The Roundhouse Journal December 2001


There have been two 25 year silver wedding celebrations this summer, apart from being a notable achievement of 25 years the other thing that is special is that both couples were club members when they decided to get married, and are still members today. Well congratulations go to John & Janet Mottram as they reached and celebrated their 25 years Silver Wedding Anniversary at the end of August.

The other couple are yours truly Mark and Sue Adlington and we celebrated our 25 years during the second weekend of October. Our thanks to all who helped celebrate our event during the 7¼" gauge open day Sunday.

The track day season has been pretty good most of the season, except for the last public open day at the end of October when things got well and truly rained out, with unusually for Malden shutting shop at 4pm as it was dropping tons of water and blowing a gale, and it still took 1½ hours to clear up and put everything away.

The 7¼" open day in October was weather wise much better clearer and dry'ish most of the time, we had a lot of visitors on both the elevated track and the Ground Level track, topped and tailed with Stella's marvellous buffet lunch / afternoon tea & cakes. From what I could see our visitors seem to enjoy themselves enormously.

The basic civil engineering on the new tunnel on the 7¼" line is now completed, with the waterproof membrane being added on the 7¼" gauge weekend. This membrane keeps water from seeping through the roof. This was completed on the 2nd weekend in October, other work remains finishing like finishing the entrance walls & retaining wall near entrances, as well as back filling earth on top of the roof and allowing the earth to settle before track laying next year.

Talking of track laying, the 7¼" track will be laid backwards from Angel Road signalbox to the tunnel, the levels have now been laser levelled and during the remainder of this year the concrete track edging will be installed along with the retaining wall fencing on the downward slope. The reason for working this way will give time for the tunnel roof earth to consolidate before track work commences at the tunnel roof.

Also planned is a major renewal of the track inside the tunnel. The relaying job is about 200 ft, long with 42 ft inside the tunnel, the trailing point just before the tunnel entrance will be re-engineered / resleepered & a new trailing point will be installed at the tunnel exit. There is also another 80 ft of track to be resleepered on the mainline at between Angel Road and Willowbank, most of this renewal is due to sleeper deterioration.

Willowbank Signalbox is due to have its new industrial signal interlocking computer installed & commissioned starting early October after the last club event {7¼" open day} hopefully this install & commissioning will be completed in time for the Santa Special on December 9th. The old industrial signal interlocking computer will be relocated to Angel Road signalbox early next year & hopefully commissioned before Easter 2002.

The Box Hill Tunnel:
An Anorak's Paradise or a Passage To Narnia?

By Rory Lushman
Extract from the MagoniaWeb-Site

The box hill tunnel is situated on the Great Western region of our ever decreasing rail network. This tunnel can be found in Wiltshire, a county that many ufologists head for in the summer months in their quest for a fix and that fix being - crop circles. Many would claim that Wiltshire is the focal point for UFO activity in the UK. The Wiltshire soup consists of, ancient sites, military bases and "unusual events", all mixed together to form one mighty weird county or so we are led to believe by the UFO paranoia sweeping the county.

Now, how could a railway tunnel be caught up in all this weirdness. The Box Hill Tunnel is 1 mile, 1452 yards long and is situated on the Chippenham to Bath line. Matthew Williams has been looking into this tunnel; it's dark. I have emailed Matthew a few times and some of his comments have helped me. I would like to thank Matthew for putting up with my questions. Matthew told me that there is a secret tunnel that goes to Rudloe Manor from within the Box Tunnel.

So given that the train approaches on the left line as you look at the tunnel, it would traverse a set of points, then leave into the secret tunnel via another set of points. Now, what happens when the train leaves the location. Basically it can only go out the way it came in, back towards London. If it was required to go in the direction of Bath, it would either have to reverse out of the tunnel, then traverse another set of points to enable it to get back on the left track or the locomotive would have to run around its train to get it at the right end. If the locomotive had to run around its train, where would it do this? It could pull the train out of the tunnel and at a suitable set of points run around to the other end of the train. Now this practise is quite common in certain parts of the country, especially when shunting freight trains. If all the above was true, surely someone would have spotted these unique movements within the area. You have to remember that there are high speed trains passing all the time and all this shunting can only hold up procedures. Mind you, is it done in the middle of the night? I doubt it as there are quite a number of freight and high speed trains during the night as well.

