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Friday, May 22, 2015

96 Years Ago ~ Explosion In The Gas Plant

Blog #53. May 22, 2015 by Marcus W. Robbins

Industrial work is dangerous but can be performed safely yet sometimes accidents do occur with dramatic consequences along with extensive damage.

This week's “History Matters” will be short on words yet hopefully inspirational with these rare glass plate photographs of just how dangerous compressed gas cylinders are.  While there is no other written documentation I can find on this tragic event it should serve to us as a reminder as our annual June Safety Month campaign approaches to always respect compressed gas cylinders.

Plumber Shop, Building 42 ~ Southern Elevation
(Historic Norfolk Navy Yard Glass Plate Collection, #2237 taken on 5/28/1919)


Plumber Shop, Building 42 ~ Southeastern Elevation
(Historic Norfolk Navy Yard Glass Plate Collection, #2239 taken on 5/28/1919)

And the damage was not just contained to the Plumber Shop, Building 42 but to the east with the Sheet Metal Shop, Building 55.  If there would have been a dropped cylinder next door in the Plumber Shop these Sheet Metal folks would have never had a clue what was about to happen to them.  Observe the concussion effect of the blown out windows.


Sheet Metal Shop, Building 55 ~ Southeastern Elevation
(Historic Norfolk Navy Yard Glass Plate Collection, #2240 taken on 5/28/1919)
 
Also the damage extended across Wilkinson Street to Building 59, Boiler Shop with devastating effect along the northern window wall.  These folks too never anticipated what was about to happen.  The shear sound of the explosion must have been tremendous.


Boiler Shop, Building 59 ~ Northern Elevation
(Historic Norfolk Navy Yard Glass Plate Collection, #2241 taken on 5/28/1919)

And finally a photo of the potential culprits. One word can summarize – WOW.
 

Damaged Compressed Gas Cylinders
 (Historic Norfolk Navy Yard Glass Plate Collection, #2236 taken on 5/28/1919)

While the facts beyond these photos have been lost to time and it is unknown if there was a loss of life or personal injury the physical evidence points to a huge explosion and facility damage.  We need to go back home the same way we arrived each day.  Make safety part of your everyday routine.  It is so very important to learn from these tragic events so that they won’t be repeated because – “history matters”.