The Final Report on the Tragedy at the Medina County Fairgrounds
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What this tragic explosion will ultimately mean to the steam hobby is still unknown. Various sources report that insurance premiums for fairs and exhibitions are on the rise. As for the specter of lawsuits threatening to follow in the wake of Medina, to date it is unknown if any suits have been filed in the case. It will likely be a year before we know the full impact of the accident. One direct result of the accident, however, has been the introduction of legislation in Ohio to require boiler inspections for antique steam engines. Ohio presently does not require inspections of antique steam engines, which have been exempt from current boiler inspection laws in the state.
Ohio State Rep. Charles Calvert, R-Medina, introduced legislation on Aug. 21 that would amend the current boiler inspection laws and require the establishment of standards "for operating historical steam-powered tractors and testing operators of those tractors." The bill, HB 344, was recently passed by that state's house of representatives, and it specifically calls for an inspection and certification process for both the equipment and operators. It is likely that the tragedy in Medina will cause other states to review their inspection and certification process and, in the case of states with no inspection or certification, to likewise initiate standards for antique steam engines operating in their borders.
For those of us in the steam hobby, 2001 will be a year we will never forget. Owners and operators around the country have responded to Medina with a deepened appreciation for the importance of education and testing to keep the steam hobby safe. If the steam community's resolve to work toward a secure, safe future, is any indication, the hobby of steam will stay with us as long as there are steam enthusiasts working to keep their engines in safe, operable condition for future generations to experience and enjoy, a proud reminder of our agricultural heritage.
From the Final Report: Causes of the Case Explosion
In the present case, the catastrophic event occurred due to crown sheet failure and the evidence point to the top, right front area of the firebox where the metal was found to be as thin as .085 inches. This failure most likely occurred due to a lack of sufficient water in this area to insulate the already structurally weakened stay bolts and sheet and over firing. When it further weakened, due to temperatures of 800° F to 900° F., it could no longer withstand the pressure of the steam above it. The pressure forced this area to pull and tear away, then exposed superheated water and steam in the boiler to the atmospheric pressure in the firebox. With this sudden reduction of pressure in the boiler, the superheated water flashed instantaneously and explosively into steam causing the catastrophic event which resulted in the release of approximately 330,000 foot-pounds of energy from the Case 110 steam traction engine, resulting in the deaths of five people and injury to forty-seven others.