Now let's assume just for the minute that there was a tunnel within the tunnel. How would access be gained off the main-line. It would take a set of points to steer the offending train into said tunnel. Speculation has it that the "secret" entrance is accessed from the London side or Thingley Junction side of the tunnel. If a train was approaching from the London end, it would need to cross over onto the adjacent line and then come off at the points. Trains drive on the left, just as we do on the roads, there are exceptions to this but the left side rule is the norm.

If the tunnel entrance was accessed from the Bath side, the same manoeuvring problems would have to be overcome. If there was a secret tunnel, what would be sent into there, is it still used and if its disused, why has it been abandoned? Probably questions we will never get an answer to.

As rumours spread in ufology, they also spread in all other walks of life. Railways certainly have their share of rumours. If you speak to any rail employees, especially Great Western division employees, many will tell you that there is a secret tunnel within the Box Hill Tunnel. Is it a hiding hole for UFOs or is it a secret place into which we can find out more about UFOs. Matthew Williams says that UFO reports are sent to Rudloe Manor, is the secret tunnel of any significance or is it just a tale handed down from generation to generation to add a bit of sparkle to otherwise bored employees.

The railmen have their own version of the Holy Grail and it's certainly not UFOs. So what could be down in the tunnels that would get railmen whispering in corners. Well anoraks and gricers of the world unite and prepare to besiege the Box Hill Tunnel, for there in that dank, dark hole, lies the STRATEGIC RESERVE. The strategic what?

The Strategic Reserve is an oubliette for old steam engines from bygone days. Train crews recount tales of locomotives going missing without a trace. When a locomotive is scrapped, as with a car, this is meant to be recorded. Rail employees tell stories of locomotives disappearing, supposedly scrapped but when they visit the site of the carnage, no trace can be found. Many of the steam locomotives of the class 8 and 9f's supposedly vanished into the Twilight Zone.

Although rail crews will tell you its mainly locomotives that went missing, many types of other equipment are in store. Things like jeeps, weapons all have encountered the phantom scrapman. So what is the purpose of the Strategic Reserve? There are a number of reasons for having a strategic reserve. The main reason put forward is the oil crisis back in the 70's. Much of the worlds oil is found in Arabic countries and if there was a fall out with these people oil would run short, hence the use of steam trains, as we have plenty of coal stockpiled, supposedly. More sinister is the thought that steam engines would not be affected by the blast from a nuclear strike. This is probably bordering on paranoia. It would make sense to hold back equipment in case on an emergency but steam engines, bah humbug. Rail staff say there are many locations up and down the country where locomotives are kept. We do not hear rumours of masses of diesels being stored away. In the late 80's and early 90's, many classes of diesel went to the wall. This theory would lend itself well to the oil crisis scenario.

Many of the rail crews suggest that not only is the Box Tunnel an anoraks paradise but it is the place where the top brass would assemble in the event of a nuclear war. Rumours are rife that there is a ½ mile long platform along with an underground marshalling yard within this secret complex. They also suggest that the facility has room for over 4000 people and I'm sure the likes of you and me will not be on that list. They also suggest that this location has been chosen because its so far underground and it's very near to other military locations, with quick access to runways etc.

If steam trains were being kept how would they prevent rust from spreading within the boiler. If you filled the boiler with deoxygenated water, this would prevent rust. The temperature within a tunnel is constant, whatever time of year it is. Obviously the portal ends would fluctuate with the outside temperature but deep in a sealed tunnel, the temperature would not fluctuate.

Now the problem comes, when you want to fire up the boilers on the steam engines. In an underground facility, where would this be carried out, as the soot, smoke and steam would create an unbearable atmosphere. They would have to be readied in an open environment, heaven for the anoraks. In an emergency and at short notice, steam engines would not be very practical as they take up to 8-9 hours to get up to steam.

"Err General, we've just had a nuclear strike and all the diesels have failed, we need to move some equipment fast." "Can you come back in 10 hours time please, when the kettle has boilt."

