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Queens, New York, USA

Pumping Station on Shore Road in Queens Destroyed.

Trees Broken Off - Windows Shattered Half a Mile Away - Steel Plates Had Been Worn Thin - Story of an Eye Witness.

Two men were killed and one of the pumping stations of the city's water supply system on the Shore Road in Queens Borough totally destroyed by an explosion yesterday morning. One of the two big boilers which furnished the power for the pumps blew up. Windows were shattered in buildings half a mile away. Fortunately there was no building, except some greenhouses, closer than 2,000 feet to the pumping station.

The men dead were:

DIHBY, WILLIAM, forty-five years of age, married, with five children who lived at 182 East Fourth Street, Long Island City, engineer of the plant; on duty at the time.

NELSON, JAMES, forty years of age, same address, wife and eight children, fireman; on duty at the time.

The explosion occurred at 8:31 o'clock yesterday morning. The plant was sheltered in a brick building 50 by 50 feet on the ground floor plan and having a maximum height of 30 feet. In it were the two boilers, each 6 feet in diameter and 18 feet long. The plant was run night and day; three shifts of an engineer and fireman operated it.

Thomas Carroll of Ditmar Avenue and James Larson were the crew that went on at midnight. During the night they had no trouble with either engines or boilers. Five minutes before 8 yesterday morning Dihby and Nelson appeared at the pumping station and at 8 relieved Carroll and Larson, who left the building as quickly as they could wash up.

When the explosion came the building was ripped to pieces. Bricks from it flew a distance of 1,000 feet or more, while the boiler which exploded a the time, was lifted from it foundations and driven 100 feet in the other direction.

It is presumed that the moment of explosion found Nelson in the act of coaling the boiler or else standing directly in front of the door to the firebox. His body was hurled about 150 feet in a straight line from the spot where he is supposed to have been standing. On top of him lay the heavy iron door of the firebox and about him bricks were scattered.

Dihby was evidently oiling the pump, as when found he had an oil can in his hand still and he was hanging across the pump. The top of his skull had been sliced off, probably by one of the pieces of steel. The brain was hardly torn, and when he was reached he was still alive.

The boiler which exploded shows that the force ripped it open in such a manner that it had the appearance of a giant puffball. The bricks of the building, which were hurled in every direction, were denuded of mortar. Trees standing near the building were broken off as if by a cyclone. Eight hundred feet away, in that direction in which the explosion seems to have exerted its greatest force, there stands a series of greenhouses. The glass in these was broken and in many cases reduced almost to a powder. There was no one in these greenhouses at the time. In a house 2,000 feet from the plant all the glass on the side toward the pumping station was blown inward and across the rooms, striking the far walls.

An ambulance from St. John's Hospital was summoned and into it were placed the body of the dead fireman and the unconscious engineer. Dihby died an hour later in the hospital. Alexander Williams, superintendent of the Astoria Veneer Works, which, like the pumping station, are on the Shore Road, near North Beach, was the nearest person to the building when it went up. He had been to his establishment to see that everything was all right there and was approaching the pumping station when it blew up.

He says he was looking at the building when it suddenly resolved itself into a cloud of steam, brick, and dust, and instantly there was a rush of air which staggered him and a roar which deafened him for a time.

Mr. Williams ran to the nearest fire alarm box and turned in a call and then hurried to the scene again. Already persons from all directions were running up.

The cause of the explosion is believed to be the gradual scaling away of the inside of the boilers, due to the strong salts and alkalis with which the water from that pumping station was impregnated. Boiler owners all through that section of Queens Borough have for years complained about the water. They claimed that it flaked on the interior of their boilers and in the tubes so rapidly as to be a positive menace to their plants. The salts in the water ate away the iron very fast. Some of them went to the expense of having the pipes of a private water company run to their plants.

When P. J. Gleason was Mayor of Long Island City, just before consolidation, he caused this plant to be shut down, claiming that the use of the water from it was injurious to health.

An engineer who examined the wrecked boiler yesterday said that he judged the shell had originally been made of three-eighth-inch steel, but that the six or seven years of scaling had worn this down to a sixteenth of an inch, and even then there were pits in the steel which must have reduced this thickness to a thirty-second of an inch.

The men employed about the plant say that it was absolutely needful to clean the boilers once a month ago, as nearly as they can recall. They say there had long been need of a new pair of boilers, but that as the Water Department intended to abandon the wells at that point as soon as others were available nothing was done, it being expected the boilers would be perfectly safe for a year or more.

The destruction of the plant, it is said, will not seriously affect the water supply in Astoria, as the other pumping stations will be able to maintain the pressure, unless there is unusual consumption, in which case there will probably be a scarcity in the upper stories of houses.

The New York Times
New York, New York
November 10, 1902

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Queens, New York, USA

Queens, New York, USA