Thursday, April 07, 2011

The Perils of Steam Power

As I was researching the plausibility of Steam Engines for a story, the thought arose, "What could go wrong with them?"  The answer is plenty!  Steam Boilers did on occasion explode spectacularly.  I found the stories of Steam Powered Disasters fascinating.

The most deadly accidents occurred on Steamboats, as a boiler explosion containing the explosive power of nearly half a ton of dynamite would detonate and render the ship into a pile of matchsticks.

Samuel Clemens brother Henry died from the result of burns due to the explosion of the S.S. Pennsylvania,

"Eyewitness testimony was given to the fact that the engineer was not at his post in the engine room just prior to the explosion, instead being in the company of some women."

Sam Clemons served as a cub pilot left the Pennsylvania and had only left the ship one week prior to it's demise.  He had a obtained his brother Henry his position as a mud clerk, basically an unpaid intern.

"We witnessed one of the most affecting scenes at the Exchange yesterday that has ever been seen. The brother of Mr. Henry Clemens, second clerk of the Pennsylvania, who now lies dangerously ill from the injuries received by the explosion of that boat, arrived in the city yesterday afternoon, on the steamer A. T. LACY. He hurried to the Exchange to see his brother, and on approaching the bedside of the wounded man, his feelings so much overcame him, at the scalded and emaciated form before him, that he sunk to the floor overpowered. There was scarcely a dry eye in the house; the poor sufferers shed tears at the sight. This brother had been pilot on the Pennsylvania, but fortunately for him, had remained in New Orleans when the boat started up.
- Memphis Eagle and Enquirer, 16 June 1858