What we must remember as well, is where would the steam locomotives get their coal and water from, as the coal bunkers and water towers have long gone. Where are all the turntables to turn the engines in the right direction? Running a locomotive tender first for long distances is not good practise. Its bad enough running forward with the limited view from a steam train but backwards at speed, it takes a confident driver!

Steam locomotives may be useful only after a nuclear strike for moving stuff but they are not instantly ready and not very practical or realistic.

If you go through the Box Tunnel and head towards Bath, you come across another tunnel, called Middle Hill. On the downside of the line (tracks moving away from London) on the Bath side of the tunnel, there are some disused platforms near the location of Shockerwick. At the end of the platform there are some stairs to an underground passage. It takes a sharp left and climbs up the hill. This was probably an old tunnel left over from the war. Could people from both ufology and the rail network be confusing the tunnel at Shockerwick for the tunnel at Box Hill. It is very easy to get wires crossed and maybe the rumours of tunnels have got mixed up. People who like a good mystery could associate a rumour of a secret tunnel with the Box tunnel. The Box Tunnel is well known but the Middle Hill tunnel is not. Could someone have visited the tunnels at Shockerwick and spread the word. People not in the know may have associated the tunnel to Box rather than Middle Hill, as it is known to many people.

People then could assume that the tunnel being secret could lead to Rudloe. Its very easy to get involved in this game of Chinese whispers. The whole sorry tale is a mish mash of rumours and speculation.

I think the whole thing is what you want it to be. Ufologists want it to be a place where there is a great UFO cover up. Rail enthusiasts want it to be their own version of the X-Files. Many rail employees claim that locomotives have gone missing, including some of the famous Blue Pullman units, all of which were meant to have been scrapped. Again speculation says that one unit was converted to a strategic mobile unit and painted black.

There are reports of steam locomotives being painted in all black, with their numbers and any identification marks removed. We had black helicopters, now we have black trains. Helicopters can fly out of sight but trains can only go where the rails take them, so I think this one is a red herring and complete bull manure.

So here is my recipe for a good mystery soup:- Wiltshire Soup. Find one county with military bases in it. Stir in a ½lb of Rudloe bullshit. Put a sprinkling of UFO rumours in. Add 60 steam locomotives. Put in a dark tunnel for a few years. Bring it out into the daylight. Bring it to the boil and serve to gullible people up and down the country with a slice of conspiracy bread. Top with unsubstantiated rumours and tales. ENJOY.

Another reliable source told me (well I think he was reliable, everyone else gets away without proving their sources) that there is a tunnel entrance into Rudloe but it is not accessed from within the tunnel but from a portal on the Chippenham side. This portal is meant to be outside where everyone can see it, although locked up. So now we have three possible sites. The Box Hill Tunnel, Shockerwick and now a portal on the up line of the line to Chippenham. My contact says that the portal is only wide enough for one track and all the rails to it have been lifted. If you look at the portal on the Chippenham side of the tunnel, then look to the right at about 200 yards before Box, there is a disused cutting which takes you to the portal. We will be visiting the site shortly. The portal is only one track wide. My contact worked on the Signalling and Telecomms side of the rail network. He has walked through the Box Hill Tunnel on three occasions and not once did he see a portal into any "secret base". He tells me that there could not be points inside the tunnel as the signal protecting it is an automatic one. An automatic signal, changes to red as soon as a train passes it, so that no other train smashes into the back of it. Once the train passes the next signal, the tunnel signal would go to orange or double orange. Double orange is preliminary caution i.e. the next signal is a single orange, which is caution and so the final signal will be red; danger.

Automatic signals allow for faster running trains, eliminating the signal box - in this case controlled from Bristol Temple Meads - interfering with the operation. The signal box can over-ride an automatic signal. You following this? Any section of track that has a junction ahead of it, would not have an automatic signal before it. The rule approaching an automatic signal is that if the light remains red, you may after two minutes approach the next section very cautiously. This would only apply if the section ahead was a segment without a junction before the next signal. If there was a junction ahead, this could have disastrous consequences if the two minute rule applied. Any train moving towards a junction without authorisation runs the risk of crashing into another, or having the points set against it, taking the train onto a wrong line. Today most signals are equipped with phones connected to the signal box, so a driver can double check before proceeding. So from this, we can conclude that there can be no entrance within the Box Tunnel to any secret location. The common consensus amongst ufologists and railmen is that the tunnel is disused. I cannot find one person who has ever seen a set of points within the Box Tunnel at any time. If the tracks had been lifted, when did this happen?

