Kingsland explosion

A view of a section of the Canadian Car and Foundry Company's Plant, Kingsland, New Jersey, after the fire and explosions of January 11, 1917 (International Film Service, Inc.)

The Kingsland explosion was an incident that took place during World War I at a munitions factory in Lyndhurst, New Jersey, United States, on January 11, 1917. An arbitration commission in 1931 determined that, "In the Kingsland Case the Commission finds upon the evidence that the fire was not caused by any German agent."[1]

The Canadian Car and Foundry Company, based in Montreal, had signed large contracts with Russia and Britain for delivery of ammunition. An enormous factory was constructed in the New Jersey Meadowlands, which was then referred to as Kingsland. The company executives decided not to take any chances with security for their plant. They constructed a six-foot fence around the plant and hired security guards to conduct 24-hour patrols around the perimeter and to screen each worker as they entered the plant. It was located on the site of Lyndhurst's present industrial park. A brick stack, believed to be the remaining part of the Foundry, is located in the area bounded by Valley Brook Avenue, Polito Avenue, and the office buildings on Wall Street West.

On January 11, 1917, a fire started in Building 30 of the Canadian Car and Foundry Company at Kingsland in Bergen County, New Jersey. In 4 hours, probably 500,000 pieces of 76 mm (3") -high explosive shells were discharged.[2] The entire plant was destroyed.[3] It was said to have been a spectacle more magnificent than the nearby 1916 explosion at Black Tom. From office buildings and tall apartments, people in New York City watched with amazement.

The building

In March 1916, World War I was in progress. Although the United States had not yet entered the war, the country was assisting its allies with war supplies. Munitions, including shells, shell cases, shrapnel, and powder were shipped to Kingsland from over 100 different factories. At the foundry they were assembled for shipment to Russia. Producing 3 million shells per month, the factory was a worthy objective for German saboteurs.

Building 30 was used exclusively for cleaning out shells; it contained 48 workbenches. On the bench in front of each employee was a pan of gasoline and a small rotating machine operated by a belt. The cleaning process included several steps:

  • The shells were dusted with a brush
  • A cloth, moistened in the pan of gasoline, was wrapped around a foot-long piece of wood
  • The shell was placed in the rotating machine and the wood was inserted into the shell as it turned
  • A dry cloth was wrapped around the stick and the shell was dried in a similar manner.
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