stacks of grain left. This explosion happened about 80 rods north of a little village known at that time as Edna.
My uncle had been at Edna and was on his way home. He had a yoke of oxen and wagon and was some 30 or 40 rods away when the explosion happened. He hurried his oxen along as fast as he could and met the fireman some 15 rods from where the engine stood. He offered to take him back to the village, but he said 'no'. He told him to stay there and help. He walked to the village, holding his in-sides with his hands, and was taken to a doctor. He was cut open near his waistline.
Uncle drove on to the place and the first thing that met his eyes was his young brother-in-law, only 19 years of age, and another young man. Both dead near their grain wagons. The engineer was lying some distance from where the engine had been standing. He was torn apart almost to his throat, but his heart was still beating. My uncle then went to the threshing machine and there lay the band cutter beneath the foot board on which he had been standing. He, too, was dead. Lying face down on the grain stack was the feeder. The back of his head had been cut away and as he went flying, his brain fell out and was lying on the foot board on which he had been standing, absolutely intact except it was flattened some. Uncle went and got the brother-in-law's father and the body was taken to his home in Uncle's wagon with the oxen.
In 1907 I had a chance to look at a Gaar Scott boiler that blew up several years before. It was a Gaar Scott return flue and all the insides were blown out. The main flue and flue sheets looked like they had been torn out, not a rivet had been moved.
In 1914 I had a chance to look at a Minnesota Chief built at Stillwater, Minnesota. It had two patches on the left side near the front end. They were about the size of a man's hand and were in good shape. The main flue and the flues were blown out and the flue sheets just torn out but the main shell was absolutely intact. This explosion killed one man.
In 1916 I saw a Gaar Scott return flue that blew up some years before and that, like the others, had gone the same way. Everything inside: main flue, flues and flue sheets were blown out but the main shell was intact. The flue sheets were torn out but no rivets were pulled out or loosened in any of these boilers.
In 1914 I met an old man who had been an inspector in Minnesota for several years. Some like the Ames, Nichols & Shepard, Cooper, Aultman & Taylor and Minnesota Chief. He told me a story about a man that owned a Minnesota Chief and wanted more pressure. The inspector told him that his boiler would not stand more pressure, but the man said to put the pressure on and he would be responsible. The inspector said he put the pressure on and the flue caved in. The boiler had to be sent back to the factory and a new main flue put in. He said that some people think because the pressure is on the outside of the flue that it will stand more pressure, but he said in all his experiences he has found this was just the opposite.
I have written this hoping that it may be of some help to those who own return boilers. It would be an awful thing if one of those boilers should give away at one of our reunions with hundreds of people standing around. I earnestly hope such a thing will never happen.