Chatsworth, CA 5 Die When Train Stalls in Tunnel, Nov 1941

Five Die When Freight Stalls In Rail Tunnel

Three Southern Pacific Trainmen and Two Transients Suffocated-Rescuers Barred by Smoke and Fumes

Van Nuys, Calif., Nov. 19.-(AP)-Five persons, including the engineer and two firemen of a 96-car freight train, were found suffocated today in a 7,000-foot long tunnel where for 11 hours smoke and deadly fumes had barred rescuers.

“It was this crazy feeling of being lost in hell,” a student fireman, Boyd Bonner, 24, of Bakersfield, said, describing how he escaped death in the black hole.

The Southern Pacific railroad identified three of the victims as Engineer John Dune and Fireman S.E. Snodgrass, both of Los Angeles, and Fireman G.E. Baker, of Pasadena. They were found inside the 330-ton locomotive after a switch engine succeeded in pulling the train into the open.

Two unidentified men, believed to have been riding the rods, were found beside the tracks after the train, the huge locomotive still ablaze, was pulled from the Hason tunnel near Chatsworth.

Tells a Dramatic Story.

Bonner told a dramatic story of a race through the fumes for fresh air with Virgil Rihpey, 52, the head brakeman.

Trainmen succeeded, nearly 10 hours after the wreck, in penetrating to the engine. There, they said, they found oil spilled from the locomotive’s 50,000-gallon tender afire. A broken jet was shut off, but efforts to start the locomotive were unsuccessful.

Midway in the train was a carload of gasoline.

Smoke and deadly coal gas turned back attempted rescuers for several hours, and giant wind machines from movie studios finally were pressed into service.

Rescue Attempt Futile

Five crew members riding in the caboose made a futile attempt to reach the engine, but were beaten back. Four were treated for partial asphyxiation.

Ordinary gas masks were discarded when users found they contained too little oxygen to penetrate the half-mile or more to the engine. Fire department rescue crews from Los Angeles, 34 miles away, were rushed to the scene in the hills which separate the San Fernando valley from the seacoast.

Ten carloads of cattle, immediately behind the engine, perished.

Hours after the mishap smoke continued to drift from the tunnel, but whether from fire of the engine could not be determined.

Harry H. Hartley, 61, conductor of the freight, said a coupling broke stopping the train. Separation of the air lines sets all the brakes.

Daily Chronicle, Centralia, WA 19 Nov 1941