The favourite location for an entrance into a base, would probably be from the portal on the Chippenham side of the line, a completely separate site. Slightly out of the way but still visible from the line, not very secret.

Having walked through the tunnel, my contact says there are eight telephones spaced at regular intervals. These phones would connect you to the signal box. Next time you go on a train, look at the signal and you will see about 4ft off the ground, a telephone attached to the post. He also says there are a number of rooms within Box, about 8ft square, where the permanent way gangs - people who maintain the track - keep their tools etc. The Box Hill Tunnel was built for the Great Western Railway who built wide gauge railways. The initials GWR were often referred to as "Gods Wonderful Railway." The rest of the UK used what we now know as the standard gauge. People travelling in and out of the GWR would have to change trains as the difference in gauges would not allow through-running. The GWR finally had to admit defeat and made their tracks standard. So many of the old tunnels and bridges have more space between them and the trains than the rest of the country.

My contact also says he has never signed the Official Secrets Act, even though working in the Box Hill Tunnel. He knows of no other person who has signed the OSA. Matthew Williams told me his informant - who is meant to be ringing me and never has - had signed the OSA. I can accept that people who work on sections of line that connect to a government, i.e. an ROF establishment, do sign the OSA. My contact and many other rail employees, I have spoke to, have not signed the OSA. So we can conclude from this that there is nothing of significance attached to any rail connection to Rudloe, now or in the past. If there are steam locomotives within Box Hill, then this is truly an anoraks paradise, maybe they dream they will go there when they die, the rail buffs Valhalla.

As I have said many times, secret bases, contain secrets but this does not mean an ET connection. Rudloe Manor both for rail and UFO enthusiasts has become a dreamers mirror, you see there what you want to see. What few facts there are, get intertwined with a tangle of lies, rumour, speculation and the search for a truly weird and wonderful railway.

I bet Issy Brunel is laughing in his grave. To think all these years on, a simple railway tunnel - though not simple to build - would attract the attention of the classiest anoraks in the UK. We love a good conspiracy and we love to fall into the trap by jumping on every little bit of information, no matter where it has come from. We then pass this down or on to other people, who in turn add their little bit of "conspiracy" to it.

However the tunnel was built and aligned so the sun shone down it on Issy's birthday, April 9th. Due to not allowing for atmospheric refraction, the sun actually shines down it from April 6th to the 8th and misses his birthday.

There are bound to be truths wrapped up in all this confusion but in our haste to make a story more exciting, we cannot discern the truth from the lies. As an over worked phrase goes, "the truth is out there" but then so are the lies and the poor information that leads us to inane conclusions.

Where has they myth of secret locations for steam trains come from. Most of the tales come from railway workers across the country, who recount unusual events. Two such claims involve train crews who were relieved of their duties for the day, only having worked five minutes. Their locomotives were taken away by new crews and were supposedly never seen again. The crews who had only done five minutes, were told to go home and they would receive full pay.

Whilst these tales or myths come from railway workers, we are looking at another site that has parts of a village community baffled but that's another story. The location of this site will be revealed in the next DOWN TO EARTH magazine, issue 5. Copyright of Rory Lushman 1998.

This case is still ongoing and we are investigating another location that is part of the Strategic Reserve Myth. We were recently watched by the police at a site that was abandoned years ago but still had surveillance cameras there. Why? However we do not believe for one minute that there is a UFO connection at this site.

If anybody has more information on the Strategic Reserve, either here in the UK or similar cases abroad, then please email me at or

Taken from the Pendle, Hyndburn UFO Network's magazine Down To Earth, Volume 1, Issue 4.

March 1999 update:

Since the article was written we have located the "secret" tunnel. This is located next to the main portal of the Box, in a deep cutting, not easily seen by the public. The Bath end of the tunnel is very visible to the public and indeed there are many pictures of this end. There are few pictures of the London end.

Rudloe Manor is situated on the top of Box and so there always seemed to be some sinister connection hinted at from the railway tunnel below.

