Vignette The 43d Anniversary of the Roseville, CA, Ammunition
LTC Danny M. Johnson, (USA Ret), Military Historian
April 28, 2016 will be the 43d anniversary
of the Southern Pacific, Roseville, CA rail yard blast, during
which catastrophe struck when 18 of 21 rail cars loaded with
7,056, Mark 81, 250lb bombs destined for the Naval Weapons Station,
Concord, CA for further naval shipment to Southeast Asia exploded
in the then Southern Pacific Railyard.
The train arrived from the Naval Ammunition
Depot at Hawthorne, Nevada at the Roseville Yard entrance at
0605 and was arranged in the westbound division yard by 0630.
The train was too long for the yard, so the forward cars (which
are the ones that exploded) were set on a track isolated from
the remaining three cars, which were loaded with more than 1,000
bombs. These three cars were saved with just minor damage.
At around 0740, two individuals saw smoke
ascending in the area near the ammo train cars. One witness said
the smoke was dark to start with, then turned white, trailed
by blazes ascending from the end of a freight car. Instantly
in the wake of seeing the flares, the witness heard a low-order
explosion, followed by a monstrous high-order explosion at 0803.
Mushroom clouds and fireballs heaved shrapnel. About 100 individual
explosions occurred in a two-hour period. Some were heard 40
miles away and were still being reported more than 10 hours after
the first big blasts Saturday morning. Major blasts continued
from that time to around 1030, with smaller blasts continuing
until 1605 the next day.
Around 350 individuals were injured, some
seriously by flying glass. Around 5,500 structures were damaged
in varying degrees. Substantial damage to structures and habitations
happened as far as a mile away from the epicenter of the blasts.
Indeed, even structures as far away as three miles had slight
damage. One hundred sixty-nine freight cars were obliterated.
A diesel locomotive and 98 other freight cars were damaged. One
witness, Lonnie Root, said there were bombs "laying all
over the place" in the train yard and nearby fields. A switchman
said cars were blown off the tracks on both side of the rail
yard, which is 23 tracks wide. Another railroad employee said
a set of wheels from a boxcar weighing more than a ton were hurled
100 feet in the air and fell near where he was working. In addition,
Sacramento county sheriff Duane Lowe said after a helicopter
inspection of the railyard that it was "a mass of craters
and twisted debris" which "looks like a hydrogen bomb
might have been dropped in the middle of it." Despite the
fact that the Roseville explosion was staggering and brought
about damage in the millions, inexplicably, nobody was killed.
Unfortunately, the Navy wasn't able to determine what brought
on the Roseville blast because the vast majority of the proof
was pulverized in the blast.
As an immediate consequence of the Roseville
blast, spark shields above railcar wheels and non-sparking brake
shoes were required. In 1974, Furthermore, Congress passed the
Transportation Safety Act, which united various regulations by
different offices into one publication. Additionally, the law
placed responsibility regarding shipping hazardous materials
on everybody, be it the shipper, bearer or recipient. Another
result was better and more viable training to implement these
new regulations. Rail, truck and air carriers conducted courses
and workshops, essentially to prepare their own particular employees.
The trade associations for example, the American Trucking Association
and Manufacturers Chemical Association, organized instructional
classes for all individuals included in the movements of hazardous
materials. These courses are still on-going.
If the explosions and damage in 1973 weren't
enough, railroad workers replacing tracks at the now Union Pacific
Roseville yard discovered eight unexploded Vietnam-era bombs
on October 18, 1997. This was nearly two weeks after finding
a similar bomb in the same yard. All of the bombs were detonated
later by bomb squad personnel without any damage to property
or injuries to individuals in the area.
A YouTube video done in April 1973 during
the Roseville train yard explosions can be viewed at: www.youtube.com
Originally published on UXOInfo.com 1
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