Burlington, VT Locomotive Boiler Explosion, Jul 1855

The Boiler Explosion near Burlington---Distressing Casualty.

From the Burlington Free Press, July 20.

We have the painful task of announcing one of the saddest catastrophes it has ever fallen to our lot to record. As the passenger train on the Vermont and Canada road was on its way from the North, about six o'clock P. M., yesterday, between the Colchester and Milton stations, the boiler of the locomotive exploded with tremendous force, causing the loss of two, probably of three lives. The first notice of the disaster given to those on the train was a loud report, like thunder clap, followed by a sudden stoppage which threw the passengers from their seats. Those who ran forward, found the locomotive thrown from the track and lying in the ditch, and the baggage car and one passenger car also off from the track. Near the locomotive and almost buried in the sand lay the fireman, EDWARD SHAW, with one arm and one leg badly fractured, and his body terribly bruised and scalded. The engineer, Mr. FRENCH, was missing. Under the forward end of the passenger car, which rested upon it, was the corpse of RICHARD C. BUSH, Conductor. Mr. BUSH was pot in charge of the train, but was on his return from St. Albans, whither he had been called to attend a law suit. He was in the baggage car, with three others who were unhurt, sitting near the door, and hearing the explosion, doubtless sprang out, either to put on the brake, or to discover the cause of the noise, when the jarring of the car, just then leaving the track, threw him under the wheels, which dragged him along and passed over him, mangling his body in a manner too horrible to describe. Death was of course instantaneous. The hat and watch of the engineer, Mr. FRENCH, were found near the engine---the locomotive lies in about two feet of water; when this is drawn off by trenches which have been dug for the purpose, no doubt, exists that his body will be found under the locomotive. He was experienced engineer, and had been upon the Vermont Central for years. SHAW, the fireman, was supposed last night to be fatally injured. He is alive to-day, however, and Dr. THAYER, who attends him, thinks he may possibly survive.

The engine, the "John Smith," was made by HINCKLEY, DRURY & Co., of the Boston Locomotive Works, and has been running for several years. It was in complete order, having left the repair shop but two days previous. As we understand it, the end of the boiler burst into the fire-box. The exterior shell of the boiler is not broken, and the damage, aside from the injury sustained by being thrown from the track, is not great. The speed of the train at the time, as stated by Mr. SHERBOURNE, Superintendent of the Road, who was on board, was from twenty to thirty miles an hour. Four or five of the passengers were slightly injured by bruises and contusions caused by the concussion.

The remains of Mr. BUSH were brought to Burlington last evening, and properly enclosed in a metallic coffin. His young wife, still in mourning for the loss of their only child, returned by steamboat this morning from a temporary absence. He had intended to go after her to-day, but wishing to give him a pleasant surprise, she anticipated the time set for her return, and reached the door of their house entirely unconscious of the awful misfortune which had befallen her. The shock drove her frantic for a while, and she has since been in a state bordering upon distraction. She has the entire and heart-felt sympathy of our whole community.

The New York Times, New York, NY 23 Jul 1855