On many rail forums, there were doubts to whether this tunnel next to the main Box portal on the London end ever existed. I think the photograph we published a few months back proved it did, cue X-Files type music. Whilst there were doubts the smaller tunnel existed, there seemed to be a feeling that the secret tunnel was actually located from within the depths of the Box Tunnel.

We have proved that signalling arrangements ruled this out. This would have been very dangerous.

I think many researchers have proved that the UFO connection, weak as it may have been, has disappeared from Rudloe.

The myth of steam trains being kept in the Box tunnel needed to be resolved. The attached picture resolves this and indeed a number of issues.

The train featured entering the "secret" tunnel is an ammunition train. This is what this site was intended for, along with the other site at Monkton Farleigh, a few miles away.

Take a look at the diesel engine in the picture. It has a cut down cab to allow it to work in the narrow tunnels within. This is work that would have needed to be done especially to reduce the cab size. Some say it was carried out at Swindon. A standard locomotive would not fit into this tunnel, so bang goes the theory that there are steam trains locked away in this tunnel.

This smaller tunnel was originally a test tunnel before work commenced on the main line tunnel next to it. The smaller tunnel was taken over for the war effort.

The smaller tunnel is now protected by iron doors. Behind the doors, there are rooms off to the sides, we have pictures of these. About 200 yards back there is a wall and behind this wall there are still the original tracks.

I have met a number of people who claim to have been in this tunnel, one way back in the 1940's.

I think, even though there may be speculation the tunnel is still used for housing something, I'm sure its not UFO's or trains. Its probably just used as a dumping ground for excess materials.

There are a number of books that talk about these great underground cities and there are a number of web sites that show the interior of Monkton Farleigh. Since these tunnels have fallen into disrepair, there are always those that think there is some great conspiracy lurking away in the depths.

I think we can safely say the rail myth at the Box is now dead.

Examination Report On The Antique Boiler That Exploded
In Medina, Ohio On July 29, 2001

I am the Director of the Certified Boiler Engineers for The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and have conducted an inspection of a boiler explosion of an Antique Boiler at Medina, Ohio. This inspection and evaluation was conducted at the request of the Medina County Sheriff Mr. Neil F. Hassinger and Lieutenant John Detchon.

I was briefed on August 6 about 1300 by Lieutenant Detchon and he informed me that the safety relief valve had been removed by Chief Dean Jagger, the chief boiler inspector of the State of Ohio, and sent to the National Board for inspection and testing. He stated that the seals were intact on the valve and that the National Board test lab's initial report stated that the valve did not lift with pressures up to 200 psi. This exceeded the set pressure of the valve of 125 psi. The pressure indicator was also tested in the same lab and found to indicate 25 psi. lighter, meaning the pressure could be 25 psi. higher than the indicator reads. Chief Jagger also removed part of the damaged "crown" sheet and the fusible plug. The crown sheet and fusible plug were sent to Case Western Reserve University for a metallurgical examination.

Lieutenant Detchon also stated that the fusible plug shows slight signs of overheating, however it did not melt and blow out. Lieutenant Detchon's investigation revealed that the late owner had purchased some type of boiler sealer. It could be safe to assume that the late owner knew that the boiler was leaking and attempted to seal the leaks with this compound. I have accepted Lieutenant Detchon's statements as fact and started my examination of the boiler parts that were available for inspection and I found the following conditions:

The staybolt holes in the crown sheet showed a maximum engagement of threads of 2.5 threads and often the least amount of engagement was 1.5threads. The original design of thread engagement was 4.5 threads in a 3/8" crown sheet thickness. There were at least 5 stays that had been welded around the threaded area because of excessive loss of metal in the crown sheet.

The crown sheet shows excessive amounts of corrosion throughout the total surface area. The area around the threaded stays showed more reduction of thickness because this is a high stress area. The problem is compounded because the less the thickness the higher the stress. Measurements conducted show a thickness of .210", .170", .125", .105" and .085". The original. design thickness was .375".

