N&W in 1910--Mallet wrecked

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Fri Mar 26 22:17:17 EDT 2010

Bluefield Daily Telegraph
October 18, 1910

The First Wreck to Happen in Which One of the Big Machines Figure
Trainmen Miraculously Escape Unhurt--Requires Combined Efforts of Three Wrecking Derricks to Move Ponderous Engine
The wreck of the Mallet engine on the Norfolk and Western at Graham yesterday morning furnished plenty of excitement for a while, and the [un]usual spectacle of a huge engine lying with its wheels turned up to the sun, attracted a large crowd to the scene of the accident.
The engine, No. 998 [Class Y1, 2-8-8-2], was drawing a section of time freight No. 84, and the fact that the train contained fresh meat to be received at Graham probably saved the lives of those aboard the big engine when it left the track and turned its nose toward Bluestone river, just a few steps west of the bridge opposite the Mitchell Mattress factory. It was discovered after the accident that the pony trucks had climbed over, which was the cause given for the accident. Engineer Al Hock, Fireman C. I. Hutchinson and brakemen Lawson and Wimmer were riding on the engine when the accident occurred, and that all of them escaped instant death or serious injury was considered little less than miraculous. Engineer Hock received a sprained ankle in jumping and Brakeman Wimmer had his hip slightly injured in the same manner. The big engine turned completely over on the steep embankment and entirely cleared the track. Two steam derricks worked at the wreck all day yesterday tugging at the wrecked engine, but were unable to more than shake it in its soft bed of clay and cinders, and the job of pulling the wrecked engine to the track will again be resumed this morning. The third steam derrick, the Williamson car, has been ordered to Graham and will assist in retracking the engine today.
The twin derricks tugging at the overturned Mallet yesterday represented 190 tons, but many of the spectators who had gathered to view the wreck were not aware that the derricks were even attempting to lift their load, so little an impression they were able to make at raising it. The giant engine is probably 20 feet from the outside rail, and is lying on its back. A temporary track was constructed in the bank on which it was intended to lift the wrecked engine, but it was found that it will be necessary to further excavate in the embankment and build a track as near under the engine as possible in order to turn the engine over on the rails provided. The two steam derricks were braced and chained to the rails before the test pull was made, but when the signal was given to pull, it was noticed that the derricks were in danger of turning over from their own strength, and a further effort to lift the great load was abandoned.
This is the first serious accident to occur to the new type of the modern engine being used on the Pocahontas division, and the report flashed over the wires quickly that a Mallet engine had jumped the track and turned over an embankment at Graham. Great relief was felt when it was learned that none of the crew were seriously injured, but the wreck of the Mallet was discussed by railroad men all day over the entire division, and much speculation was engaged in as to the difficulty that would be met with in retracking the big machine. All of the local officials of the road, including Superintendent W. S. Becker, Assistant Superintendent W. R. Dawson and Trainmaster Harry Weller, worked at the scene of the accident all day and directed the work of the wrecking outfits. Superintendent J. W. Cook, of the Radford division, who happened to be in Bluefield, also came down to view the wreck when he learned the nature of the accident. It is a singular coincidence that Engineer Al Hock, who was in charge of the wrecked engine, ran the first Mallet engine that was put in use on the Norfolk and Western road. He is a safe engine driver and he owes his life now to his alertness while running his engine. Great crowds visited the scene of the accident all during the day yesterday, and hundreds of people from Bluefield and Graham saw the steam derricks tugging at the massive pile of iron and steel lying over in the soft dirt, and a number of photographers were on hand and made snapshots of the big wreck.
[After he retired, Engineer Al Hock wrote a two-part story of his Pocahontas Division career that appeared in the March and April 1945 issues of Railroad Magazine. He quotes the above newspaper article in his mention of the accident. Also, my grandfather was likewise an engineer on the Pocahontas Division and contemporary with Mr. Hock, and the two families were friends. When I was very young I remember accompanying my mother to visit the Hocks one day, and Mr. Hock gave me a couple of Railroad Magazines from his accumulated collection. I wish I knew where those magazines are today.]

Gordon Hamilton
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