Hassen Tunnel, CA Train Burns In Tunnel, Nov 1941



Van Nuys, Nov. 19. -- (UP) -- A Southern Pacific freight train broke in two and caught frie in Hassen Tunnel today, killing five men and injuring at least one other seriously.
Ten carloads of cattle were destroyed by suffocation when the 96-car train stalled in the 7,000-foot tunnel 30 miles north of here.
Body of G. E. BAKER, front brakeman, was recovered from the tunnel. Southern Pacific said remains of Fireman S. E. SNODGRASS and Engineer JACK DUNNE were still in the cab, red hot when pulled from the tunnel.
The bodies of two men who apparently had been catching a ride on the train were found in the ice compartment of a refrigerator car. One was identified as BRUCE D. CLARK, Los Angeles, a Santa Fe yardman. The other was identified as JOHN G. BRACAW, 38, Los Angeles, also believed to be a Santa Fe employe.
Van Nuys police reported three more bodies were counted by authorities making a car-to-car check of the train. This report was not confirmed by Southern Pacific.
The section with the locomotive attached was hauled backwards from the tunnel after two smaller sections were removed. The locomotive still was blazing and too hot to approach. Parts of it sagged onto the roadbed.
Trainmen said the freight stalled with almost its entire length inside the tunnel when a coupling broke. An 18-car section, including the caboose, broke loose and was hauled from the tunnel first. Another six-car section was hauled out before the final cars and locomotive were removed.
Southern Pacific said it was established that a knuckle broke on a coupling on the twenty-third car from the caboose, automatically setting the brakes and stalling the train. Fifteen cars and the caboose, the company said, still were outside the tunnel when the train halted.
Initial rescue efforts were balked by intense heat and billowing clouds of black oil smoke. Crews of work trains which accomplished the removals wore special gas masks.
Southern Pacific officials believed flames started from leaking oil between the tender and locomotive. Flat cars immediately behind the locomotive, protected by the water tneder, did not catch fire. All cars were blackened by smoke.
The cattle died from suffocation.

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