The original staybolts were 1" in diameter and appear to be 11 threads per inch by measurement with a thread gauge. The condition of the stays in the crown sheet area is one of uniform deterioration and confirms the thread engagement in the crown sheet of not more than 2.5 threads and as low as 1.5 threads of engagement. The diameter of the stays in the corroded area is between .600" and .700". This is a reduction of 64% of the cross sectional area of the staybolt. The staybolts position in the wrapper sheet, with exception of approximately 5 staybolts, were in the original position indicating the ease that the crown sheet separated from the stays. The pitch of the stays as was measured in the crown sheet was 4.5" and this was confirmed by measuring the staybolts in the fire box.

The computations using various formulas ASME 1924 and ASME 1998 computed using a thickness of .085" came out to be between 40 psi. & 47 psi. I also used a carbide type scriber to test surface hardness. I noticed that there was no difference between the steam dome, the barrel and the ruptured crown sheet. This test is not conclusive but an indicator of the metal condition.

The ASME code requires that when the fusible plug is installed, the fusible plug must remain at least 1" above the crown sheet. The plug design was proper and met the requirement as confirmed by Lieutenant Detchon.

Inspection of the hand hole plug above the crown sheet revealed that the plug has not been removed recently as the threads were rusted. The area shows improper inspection of the crown stays. The front tube sheet hand hole plug threads were corroded revealing that the plug had not been removed recently. This plug allows the removal of scale and inspection of the condition of the barrel.


It is my evaluation of this boiler that the crown sheet failure started at the .087" thickness area, the weakest point in the crown sheet, and this is where the most bending damage is done to the sheet. The rest of the sheet shows signs of being peeled away much as peeling wall paper off of a wall. This was caused by the massive expansion of released steam. It is my evaluation that because of the very poor condition of the crown sheet with the reduction of the original thickness from .375" to .087" leaving only 23% of the original thickness; this was insufficient metal to hold the pressure of the steam resulting in a mechanical failure of the boiler. To further explain, the thinning of the crown sheet allowed the crown sheet to slightly bag in between the staybolts. This bagging allows scale to build up in these pockets or bags that insulate the metal from the cooling of the boiler water. This further compounds the bagging by localized overheating until there is failure of the crown sheet. This explains how the sheet could be slightly overheated without melting the fusible plug and does not support the theory of a Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion (BLEVE).

Professor Wallace's Report supports the bagging theory as some parts of the crown sheet shows signs of overheating while others do not.

I estimate the amount of energy released during the explosion at 90 psi. to be around 28,000,000' lbs of force of which approximately 1,280,000' lbs was used to lift the engine and the remaining was dissipated in the blast area around the Engine. The inoperative safety valve had no direct bearing on the explosion as the valve was set for 125 psi. and with the condition of the crown sheet. It is doubtful that pressure was attainable. I further conclude that, had the boiler been presented for inspection in Pennsylvania, the boiler would have been placed out of service and not allowed to operate.

John D. Payton,

Director Boiler Section

Subject: RE: Boiler explosion in Medina Ohio. Date: Wed, 10 Oct 2001 13:56:02 -0400 From: "Payton, John" <>

To: 'Mark Adlington' <>I sent you the report and pictures you have my permission to print at will and share with all. Thanks Chief Payton

Boiler Explosion at Medina Ohio -
Exclusive report from Andrew Semple,
Chairman of the NTET.

Earlier in the year I had arranged to travel to Pittsburgh during August on family business. The fatal explosion at the Medina County Showground involving a Case ploughing engine occurred a week or so before we actually travelled.

Since Pittsburgh is only around 200 miles from Medina in Ohio I made contact with Sheriff Neil Hassinger of Medina County with a view to learning, first hand if I could, about the tragic accident. After I had explained my background and given a thumbnail sketch of the working of the NTET Sheriff Hassinger freely offered me access to his team of investigators and permission to view the Case engine involved in the explosion and to report to the NTET on what I had seen and learnt.

The engine involved was a Case direct ploughing engine of some 20 tons weight, built to the normal American design. The engine had been driven to the showground for display at the County Show a distance of 1.2 miles, the journey taking about 25 minutes. A police car video shows the engine travelling down the highway up to 2 minutes before the explosion; careful examination of the video shows no outward signs of any problem.

The engine had stopped at the display area of the showground and the two police officers from the patrol car were approaching the crew to discuss their recent journey along the road with its newly asphalted surface when the explosion occurred.

