Posts Tagged ‘Katy Railroad’

MonFeb201114

M-K-T Locomotive Boiler Explosion, Smithville, TX

 

Explosion rocked Smithville

Thursday, February 3, 2011 | Denis McGinness, Smithville Times

Ceremony to commemorate dark day in history from 1911 

 Like tracks weaving through a rail yard, Smithville’s history is intertwined with the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railroad, affectionately dubbed the Katy. On Tuesday, Feb. 8 at 2 p.m., at the Gazebo, a ceremony will be held to commemorate a dark day in that history known as “The Terrible Explosion at Smithville.” 

 The ceremony will take place 100 years to the day and almost to the minute that the disaster took place.  

The tragic event occurred when a boiler on one of the huge switch engines exploded from massive steam pressure at the large MK&T Railroad roundhouse facility on Wednesday, Feb. 8, 1911 at about 2:10 p.m. 

“I am unaware of any greater tragedy that has befallen this city,” said Bruce Blalock, railroad historian and a member of the James. H. Long Railroad Park and Museum board. 

 Dozens of Smithville residents can be seen taking in the scene of a boiler explosion on Feb. 8, 1911 that killed 10 men and injured several others. Pictured to the right, the remains of the switch engine after the boiler blast. Prior to the explosion, the engine had been located in the center of the picture between two locomotives. Bruce Blalock/Courtesy Photo Dozens of Smithville residents can be seen taking in the scene of a boiler explosion on Feb. 8, 1911 that killed 10 men and injured several others. Pictured to the right, the remains of the switch engine after the boiler blast. Prior to the explosion, the engine had been located in the center of the picture between two locomotives. Bruce Blalock/Courtesy Photo 

 The commemorative ceremony will be simple, according to Blalock, with a recap of the event, a reading of the names of those railroad workers who were killed, a moment of silence and the ringing of the train bell. 

 The tragic story starts with switch engine No. 233, which had just been turned out from the maintenance shop after overhauling. Mechanics were making adjustments to the safety valve, or pop-off valve, on the huge steam engine when the explosion occurred. 

 It is suspected that a defective steam line to the pressure gauge prevented the workmen from knowing the actual pressure in the engine and they tightened the pop off valves until an estimated pressure of 800 pounds. per square inch was hit, rupturing the boiler, blowing the engine forward 75 feet and sending the rail tender backward into the turntable pit. 

 Ten men were killed outright by the powerful event, two died later and several had serious injuries. Killed instantly were H. E. O’Rourke, Charles Gray, Thurston McNeill, Harry Clark, Will Phelps, F. Barino, Aaron Harless, Phil Hubbard, Albine Mitchell and Henry Stoglin. 

 O’Rourke’s body was identified by his foot, which had one toe amputated. The bodies of Charles Gray and four others were found under Engine No. 550, which stood on one side of the switch engine. One body was found under Engine No. 327, which was on the other side. One body landed on a house more than 300 yards from the explosion. 

 The Katy’s division surgeons in Smithville, Dr. J. H. E. Powell and P. Chapman (who had offices over the Hill and Trousdale buildings, respectively) were overwhelmed giving proper care to such extensive injuries so a special train was arranged to bring physicians from La Grange. Then at 6:30 p.m. on the day of the accident, a special train took six of the most seriously injured to Waco to the Katy hospital facility there. 

 According to a Houston Chronicle story published on Feb. 9, 1911, part of the engine’s firebox flew through the air and landed in town alongside Mohler’s grocery store, (105 W. Second St.) breaking the leg of his delivery horse. The story said most of the glass in adjacent buildings was shattered, as were fixtures in buildings along Second Street. The explosion caused a shock wave that “set the entire people wild with excitement.” 

 Pieces of the engine were also thrown six blocks from the rail yard. Smithville resident Johnny Stalmach picked up one of those pieces and put it in his yard. The twisted steel sat for 98 years, until, realizing the historical nature of the wreckage, Ruth Stalmach Whitehead and the Stalmach family got the idea to create something from it that would commemorate the accident. 

 The Railroad Museum, through the help of historical author David Herrington and art promoter Richard Latham, is working with local artist Russell Smith to create a memorial sculpture that will be dedicated the first week in May during the annual Katy Railroad employee reunion. 

 Blalock said the public is encouraged to attend the commemorative event and visit the museum to learn more about the history of the accident and the Katy Railroad in Smithville. The museum houses documents, photos and memorabilia of the MK&T Railroad’s long history in Smithville. 

