Fort Wayne, IN Municipal Lighting Plant Explosion, Nov 1911

Alex Huguenard, 44, assistant engineer at the municipal lighting plant on North Clinton street, was instantly killed last night when the condenser operating the big turbine blew up.

Flying pieces of iron brained the unfortunate victim and his body was literally cooked by live steam that poured into the condenser pit from the broken steam pipes.

Ralph Mitchell, an electrician employed at the plant, rushed into the boiler room and shut off the steam which was rapidly filling the turbine rooms, and an attempt was made to remove the body of the engineer. He was found buried under the mass of wreckage from the bursted condenser and it was seen at once that he was beyond human aid. Coroner Kesler was summoned, and superintended the removal of the body, which was taken to the Peltier undertaking establishment.

The deceased is survived by a wife and six children – Hazel, Erma, Helen, Howard, Marion and Beatrice, and the family resides at 728 Hoffman street.

The accident is charged b Superintendent Frank Dix to the failure of a vacuum pump to operate properly. The condenser is used in connection with the big 1,500-kilowatt turbine recently installed at the plant, and is a huge boiler shaped shell into which the steam from the cylinders is allowed to flow. Through the interior of the shell are a number of small pipes containing cold water which condenses the steam and permits it being used over a second time.

The condenser is not designed to carry any pressure and is supposed to operate in a vacuum supplied by a pump. When this pump refused to work pressure within the condenser gradually accumulated until the heavy iron shell gave way.

Huguenard was working with the pump endeavoring to make repairs at the time, and when the explosion occurred he was almost completely buried in the wreck of broken iron and twisted pipes.

At the time of the accident the street lights and commercial lights were operated on power furnished by the new turbine which is connected directly with the ruined condenser. At 7:30 the time of the explosion the entire city was plunged in darkness and until the smaller turbines could be started this condition prevailed the smaller turbines were started shortly before 8 o’clock.

An examination of the machinery at the plant last night showed that the chief damage was to the condenser which will have to be replaced with a new one. The new turbine is not injured but it cannot be operated independently of the machine that was broken in the explosion. The walls of the building were not damaged, and even the windows were found intact, indicating that the explosion was not of great force.

Mitchell, the electrician who was on duty at the time, was standing at the end of the condenser within a few feet of the spot where Huguenard was killed but the force was expended in the direction of the pump and Mitchell escaped absolutely unharmed. He was enveloped in the deluge of steam but was able to reach the cutoff valve and shut off the supply before any of the other employes or himself were burned.

The dead engineer had been employed at the plant for the past two years, working formerly for the Wabash Valley company. He came to work at 4 o’clock and his duty trick ordinarily lasted until midnight. He was considered as a reliable employe, and the accident is not attributed to any carelessness on his part but to the failure of the pump to properly perform its functions.

The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, Fort Wayne, IN 12 Nov 1911