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Jewell Smokeless Corporation
Coke Plant Powered Haulage Accident

Vansant, Buchanan County Virginia
July 11, 1967
No. Killed - 2

USBM Investigation Report  (213 Kb)  PDF Format

Description:  A motorman and a second shift foreman were both killed when the track collapsed and they plunged to the ground below.

The track involved in this accident was 90 pounds per yard steel rails laid to a gage of 56 inches.  The track straddled a single raw of reinforced concrete pylons, each of which was anchored to bed rock and was 36 inches in diameter at the top.  The pylons varied in height from about 14 feet at the coke plant end to about 22 feet at the other end, which put the track on a rising grade of approximately3 percent against the loaded cars of coke.  The steel rails were welded to two 5-foot sections of steel "B" beams, which were welded together one atop the other.  The bottom "H" beam was, in turn, welded to a -inch thick steel plate which was about 30 inches long and about a foot wide.  This steel plate was spot-welded to the tops of six -inch diameter steel bolts which were embedded in the tops of the concrete pylons to a depth of 18 inches.

The tops or ends of these bolts protruded flush with the tops of the pylons.  Well-installed trolley wire paralleled the haulage track about 7 feet above the tops of the rails.  Equipment involved in this accident consisted of 4 cars, each of 8-ton capacity, loaded with coke, which were being pulled by an 8-ton General Electric trolley locomotive.  The locomotive was of the type commonly used in coal mines and had been altered only to the extent that a steel cab had been installed over the deck.

At about 4:15 p.m. on July 11, 1967, Roy McGlothlin, the motorman at the coke plant, coupled the trolley locomotive to a trip of four loaded cars of coke at the ovens and prepared to pull them along the eleva.ted track haulage road to the car-dumping point, which was located across the river from the coke ovens.  On a previous trip, something had gone wrong with the dumping mechanism on one of the cars and Claude Ratliff, Jr., the second shift foreman, who had just arrived at the coke plant, told McGlothlin that he would ride over to the dumping point with him to check the faulty dump mechanism.  He thereupon got into the cab with McGlothlin who then started the trip toward the car dumping point.

According to C. M. Silva, eyewitness, the trip had proceeded a hundred feet or so along the elevated track haulage road when the track began suddenly to tilt.  Silva said that as the tilting track reached the critical angle, it began also to slide off the concrete pylons and that at this point the locomotive flipped over and, with the loaded cars, crashed upside down to the ground trapping McGlothlin and Ratliff in the cab.  Fellow workmen, including Charles Hale, the coke plant superintendent, rushed to the scene and recovered the bodies of the victims about 20 minutes after the accident occurred.

The investigation disclosed that all but two of the bolts embedded in the tops of the Nos. 3 and 4 pylons had broken away from the bottom of the steel plates prior to the occurrence.  Rust on the bolt heads and on the areas of the plates to which they had been spot-welded indicated that the bolts had broken away from the plates long, perhaps many months, before the accident occurred.  Also, it was noted that many of the bolts had been weakened by careless spot-welding techniques, which, in many cases, had destroyed as much as 50 percent of the bolt diameters.

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