On seeing the remains of the engine it is clear that the firebox crown collapsed. It folded downwards, tearing the tube plate away from the tubes and pulling the sides and rear down to the fire hole door level where after it tore away completely.

The blast caused the ash pan to be blown to the ground followed by the fire grate and then the contents of the fire itself. These items hit the ash pan, shattered and then ricocheted outwards for over 100 feet causing much damage to surrounding vehicles and onlookers. The grate in particular created, what has been widely described in the press as, shrapnel. The police recovered some twelve buckets of shrapnel from the scene. The early reports of hot oil are misleading, as the engine was not oil fired and was only carrying a nominal amount of lubrication oil.

The effect of the blast lifted the engine ten to twelve feet off the ground and when it fell back to the the ground it fell over towards its right side all of which resulted in damage to the whole structure, wheels etc.

Examination of the firebox crown sheet reveals considerable wastage; the official report quotes areas with a thickness of 1/16th of an inch and less. A local boilermaker informed me that he would have expected this plate to be at least 5/16th of an inch thick when new. The pitch of the stays was 4½ inches with 12 TPI on the stays. All of the stays were still located in the outer wrapper and there were no broken stays, although they showed some signs of wastage. Several of the stays had been welded to the crown on the fireside, these 'held on' longest when the failure occurred. There was no evidence of any nuts having been fitted on the stays in the firebox.

The fusible plug was in place, correctly filled with tin, as required in the USA. The tin had not melted. The plug was located at the back of the box and in normal circumstances could be viewed above the fire hole door.

The water gauge survived the explosion; it and its passageways were clear on examination. The pressure gauge was known to be reading incorrectly by a quoted figure of 25 lbs/ It was tested after the explosion and found to be working correctly but with the same error displayed.

The safety valve on the engine was attached to the steam dome and was a modern self-contained type of valve, commonly available today. The safety valve was purchased, I understand, in 1993 for the engine and was factory set and sealed at 1601bs/, this being the working pressure of the engine. The National Physical Laboratory has carried out tests on this gauge. I was shown the report of the test that shows that the valve did not open at 160psi. With the agreement of the manufacturers, who were present at the tests, the test pressure was taken up to 250lb/ and the safety valve still had not opened. The test was terminated at this point, as it was possible that the whole item could explode if pressure was increased further.

Pictures of the valve taken before testing had commenced show the valve still fitted with the manufacturers seals used to indicate if the valve has been tampered with in any way. The possibility of damage to the valve during the explosion cannot be ruled out and the valve is being x-rayed and examined before being dismantled for further examination. The investigators have an open mind on this point but there is no outward sign of damage to the safety valve. However, the whistle which was also on the dome next to the safety valve,survived the blast intact and it is not nearly of such robust construction as the safety valve. Concern about this safety valve led the investigating officer to interview everyone who saw the engine on the day in question. Including a considerable number of enthusiasts who had also seen it at work direct ploughing 14 days before the event, no one can recall seeing the safety valve operate on any occasion.

There is a theory being widely discussed that the engine was low on water when it stopped moving at the showground. This may have allowed part of the tube plate to become excessively hot such that when the engine next moved water surged and covered the heated area which suddenly created a large volume of steam thus precipitating the collapse of the crown. However this overheated area would be adjacent to the fusible plug and since the tin filling has a relatively low melt point it is difficult to imagine how this could occur without the filler melting. I understand that the showground area where the explosion occurred is relatively flat. The police took a video, which commenced within minutes of the explosion, and this shows that the engine had water in the tanks at the time of the explosion and that the injector water valve was open.

The owner of the engine, his son and their two helpers were all killed in the accident, a fifth person has also died. Approximately 40 other people were injured. The two police patrolmen who were approachig the engine were seriously injured but their bulletproof vests saved their lives in the force of the blast.

Referring to the Police video I do not ever again wish to see the results of such a terrible explosion and see the horrendous injuries inflicted on the dead and on the survivors! My sincere commiserations go to those who had to deal with the aftermath of the tragedy.

I should like to record my thanks to Sheriff Neil Hassinger and also to Lieutenant John Detchon, the senior detective handling the investigation for giving me so much of their time and cooperation. Lt. Detchon had amassed a desk full of engineering books and has developed an impressive knowledge and understanding of locomotive boiler construction

At present the Ohio statute book has a one-line entry that in effect precludes any boiler of riveted construction from the requirement of an inspection. The State Governor has promised that this rule will be reviewed.

