My maternal grandfather was a railroad engineer back in the late 1800s, early 1900s. He worked for a couple of different lines, eventually ending up with UP.

If I remember correctly, this was one of the trains he was the engineer on, sometime in the 1890s. Sadly I don’t know which line, but the back of the picture was labeled Abilene.

train grandpa curtis early 1900s

He was also an investigator for the rail line at one point. This is one of the wrecks he had to investigate somewhere out west…

These were taken with a little Kodak camera, type unknown. Apparently the film was developed and processed at Fox in San Antonio, TX

train wreck 1

Sadly, I don’t remember the story behind these pictures, but I don’t think it ended well for the engineer and fireman…

The only thing I remember about these is grandpa saying this was what happened when a boiler blew up!


TBT… — 13 Comments

  1. Most folks do not realize that an improperly maintained water heater is the small destructive brother to that locomotive.
    Steam is tool that is very powerful, and not a tool to be mistreated.
    The Mythbusters episode on exploding water heaters springs to mind.
    Someone with sharp eyes might be able to ID the cars in the background.

  2. The engineer and fireman really went out with a bang.

    Great photos and a great legacy.

  3. Yep. Definitely a boiler explosion. One of the causes was when they let the boiler water level get too low and then added cold water to a red-hot crown sheet the resulting blast would be dramatic and quite devastating.

    My Dad’s dad was a railroad cop – after a pre-WWI stint in the Marines! (NY,NH & H RR)
    Advanced to Captain, I believe…
    Worked from the teens ’til the fifties.
    One tough S.O.B.

  5. John- Thanks!

    Peter- Oh that’s a stinker… 🙂

    PE- Thanks, I didn’t know that, but I’m betting grandpa did!

    LL- Yep, a BIG one!

    Walter- I can’t imagine being that close to it!

    WSF- I ‘think’ he did these as evidence, FWIW…

    gfa- Yep, ANYBODY that worked on the railroads back in the day wasn’t a shrinking violet!

  6. Abilene 1890 it may have been the Texas & Pacific Railroad. Great photos.

  7. MY google fu turned up a Atcheson, Topeka and Santa Fe Locomotive 1455 explosion February 13, 1924 near Lariat, Texas. Found in the “Report of the Chief Inspector of Locomotives” page 18. Shows likely low water explosion and 2 killed. Could that be the one? Not able to find anything else yet.

  8. Randy- Thanks!

    .45ACP- You did a LOT better than I did… sigh Very possible!

    Grog- Nice video!

  9. The camera was probably one of the old Kodak Brownies.


    I actually used to have an old Brownie 127. I remember having to buy 126 cartridge film and having to break the cartridge then load the film on to my spool for my brownie and then put it in the brownie and seal it up. All while inside of bag to protect the film. I lost a little bit of the image but it was the only way I could actually afford to use it. One of my junior high school teachers sold me the camera and taught me how to develop the film.

    For more information about the brownie camera look at this site: http://www.brownie-camera.com/