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    Johnstown Tribune, 19 Nov 1916, Contributed by Lynne Canterbury



Exploding with a roar that shook buildings for blocks in the vincinity, the boiler of engine No. 32, running light from Altoona to Conemaugh and assisting P.R.R. westbound freight No. 2537 up the grade west of Altoona, blew up just on the outskirts of the Mountain City about 3 o'clock Saturday afternoon, killed three trainmen, including two well known residents of Franklin Borough; slightly injured several others, wrecked an express train traveling on another track and nearly resulted in the wrecking of another fast train.

The accident was one of the most remarkable in the history of the P.R.R.

The dead:

Henry V. RORABAUGH, engineer of engine No. 32 of Conemaugh.
Andrew C. FURLONG, fireman of engine No. 32 of Conemaugh.
Isaac F. REED, fireman of engine No. 2416 of Pittsburgh.

The Injured:

Robert P. RIDDELL, brakeman of Conemaugh, seriously injured.

C. E. CARMICHAEL, flagman, of Conemaugh, slightly injured.

I. B. MCCOY, engineer of No. 2779, of Altoona, slightly injured.

Frank TURNER, fireman of No. 2779, of Juniata, slightly bruised.

Fred HIPPO, conductor, Altoona, slightly hurt.

D. F. VARNER; brakeman, Conemaugh, slightly hurt.

Extra freight No. 2225 pulled out of Altoona shortly before 3 o'clock Saturday in charge of conductor H. M. KIME. Engine No. 82 hooked on behind engine No. 2225 to help push the train of seventy-three empty cars up the eastern slope of the Allegheny Mountains. The engine was pulling a cabin in which were Conductor HIPPO, Robert P. RIDDELL, D. F. VARNER and C. E. CARMICHAEL. RIDDELL got out of the cabin and was shoveling down coal from the top of the tender of the engine to the fireman at the time of the explosion.

How the Accident Occurred ---

The freight train had just passed twenty-ninth street, Altoona when the boiler of No. 32 exploded. The boiler was lifted from the trucks of the engine and hurled 150 feet over on track No. 4. Just then express train No. 49 made up of Adams Express cars, in charge of Conductor C. E. GARBER, of Pittsburgh, and hauled by engine No. 2779, manned by Engineer I. B. MCCOY and Fireman Frank TURNER, and engine No. 2416, in charge of Engineer James WINTER and Fireman Isaac F. REED, both of Pittsburgh, with No. 2779 as the first engine came along on track No. 4 and ploughed into the blown-up boiler as it was falling to the ground. The boiler was thrown over an embankment into a field by the railroad. Both engines of the express train were thrown from the track into the wreckage at the rear end of the freight train; covering four tracks and blocking all trains for a time. A few minutes later, Day Express, train No. 24, coming East was pulled up just in time to avoid ploughing {sic] into the wreckage.

The cabin attached to engine No. 32 was smashed to kindling wood, and HIPPO, CARMICHAEL, and VARNER were thrown onto the roadbed. Engine No. 225, just in front of the locomotive that exploded suffered only slight damage to the tender but several freight cars were wrecked. Two of the front cars on the express train were slightly damaged.

---- Men Mangled and Scalded ---

Engineer RORABAUGH and Fireman FURLONG were in the cabin of engine No. 32 when it went up while Brakeman RIDDELL was on the engine tender, as already noted. The vacuum following the explosion drew Engineer RORABAUGH from the from the cab and he was hurled under engine No. 2416, the second locomotive hauling the express only to be badly mangled and instantly killed. Fireman FURLONG and Brakeman RIDDELL were hurled to the roadbed and both were badly burned and scalded by the escaping steam.

Engineer MCCOY and Fireman TURNER of the first express engine No. 2779, miraculously escaped death and got off with a few scratches. Engineer James WINTER of the second engine No. 2416 escaped without a scratch but his fireman Isaac F. REED met an instant death. He was shoveling in coal when the explosion occurred and the collision occurred and was thrown under his own engine and instantly killed.

--- Rescuing Parties Soon At Work ----

Fireman FURLONG and Brakeman RIDDELL were the first rescued and were immediately placed on an engine and hurried to Altoona Hospital where they were given immediate medical attention. FURLONG was burned and scalded practically over two-thirds of his body and lived until 5:03 o'clock in the evening. RIDDELL was also so badly burned and scalded passed a good day yesterday and (illegible word) this morning that there were hope for his recovery.

The removal of the bodies of Engineer RORABAUGH and Fireman REED was accomplished by considerable work by the force or wreckers that was called to the scene of the accident from Altoona and Gallitzin. Both were mangled and scalded and the body of RORABAUGH being mangled almost beyond recognition.

---- Cause of the Explosion ----

Expert boiler workers after the explosion made an examination of the boiler and it was stated by company officials that the explosion was the result of low water, their finding being based on the condition of the crown-sheet and the stay bolts.

---- Coroner Makes Investigation ---

Coroner W. T. BLACKBURN of Blair County, was on the scene of the accident soon after the explosion and started an investigation. He proposes to hold an inquest tomorrow afternoon at 2:30 o'clock. Brakeman RIDDELL is to be the principal witness. He will likely give his testimony to the Coroner's jury in the hospital, if he is able to give it at all.

FURLONG Goes Out of His Mind ----

FURLONG died soon after he was taken to the Altoona Hospital. He was in a terrible condition when admitted. He was a raving maniac from his awful injuries and, escaping from the doctors and nurses, crawled around the floor of the operating room with such great speed that great difficulty was encountered catching him. After he was fixed up and put to bed, he jumped almost out of bed before death overtook him.

RIDDELL was done up badly but will likely recover. Strange to say, he seems to have suffered nothing from the shock and his temperature has remained normal ever since he was admitted to the hospital. He has been able to talk about the events leading up to the explosion quite clearly. His injuries consisted of a very severe gash in the scalp and second degree burns of the face, cinder marks of the face, lacerations under the left eye, burns about the neck, body, arms and legs, and back covered with scratches from sliding along (illegible word) the cinders after being blown back (illegible word - over?) the engine tender and landing in the (illegible - six foot?) one track away. RIDDELL's wife and two children and his brother were with him Saturday night and yesterday.

What RIDDELL Had To Say

The description RIDDELL gave to the Altoona Hospital authorities of the accident bears out the theory of the railroad officials that the explosion was caused by low water. He said the engineer called across to FURLONG, "Open your injector, mine won't work". The fireman's injector was no sooner opened than the crash came.

RIDDELL is a resident of Franklin Borough. He is twenty-four years old and married. W. J. RIDDELL of Greeve street, Conemaugh is a brother. His wife was formerly Miss Minnie HILL, of Conemaugh. They have been married four years and have two children. RIDDELL is a son of Yardmaster William RIDDELL of Pittsburgh.

>---- Joint Funeral Tomorrow

The remains of RORABAUGH and FURLONG were brought to Conemaugh from Altoona last evening and removed to their late homes by Undertaker HENDERSON. Arrangements have been made for a joint funeral tomorrow afternoon. The funeral procession will leave the houses of each at 1 o'clock and proceed to the United Evangelical Church were services will be conducted by the pastor, the Rev. D. L. YODER, assisted by the Rev. J. Wesley PLATT, of the Conemaugh Progressive Brethren Church and others.

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