1928: Town Periled as 26 Cars of Gas, Oil Burn Green Valley |  News, Sports, Jobs

1928: Town Periled as 26 Cars of Gas, Oil Burn Green Valley | News, Sports, Jobs

Publisher’s Note: The following article, published in the Aug. 31, 1928, edition of The News Messenger reports on a 32-car train derailment, causing a blaze that threatened Green Valley. A portion of this article will be featured in the new book: “The Sesquicentennial: Cultivating 150 Years of History in Marshall and Lyon County.” Books can be ordered for $44.95 by calling The Independent or filling out the form included in an advertisement in today’s paper.

(Aug. 31) — Dr. Ward Akester, local Great Northern surgeon, yesterday denied there was any evidence that one or two men had lost their lives in the oil train wreck at Green Valley last Friday. After thorough examination of a bone brought here from the scene of the wreck by local section men, he declared in an animal bone, not that of a human being. The belief had been expressed that the bone and several others which the section men claimed they had seen, indicated that one or two men had been killed. Dr. Akester declared that the bone in question was not that all like a human bone and had not been touched by fire. Russel Sterling, who was severely burned in the blaze which followed the derailment of 32 oil and merchandise cars, when questioned again last night at the Marshall hospital, reiterated his former statements that he had seen no other men traveling on the cars which were wrecked. He said he was positive there was only one other man riding the train and that this man was traveling on one of the rear cars which did not leave the rails. It is now believed that the evidence is conclusive that no one was killed in the wreck. Normal Service over the Great Northern’s main line at Green Valley was summarized late Monday following one of the worst wrecks in the Willmar-Sioux City line’s history. The derailment of the early morning northbound freight just at the edge of Green Valley last Friday resulted in a loss which latest estimates place at approximately $100,000 Thirty-two cars were derailed in the wreck, a re-check showing that there was one empty tank car , two cars of soap, one of dried fruit, one of wheat, one of machinery, and 26 tank cars containing gasoline, oil and kerosene. Fire swept through the wreckage immediately after the derailment and destroyed everything except a combine harvesting machine on a flat car. The village of Green Valley was seriously threatened with destruction for a time, but a slight shift in the wind carried the flames to the east just past the edge of town.

A man who gave the name of Russell Sterling of Blythe, Calif. who was severely burned in the wreck, was brought to the Marshall hospital for treatment and is recovering.

5 Explosions Occur.

The wreck occurred just at the north edge of Green Valley, the 32 cars piling up for a distance of about 500 feet at the end of the switch yards. At the crash, residents of the village rushed out of their homes to find huge columns of black smoke and flames shooting over the town. Three explosions occurred in the inferno less than 300 feet away and many of the villagers began loading up their household goods. Two other explosions occurred later. A slight change in the wind taking place a few minutes later, is believed to have saved the town from destruction. Part of the Marshall Fire Department was called to the scene at once, and while they were unable to cope with the blaze they aided in getting the cars which remained on the rails away from the raging fire. The sixth car behind the engine was the first car to leave the track. Twenty-nine others followed, the flat car and dried fruit car remaining on the rails. The flames spread to these soon after and destroyed the fruit car. Thirty other cars, most of them tanks, were uncoupled and pulled away from the fire. Marshall firemen put in a call from the Northwestern Line engine here and pending its arrival aided the villagers in shoving some of the cars away by hand. The Cottonwood Fire Department was on duty at the wreck Friday afternoon to protect the village in case wind changed.

Fire Burns Until Sunday

The flames roared from the time the wreck occurred, at 6:40 am, Friday until late that night, and it was Sunday before all vestige of fire had disappeared from the tangled mess of wreckage. Cranes and workmen were rushed to the scene from both north and south, and by late Friday afternoon had cleared enough of the tanks and debris away to permit construction of a passing track. More than 100 men and two wreck hooks worked at the scene from early morning until nightfall for four days before normal service over the main line was restored. Re-laying of the main line track was completed late Monday. The fire wiped out fence posts and telephone poles along the east side of the wreck and it was necessary to lay approximately 7,500 feet of wire on the ground to restore communication.

A huge column of black smoke from the inferno rose hundreds of feet in the air and was visible for more than 30 miles. Residents in towns to the south called relatives here expressing the belief that Marshall was being destroyed by fire. The smoke and news of the wreck attracted thousands of persons from a wide territory to Green Valley for several days.

Cause Not Known

The cause of the derailment has not been definitely determined. It was first thought that a drawbar or broken brake rigging might have done the damage, but it is also believed that spreading rails might have been responsible. Workmen have been laying heavier steel along the Willmar-Sioux City line, but the point where the wreck occurred is on a stretch of a few miles where the light rails have not yet been replaced. A man who was at the Green Valley station when the wreck occurred is on a stretch of a few miles where the light rails have not yet been replaced. A man who was at the Green Valley station when the time freight went through he saw nothing dragging beneath the cars and that he judged the train was traveling at about 35 miles an hour.

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