It Was a Death Race

Image from Wikipedia

IT WAS A DEATH RACE.

Whaleback’s Efforts to Pass the Virginia Causes a Steampipe to Burst.

Chicago, Ill., June 24. — The whaleback Christopher Columbus steamed up to the last point Saturday night struggling beyond its strength to win a moonlight race of excursion boats, and was a cripple at its dock early Sunday morning. There was a big hole in the top of the last of its battery of six boilers, the varnish of the cabin was steamed into wrinkles, and in the salon there was the smell of salves on the red wounds of six of the crew caught in the hold when the pope to the engine was blown into fragments. This terrible accident was caused by the summer folly which makes the lake captains crazy to race their ships into port.

Two men were killed and thirteen were seriously or painfully injured. The dead are:

E.J. STITE, fireman, 24 years old; lived at Paxton, Ford county, Ill.; died at 8:20 this evening at St. Luke’s hospital.

UNKNOWN MAN, supposed to be Frank Wilson, a fireman; face so badly scalded that he has not yet been identified; died at 5:15 o’clock this morning at St. Luke’s hospital.

The injured are:

John Hoppe, fireman, resided 200 West Madison, flat 3; inhaled steam and lungs badly scalded; hands, arms and chest seriously scalded; will probably die at St. Luke’s hospital.

Frank Rosner, fireman, resides at West Newton, Nicollet, Minn.; face, hands and arms scalded; at St. Luke’s hospital; may recover.

Arnold Keine, deaf mute, lives at Dubuque, Ia., aged 21 years; face and both hands badly scalded; at county hospital; may die.

George W. Kehoe, waiter in cafe; face, hands and arms scalded and right hand ct. Resides 122 Carol street, Buffalo; at St. Luke’s hospital; may not recover.

James Larimer, fireman, scalded on face and body; may recover.

Miss Boxheimer, pianist Bowman orchestra; severely burned about face and hands.

H.H. Darrow, 278 Chestnut street, Chicago; musician; face badly scalded.

George W. Kell, waterman, Buffalo; badly burned about face and hands.

J.E. Ryan, fireman, 614 Forty-sixth street, terribly burned about face, body and arms.

Nix Seter, waterman; terribly burned about head and face.

Miss Jessie L. Stone, 262 Campbell avenue; scalded in face, not seriously.

The inquest began at 2 o’clock this afternoon. Steamboat Inspector Stewart H. Moore stated positively that the accident was not due to any overpressure of steam, nor was it the result of racing with the Virginia. An expert in marine boilers ventured the explanation that water had accumulated in the pipe leading from the boiler not in use to the steam dome. When steam was turned on in this boiler the water was shot with resistless force against the iron-casting leading to the dome. As the accident occurred the instant steam was turned on it would seem that there is a good deal in this explanation.

Image from Maritime History of the Great Lakes

Chicago, Ill., June 24. — Stewart H. Moore, local government inspector of steamboat boilers, has made an examination of the steampipe which burst on the whaleback steamer Christopher Columbus on the southbound trip Saturday night, injuring two persons fatally and a score less seriously. “The breaking of the steampipe, to my mind,” he said, “is an accident that could not be foreseen, nor anticipated. It only serves as an illustration of the treachery of cast-iron, and cast-iron is the only thing for boiler makers to use on pipes of this character. So far as I can see, the break was not the result of a flaw, but the metal was in good condition. That it should happen could not be guarded against, and the officers of the boat are in nowise to blame for the injury done.”

The Columbus has a batter y of six boilers and it was the connection of the sixth one with the main steam pipe that had been blown loose at both ends. Everybody who was in the engineroom was burned by the escaping steam and the roar caused a panic on deck. Engineer Webster heroically performed the task of shutting off the valves on the different boilers, preventing further escape of steam. In doing this he was badly burned. The ship was then off Waukegan and she laid there until the injured had been cared for and arrangements made for using a battery of three boilers.

Hobbling along like a lame horse the Columbus finally reached her dock at Chicago at 5 a.m. It was charged that the Columbus was racing with the Virginia and that in trying to catch up to the Goodrich steamer the whaleback’s boilers were crowded beyond the legal limit, which was 170 pounds. Officers of both steamers, however, deny that they were racing.

Centralia Enterprise and Tribune (Centralia, Wisconsin) Jun 29, 1895

Image and article from Tower Accidents and Other Stories

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2 Responses to “It Was a Death Race”

  1. Bob_in_MA Says:

    That head-on view makes it look a little unbalanced.

    There were a lot of whaleback ships on th eGreat Lakes at the time, but most were used as freighters. Here’s one unloading iron ore in Buffalo right around the turn of the century:

    http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/det/item/det1994007225/PP/

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