Hurricane, WV Train Explosion, Jan 1926

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EXPLOSION SHAKES ALL OF HURRICANE WRECKING STORES

Engineer and Brakeman Killed When C. & O. Locomotive Blows Up In Center Of Town

Fireman, Woman and Boy Are Injured In Explosion

Fronts of Buildings Demolished And Pedestrians Hurled To Ground Under Rain of Steel

Two men were killed instantly, another was perhaps fatally injured, at least two others suffered painful injuries and damage running into thousands of dollars was caused when the boiler of a powerful Mallet-type engine on westbound freight train No. 1360, exploded on the Chesapeake & Ohio railway tracks in the heart of the business district of Hurricane at 5:30 o'clock last night.

The dead are:

JEFF D. ROSE, 31 years old, engineer on the train, 306 West Ninth Avenue, Huntington
E.P. HENRY, 28 years old, brakeman of Russell

The injured are:
C.E. CHATTIN, 24 years old, fireman on the train, of Russell; severely scalded about the face, head, shoulders and arms. He is in the Chesapeake & Ohio hospital here, with his recovery reported doubtful late last night.

Mrs. B.B. TAYLOR and her small son, of Hurricane. They were struck by flying fragments of steel and iron and Mrs. Taylor was reported to have been painfully injured about the left leg and left jaw. The boy, whose first name could not be learned, was less seriously hurt. They were taken to their home, where physicians attended them.

The conductor on the train, P. WEEKS, was in the caboose at the time, and escaped unscratched.

Bodies of Engineer Rose and Brakeman Henry were brought to Huntington aboard train No. 13, arriving shortly after 8 o'clock and were taken to the Steele Funeral Home for preparation for burial. The body of Henry was to be taken to his home at Russell this morning.

Letting loose with terrific force, the explosion rocked the entire town of Hurricane, throwing a rain of steel and iron pellets and materials of other kinds over the entire business section of the town, leaving in its wake a scene of bloodshed and wreckage.

FEW PEOPLE ON STREET

Only the fact that the blow fell at the hour that it did was responsible for keeping the casualty list from mounting to a higher figure. The water tower, where the locomotive stood filling its tank, stands right off the side of the Midland Trail, the main highway between Huntington and Charleston, and at a spot almost directly in the center of the business section of Hurricane, with nothing but an embankment between the community's main street and the railway tracks.

Less than an hour before the main street was thickly populated with shoppers from the town itself and from surrounding countryside. But in the intervening period the shopping crowd had scattered and gone, the majority of the merchants had locked up their places for the day and the streets for the most part were deserted.

It was fortunate that this was the setting when the terrific blast occurred, residents declared, else nothing short of a miracle could have saved many pedestrians from serious and perhaps fatal injury. The hail of steel, iron and coal which rained over the streets and business houses, was torrential and there would have been no escape for pedestrians.

As it was, the force of the blast, rocking buildings violently on their foundations, knocked all persons within striking distance to the ground. Persons on the streets were swept off their feet, hurled through the air, and smacked roughly to earth, many stunned and knocked breathless. Others in store buildings not yet closed were little less roughly treated, persons in several instances being hurled through the back doors of their establishments.

Mrs. Taylor and her son were among the few pedestrians on the street to be caught in the rainfall of the steel and iron fragments. Others were more fortunate in that they were struck glancing blows and not hurt seriously enough to call for the attention of physicians.

Windows in buildings throughout the business section were shattered and in several instances the entire fronts of the structures were torn down and demolished by the blast. The building housing the post office was one of the structures to lose its front. Other structures damaged included the new building occupied by A.N. SUMMERS, a merchant; the Hurricane Breeze building, Y.P. FOSTER'S store building and that of R.E. MITCHELL, merchant.

Electric wires were also torn down in the bast an the town lights were dismantled, leaving the community in darkness last night.

The tragedy disturbed the little town of Hurricane as nothing which it has experienced in many years. The train, an extra freight, west bound, with 72 loaded coal cars on its string, coming from Elk Run, on Coal River, and en route to Russell, Ky., had just pulled up to the water tower in the yards at Hurricane for the purpose of taking on a supply of water. With locomotive panting apparently healthfully, it had been at a standstill but a few minutes when with no noticeable sign of warning the explosion occurred.

When the inhabitants recovered from their shock and fears--some fearing that an earthquake had struck the community---and rushed to the railway's tracks, where the engine, tender and two coal cars directly back of the tender lay on their sides in a mass of wreckage, they found Engineer Rose dead and Brakeman Henry dying.

CHATTING RUSHED HERE

Fireman Chattin, terribly scalded and apparently in serious condition, was picked up and provided first aid as quickly as possible. Later he was brought to the Cheasapeake & Ohio hospital here by C.W. MCALLISTER in an automobile.

The large Mallet-type locomotive was almost completely blown to pieces and wrecked beyond repair.

Huntington officials of the railway company were promptly notified and train No. 2 was held up in its departure from Huntington until it could be boarded by Superintendent H.F. WEBB, Master's Mechanic E.C. GILLESPIE, and other local officials of the line. Later, a special train carried other officials and relief forces to the scene.

The two main tracks at the point were obstructed by the wreckage, but trains east and west were routed over the passing siding, which was cleared at 11 o'clock.

The cause of the explosion had not been determined last night.

"The cause will have to be determined by an investigation as Engineer Rose, who was in charge, was killed, as was Brakeman Henry," E.I. FORD, assistant to General Superintendent E.L. BOCK, told the Herald-Dispatch. Mr. Bock was absent from the city.

Mr. Ford said he could give no estimate on the damage to equipment and track as a result of the explosion.

Engineer Rose had been an employee of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway company since November 24, 1908 on which date he was engaged in the capacity of a fireman. He was promoted to engineer, June 14, 1916, in which capacity he has since served.

He is survived by his widow and six children; his father, CLAY ROSE, of Lee City, Ky.; three brothers, ACLE, BOONE and HOWARD ROSE, all of Tulsa, Okla.; and by three sisters. He was regarded by railway employees as an exceptionally capable and efficient engineer.

Henry had been employed by the railroad company since October 29, 1920. He is survived by a widow and two children, who reside at Russell.

Chattin was employed by the railway company as a fireman, September 5, 1916. He was promoted to engineer November 11, 1921, although he was serving in the capacity of a fireman on the ill-fated engine. He is also married, residing at Russell.

Source: Herald Dispatch, 10 January 1926

*Note* Chattin passed away from his injuries at the C & O hospital in Huntington, WV, the same day this article appeared.