Railroad Shops Burned at Williamsport

Railroad Shops Burned at Williamsport

Common sense would seem to dictate that buildings so liable to be burned as machine shops, blacksmith shops and power houses, the property of a railroad company should not be so isolated as to have no way for a fire department and its apparatus to get near them, nor be so unprepared for an outbreak of fire at any hour of the day or night as not to have always ready the means of transporting firemen and their equipment without any delay, to the scene of a fire, or a sufficient number of hydrants on the spot to furnish water enough to extinguish the flames when once they have started. Yet that was recently the case at Williamsport, Pa., when a fire broke out at 10.50 p. m. and totally destroyed the ‘blacksmith’s and machine shop, two wooden buildings, and left standing only the brick walls of the power house of the Susquehanna and New York Railroad, situated in the Eleventh Ward, West End, of the city. The shops occupied a large space—6,696 square feet. They were 42 feet high, including a monitor story and were nearly six years old. The power house was of brick, the others were of wood, resting on a concrete foundation. In not one was any sprinkler equipment. There seems to have been a supply of private appliances for fighting fire, but no special means were provided for saving the lives of those whose services were employed there. The fire broke out from an unknown cause, but probably from spontaneous combustion, in the tool room of the machine shop on the east side of the main building. It burned fiercely for an hour and a half and was a mass of flames when the firemen reached the spot. It was discovered by a watchman, but it was not until 11.50 that tlie alarm could be responded to. During the 90 minutes the machine shop and part of the blacksmith shop were wiped out and only the four walls of the brick power house were left standing. That the fire department was so long in reaching the scene was due to no fault on its part. It was powerless and had to remain at a distance because there was no road or highway leading to the shops, and for that reason the apparatus could not get even near the burning buildings. Railroad flat cars therefore conveyed 1,300 feet of cotton, rubber-lined hose to the scene of the blaze. Of that hose none burst during the time it was in use. Only one four-inch double hydrant was available for service, the pressure at which was 45 pounds. That was the only stream rtf any sort that was thrown.’There was no street in front of the damaged property. but a six-inch main of the gravity supply was laid there. The value of the buildings destroyed was $8,000; of the contents over $20,734. The latter consisted of machinery, lathes, drills, planers, tools, electric motors, etc., and three locomotives that were in for repairs. It may be noticed that the only access the fire department had to the scene of the fire was by railroad train, made up of a locomotive and flat cars. This train was sent as soon as the company could get it together, but the fire department was delayed for an hour before it could get to work.

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