If anyone has further questions related to my visit I will be happy to try and answer them.

Andrew Semple, Chairman, National Traction Engine Trust.

Hi Mark,

You may use the report in full or extracts therefrom for as long as they are verbatim and that full acknowledgment to the source is included in the article. The NTET has given an undertaking to the US Accidents Investigating Authority not to draw or issue any conclusions and therefore no conclusions must be drawn or inferred directly or indirectly from the content of the report or as reproduced nor may your editors opinion include conclusions, material or otherwise. David Smith for NTET.

follow the link above to see Spring ~Design Guide

From our correspondant
As promised, her are a few pix from Sundays 7¼" gauge open day. I have included images as they speak louder thank words. I'm all for making life easier. If I can.!! The early Americian 4-4-0 is modeled from a Grant design. From details sent over from the States. It has I think been reguaged from 4.75". It is owned by Hugh Beacon from Kent.


The North British Atlantic is owned and I also think built by Colin Kamp from the Kinver & West Midlands club.

It was loveley to see both the above locomotives running on our track, thank you gents.


The 'Springbok was an absolute delight to see. The paint finish was first class, and was brush applied. Regrettably I omited to get the owners details!

The highlight of the day for me was of course the BR Class 2 mogul. It is seen here on its second outing to our site. The first being last year, was I believe its second run.

His driving technique is different to that normally seen in our size. Having been ona full sized driving experience day, he was taught to start away by placing the locomotive in mid gear, opening the locomotive to give the required steam chest preasure, and then wind the loco into forward gear until she accelorated away. At this point, he was taught to reduce the cut off and drive soley on the pole, adjusting as necessary.

The technique worked fantastically well to with the little one as well. Alan has fitted a steam preasure gauge and allows 50psi for starting. The result? Well smooth, controlled, no slippling acceloration. It was interesting to note that the steam chest pressure drops to 10-12psi once line speed is reached, and only needed an extra touch on the regulator on the bank out of the tunnel towards Angel Road.


Last, but very much not least was this 0-6-0 Orenstine and Koppel well tank. She ran like the preverable sewing machine all afternoon.




Earlier on in the day before the show got on the road with one of Stella and her team's magnificient lunches, the crazy gang were discovered placing the water resisting layer atop The Alps Tunnel roof structure as per the last picture. Since these pictures were taken and this article was penned during October, the track work starting at Angel Road and working backwards has progressed to such an extent that the concrete edging is now complete right up to the tunnel roof just behind the team on the adjacent picture on the left. New track is being manufactured and laid / stored for laying, and baring any really bad weather the track should be just short of the tunnel roof, hopefully more pic's next time.

I would like to wish you and your families a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Malden and District Society of Model Engineers Ltd.

2001/2002 Events Calendar

Wednesday 26th December Boxing Day Steam up..

27/28th January SETUP Model Engineering Exhibition, Esher Racecourse

See Jerry Burchell for details

29th Dec - 1st January Model Engineering Exhibition, Esher Racecourse

See Jerry Burchell for details

25th - 27th January Engineering in Miniature Exhibition;

Wembley Exhibition center

(£7.00 adult, £4.0 children, Concessions £6.00, family £18.00 2+3}

Friday 15th - Sunday 17th February Model World 2000, BIC Brighton, Sussex

(£4.00 Adults, £2:00 Children)

Sunday 24th March Tune up Sunday, BOILER TESTING.

Friday 29th March Good Friday, final clear up.

Sunday 31st March Easter Monday, 1st Public open day for Year 2000, 2pm

Monday 1st April Easter Monday, Public open day.

Working parties every Sunday 10am onwards at our headquaters and track.,

Bring your own lunch. Free tea / coffee /juice, all ages and skills catered for, just turn up.

'Saga builders' working parties Tuesdays 11:00 through to 16:00, all year round, contact Peter Pullen

Worshop group, working parties / team every Wednesday 20:00 all year round, contact William Goffe

Details of any further events will either be on the club notice board or via membership mailing.


December 2001

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