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HomeHarris County40 YEARS AGO TODAY-ENGLEWOOD YARD

40 YEARS AGO TODAY-ENGLEWOOD YARD

On September 21, 1974 several railcars were returned from the Shell facility to the Englewood Yard rail switching facility in northeast Houston on Liberty Road between Lockwood and Wayside. The rail yard is almost 4 miles long and was used to basically assemble railcars for their final destination. Back then resin was bagged and many bags would normally spill. The rail yard was designed to where the cars were pushed to the top of a hill (hump) and then released to roll down the track to a selected track. The force of the rolling car would couple it to the car at the bottom. On this day, resin which had built up on the trail wheels had caused a malfunction on the retarder of the hump. This caused a car which was rolling not to be slowed and instead of connecting to the next tanker inline, the coupling rode up over the top of the receiving tank cars coupling and punctured it. That car was loaded with 38,000 gallons of Butadiene. That caused a leak and a vapor cloud which soon ignited.

The destruction level was as if a bomb had gone off. One boxcar where vapor had built up under it had its floor blown through the top of the car and the walls collapsing.

The massive explosion not only blew windows out of homes near the yard but injured 75 persons. An engineer who was transported and later died from his injuries. The only part of his body that was not burned was under his belt.

Houston Fire Department responded with over a dozen ambulances. It quickly went from a two alarm fire to a four alarm fire requiring still more fire equipment. The smoke could be seen in the FM 1960 area of Northwest Harris County.

PHOTOS BY CHUCK BUSCHARDT (RETIRED HFD)

 

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