Vigo County Bicentennial: the train explosion heard around the world

Morris Ricketts has traveled around a lot of his life but he has spent a large chuck of it in Lewis Indiana. It seems like everybody knows everybody here, but they also remember where they were on that fateful night.

Posted: Jul. 18, 2018 6:33 PM

LEWIS, Ind. (WTHI)- Morris Ricketts has traveled around a lot of his life but he has spent a large chunk of it in Lewis Indiana. It seems like everybody knows everybody here, but they also remember where they were on that fateful night.

"He came into work about 9:30 I think and said that Lewis is on fire. It’s burning up. The whole town," said Ricketts describing how he first heard of the disaster taking place.

On March 28th in 1953 a Milwaukee ammunition train heading to Crane derailed on the north side of town. One of the box cars was full of black powder which would catch fire and explode.

Only ten of over one hundred houses in the town were livable. Thankfully no one lost their life in the event. But it still had many fearing for their lives.

"Well, I was scared to death because mom and dad’s house was right here and they had a store building over there. A little station and store," said Rickett.

News of the Lewis train explosion quickly spread across the nation in both magazines and newspapers, but because of this event as well. Many railroads had to change their regulations on how they transported certain items. Especially explosives.

"Well, this shut down the rail industry for a week or so until they could find out what happened and why. And so they could rewrite regulations,” said David Brown. Brown is the Pierson Township Trustee.

With this disaster came steps to be better prepared. Shortly after the explosion, the Pierson Township Volunteer Fire department was made.

"It gives me a good feeling knowing that people clear back then had the insight to get something going to protect the township, protect lives, protect property," said Brown.

Now only little remains of that infamous day but those who call this place homelike Rickett is just happy they all lived to tell about it.

"The town wasn't the same for a long time, a long time. It was just a miracle that nobody was killed," said Rickett.

If you'd like to see more history pieces celebrating Vigo County's Bicentennial check out all the stores done here.

Also if you have a history story in your township that hasn’t yet been covered email Garrett Brown at garrett.brown@wthitv.com.

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