P.S. Bruce is the owner of the Katy House Bed and Breakfast, named for the M-K-T Railroad, the Katy. 


TueApr20106

Smithville Railroad Park Reunion 2010

May 1, 2010 is the date for this year’s annual Railroad Reunion. That is the first Saturday in May and the location this year is the Smithville Recreation Center.  Smithville, Texas is just 43 miles east of Austin.

Prior to the reunion there will be a dedication of the Texas Star located at the Railroad Park.  The Star dedication is at 10:30 AM, and the doors of the Rec Center open at 11:00 AM.  Lunch will be served at noon.  All rail fans are invited to attend, especially those that love the M-K-T RR and the U P.   The Katy House Bed and Breakfast was named after the Katy Railroad (M-K-T).  The house is full of antiques and railroad memorabilia.   The Railroad Park is at the end of our historic Main Street, just next to the Chamber of Commerce office.  Please visit the Railroad Museum while in town.


SunFeb201021

Smithville, TX off the beaten path

This is from a cute couple that just stayed with us. This is Dave’s blog:

An Occasion To Remember

Many men fall victim to their own memory when it comes to anniversaries. Fortunately, my anniversary falls in the same ten-day period as Valentine’s Day and my wife’s birthday. While making this easy to remember, it does have its issues, but nothing I can’t handle.

On our wedding day, we drove to Smithville Texas, the site of the movie “Hope Floats” featuring Sandra Bullock (yes, it is a chick-flick, but it is a good one) and stayed at a bed and breakfast called The Katy House. Now, for those who read this blog (yes, I am talking to you) you may remember that Michelle and I love to tour small towns off the beaten path. Well, Smithville—with a whopping population of 3,900—certainly qualifies as small and it does sit just off of state highway 71, which is a beaten path.

This town has a quaint old style main street with buildings built around the turn of the century (not the recent one, mind you) and a train depot (which is not really a functioning depot anymore, but it serves as the chamber of commerce and a railway museum). Most of the buildings that are occupied house antique stores or craft boutiques, while many sit empty. The other streets are filled with old houses dating back to the late 1800’s when this town was built by the MKT railroad. The Katy House is one such home.

Built in 1909, it was originally named the Chancellor Residence after its first occupant. Many others have lived in it since, but it is now a very comfortable B&B run by Sallie and Bruce Blalock. They made our wedding night stay quite pleasant, setting us up with a bottle of bubbly and getting us reservations at the town’s pre-eminent restaurant, The Back Door Café (make the trip if for no other reason than to eat here, it is that good). Because the stay was so memorable, we come back every year to celebrate our anniversary with them….


SatFeb20106

Geocachers, Take note- Katy House and Smithville

Geocachers, Take Notice of Smithville!

    For about two years now, the Katy House Bed and Breakfast has been one site of the many geocaches that can be found in or near Smithville, Texas. Whether you’re an old-timer at geocaching or a brand-new fan, you should come look in Smithville. There are now 40 geocaches hidden within 4 miles of the Smithville Post Office, making this area an absolute gold mine of geocaches!  If you want to see what we’re talking about, go to http://www.geocaching.com/  and put in Zip Code 78957 to search for geocaches in this area. 
    Since being placed, the Katy House has had about 70 visitors coming to find the geocache.  Further, some friends once hid a Travel Bug in the geocache called “A Ticket to Ride” (not far from the Katy House), and it has now traveled to Japan, Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand, Switzerland and Germany! They just wished they could’ve gone with the Travel Bug.
    So – do you want to know where the geocache is hidden at the Katy House?  We’re sworn to secrecy, but we will tell you the coordinates are: N 30° 00.500 W 097° 09.663.  You can find our geocache listed as “Katy Bar the Door” on the geocaching web site listed above.


SunApr200926

Katy House sent items to Presidential Library

The Bush Library and Museum, in College Station, borrowed over 20 railroad items from the Katy House for a 6 month exhibit on Railroading last year.   Our Ragsdale clock was displayed in a large exhibit explaining timekeeping with running the railroads years ago.  Ragsdale Jeweler, on Main Street, in Smithville, was the official watch inspector for the M.K.&T.R.R.

Bruce and Sallie in front of display on Railroading timekeeping

Bruce and Sallie in front of display on Railroading timekeeping