Black Tom Island Railroad Yard Sabotage, 1916

Never heard of this before.


This sounds terrible but when I read “three men and a baby” I giggled because I saw the movies when I was younger.


I don’t recall hearing about it either but the website makes it seem “small”. Measuring 5.0 on the reciter scale and one of the largest non nuke explosions in the US.

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I guess if they wanted to make a movie about the interrogation of the suspects, they could name it Look Who’s Talking?

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One of the most forgotten incidents of WWI. It almost brought the US into the war in 1916 but was downplayed as to not spark a go-to-war fever since the US had an isolationist national policy and delayed entering the war as long as possible.


Cigar bombs!? Looks like we know from where Flemming got his ideas for James Bond’s “Q”.

Or, could the name be James “Bahnt”?

“Bahnt, Jochim Bahnt, doppelnull sieben. Schnaps, troubled, nicht wirbel.”

I have not read deep into the article or followed through yet with the following thought. I wonder if black Tom Island had anything to do with the establishment of the United States Railroad Administration (USRA)? The USRA was a nationalization or at least an administrative takeover of America’s railroads during World War I. The main aspect of its creation from what I recall was the gridlock of the system once we entered the war. (Union Pacific, I remember the late 1990s after you merged the Southern Pacific. Norfolk Southern, I remember your takeover of your part of Conrail. I’m looking at both of you.). From what I remember, our railroads did a good job of moving supplies to the disembarkation ports but completely screwed the pooch in sorting and ordering the cars be a priority, as well as loaded and unloaded cars. I think all the cars ended up in the yards and pretty soon there are no empties to take back to pick up more supplies. That’s a simplified explanation of it but when I read that Woodrow Wilson tried to gloss over the sabotage as just an accident at a private railroad facility, it got me thinking.

Do any of you have any USRA insight or history to share?

Another thing the USRA did was established a wage standard for all railroad workers, and they also sought to standardize designs for locomotives and rolling stock, the so-called USRA Designs. At the time - as well as the years afterwards - railroads had their own design and mechanical departments create rolling stock (term for railroad cars {and locomotives?}) unique to the railroads operating requirements and even aesthetics. The war demands required new and efficient rolling stock and motive power, and thus standardization and assembly line techniques were required. USRA convened a mechanical advisory committee from many of the railroads and they sorted out there best practices and ideas to create a standard design for several types of locomotives, and dozens of designs for freight cars. I think most of the designs were successful and many railroads continued building them long after they disillusion of USRA. Some were built right off the USRA blueprints but of course some railroads tweaked the designs for their individual needs.

I think the greatest success was the USRA setting up a standardized workable game plan of moving supplies to and from the disembarkation ports. You guys can correct me but I’m not 100% certain that the new rolling stock and motive power were dusting the rails in time to really made a difference.

As a postscript, once the war ended the USRA last until I think 1920 or 1921, when the government gave everything back to the railroad companirs. That created a turbulent time in the industry as the railroads did not have the traffic to generate the money to continue the lavish expenditures of the war, and it led to a lot of Labor unrest.