1903 oil tanker train explosion in Olean

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1903 oil tanker train explosion in Olean

Postby john56 » Tue Oct 04, 2016 4:46 pm

I'm trying to pinpoint where the the Erie tanker cars collided and exploded.I know it was in the vicinity of the trestle over Olean Creek,but was it on the west or east side,and how close to the bridge ? Newspaper accounts from that era don't say exactly where.Any information would be appreciated.
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Re: 1903 oil tanker train explosion in Olean

Postby jr » Tue Oct 11, 2016 11:43 am

The collision occurred just East of the bridge over the Olean Creek. I believe that a portion of the derailment made its way down the bank, into the creek-bed itself.
The (Westbound) train had parted someplace in Hinsdale. The crew was apparently unaware of this, and as the front of the train slowed for Olean, the rear end caught up with the front, causing a derailment and fire. The explosion actually occurred quite a while after the initial derailment, which gave the people of North Olean (mainly boys and young men) plenty of time to gather near the derailment and fire.
My Grandmother witnessed the aftermath of the explosion, seeing many of the deceased, awaiting pick-up by their families.

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Re: 1903 oil tanker train explosion in Olean

Postby BR&P » Mon Oct 31, 2016 8:27 pm

The Safety Appliance Act was enacted in 1893 and fully effective I believe by 1900. I'm surprised there were apparently enough non-air cars to allow such a wreck to happen in 1903.

Maybe the cars involved stayed within New York and thus were not used in interstate commerce and did not require air brakes. (I'm not sure that would be legit under the law, just guessing)
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Re: 1903 oil tanker train explosion in Olean

Postby jr » Thu Nov 03, 2016 8:30 pm

That's a good point about the brakes. The description of the separation and collision appears in several newspaper articles. Hadn't occurred to me, to question those accounts (and I have not seen any official report).

Both Wellsville and Olean were active petroleum centers at the time, and both on the Erie, connected by a continuous rail line within New York State. Conceivably this could have allowed an oil shipment to avoid the interstate air brake rules. (Pure speculation on my part, since I don't actually know the source of the petroleum in question)

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