Newspaper Article Dated May 20th, 1912
*[newspaper clipping provided by The Douglas County Museum]

"Blame Is Placed"
Federal Report On Fatal Wreck At Rice Hill


Wrong Location of Water Glass Kept Them in Ignorance of Low Stage of Water in Boiler

The local mechanical department of the Southern Pacific railroad is blamed for the locomotive boiler explosion at Rice Hill last month that resulted in the deaths of Engineer Mark Bartlett and Fireman Bert Aderton. The blame is attached by the United States boiler inspection bureau, which finds that the engineer and fireman were misled as to the actual amount of water in the boiler by a wrongly located water glass. This information is contained in the following article in the Portland Journal of Sunday, May 19:

WASHINGTON, May 18. -- How a seemingly little thing may lead to disastrous results is shown in the report of the Interstate Commerce Commission on the accident that occurred to the Oregon & California Railroad locomotive No. 2538, four miles south of Yoncalla, Or., April 4, 1912. The locomotive was being operated by the Southern Pacific Company, and the report is by Chief Inspector of Locomotive Boilers John F. Ensign.

The cause of the accident, to quote the official report, was caused "by an overheated crown sheet, due to the fact that the engine crew were evidently misled in the height of the water on account of an improperly located water glass. We consider the local mechanical officials were at fault for permitting this locomotive to be operated with a water glass not at the proper height above crown sheet, as required by Rule No. 37, and also for permitting the locomotive to be operated with flues in such a condition that it was necessary to plug a number of them, in violation of Rule 44."


This was a violent explosion, the locomotive being thrown a distance of 218 feet, over three box cars, and the engineer and fireman being killed. The report says:

"Our inspection disclosed the fact that almost the entire crown sheet, with the exception of a portion of the left back corner, was overheated. The overheated portions of the sheet extended 4 inches below the highest part of the crown sheet at the right front corner and 1 inch below at the left front corner. At the right back corner it was about on a line with the crown sheet, while there had apparently been water on the left back corner. The water glass was so located that the lowest reading was only 1 inch above the highest part of the crown sheet, as indicated by line plate on boiler head. Therefore, on an ascending grade of 84.48 feet per mile the front of the water glass, and on the high side of the curve it would be, as indicated in this case, 3 or more inches below the highest portion of the crown sheet and the glass would still show water."


"It was also found that other locomotives on the same division have the water glass so located that the lowest reading is from one half to 1 inch above highest part of crown sheet. On some of these a plate is attached to the water glass frame in such a manner that the lower end of the glass is obscured, thus making the lowest reading 3 inches above highest part of crown sheet.

"From statements made by engine watchmen at Drain, who watched the engine while there, it is evident that flues were leaking quite badly, as it was necessary to fill the boiler four times from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. and that 127 gallons of fuel oil were used, whereas only 30 gallons would have been necessary had not the boiler been leaking. Seven flues were found to be plugged.

Please Click Here To Read, "Death at Rice Hill"
Written By Ralph State of Nottingham, England

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