Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Explosion at a grain mill

One of box cars which was standing on track, between buildings at time of explosion; photo and annotation by William Henry Wood.

I don’t have any notes that say exactly when this event occurred, how it happened, or if anyone was injured or killed. My guess is that it happened sometime in February or March of 1944, possibly somewhere near Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Photo by William Henry Wood

From the photos I recently obtained, it looks like my Uncle Bill, William Henry Wood, travelled a lot to grain handling facilities for about a year or two as part of his job as a junior auditor at Purity Flour. One assignment was to assess the aftermath of an explosion at a grain mill.
There is no annotation accompanying this photo, but as you can see, the explosion occurred on the top level of the mill building. Photo by William Henry Wood.

From studying the photo albums it looks like he and another young auditor, Mr. Bill Paterson, from the Montreal office were sent out west by train in February of 1944 to do auditing work at various Purity Flour sites. It also looks like at sometime during that trip, in either late February or early March ’44, they were sent out to this grain handling facility explosion site - I speculate that it was near Winnipeg, Manitoba, but it could have been anywhere between there and Calgary, Alberta - to meet up with the local auditing team and bring back a record of what had happened and an impact assessment. From the photos it appears they arrived after things had been contained and clean-up had started.
Another view of the explosion site on the top floor of the mill. I presume all that ice on the wall was from a fire-fighting effort or simply from burst pipes. A rail siding is also clearly visible. Photo by William Henry Wood.

A zoomed-in view of the gash. Photo by William Henry Wood.

Same side of the mill building as the others, but this time looking in the opposite direction. Those dark, rectangular blobs in the centre may be boxcars. Photo by William Henry Wood.


South side of mill, showing south wall of packing room leaning out between elevator and mill; photo and annotation by William Henry Wood. The picture clearly shows the track between the mill and elevator buildings, and off in the distance, still on the track, is that damaged boxcar that had debris fall on it shown in the lead photos. I guess it was pushed down the track during clean-up.


A zoomed-in view of the blown-out packing room wall on the top floor of the mill. He was likely standing on the tracks between the mill and elevator to get this shot. Photo by William Henry Wood.

Looking out through hole torn in wall by explosion. Annotation and photo by William Henry Wood. Looks like they went up to the room where the explosion occurred and had a look around. I can’t imagine that the building had been stabilized, maybe it was, but this seems very risky.

Looking down at the wall (south) on the elevator side. Annotation and photo by William Henry Wood. Yeah, it looks like he leaned over the edge of a structure of questionable stability to get this shot.

Flour & feed damaged by water, out in the sun to dry out. Annotation and photo by William Henry Wood.

Water damage on the ground floor. Annotation and photo by William Henry Wood.

There are also some photos of the reconstructed facility, and I’ll post them in a future instalment.

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