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From the Chicago Herald American , May 22, 1952

6 RAIL CARS EXPLODE IN FIERY CRASH

STATION CARS PILE UP IN STREETS

A 69-car Monon Railroad express freight bound for Louisville from Chicago was derailed in Lowell, Ind., early today, and six cars of denatured alcohol exploded into flames that threatened the business district.

Thirty cars left the tracks in the center of the town, which is 45 miles south of Chicago in Lake County.

Some of them piled into the Lowell passenger station, flattening it. Others sprawled over the main street, in some instances three cars high.

ALCOHOL BLOWS UP

Flames from the 48,000 gallons of alcohol in the six cars rose many hundred feet, attracting several thousand people in the area for miles around. Each of the six cars exploded with a roar, waking the townspeople, who also gathered at the scene.

Lowell fire chief Harold Brownell sent out a call for help, which was answered by the fire departments of 10 communities, including Gary, Hammond, Cedar Lake and Crown Point.

$250,000 DAMAGE

At least 150 firemen battled the flames, which spread to many of the other derailed cars. The fire lasted four hours. Damage was estimated at more than $250,000.

William Elliott, conductor of the train; Claude Smith, engineer, and William Holmes, fireman, all of Lafayette, told state police they believed the derailment was caused by a split rail or by locking of the wheels of one of the cars.

HINT SABOTAGE

They also pointed out the possibility the train was deliberately wrecked, though there was no evidence to support it.

Derricks sent from the railroad's Hammond yard began moving the derailed cars off the main street and right of the way after the fire was put out. The track is the railroad's main line. Passenger trains and other freights were detoured around Lowell on the Erie Railroad.

Stories courtesy of Lowell Library/ Lowell Historical Society


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