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Placer County not immune to horrific rail explosions

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Lincoln’s propane tank fire emergency this week would take a back seat to a train blast on April 29, 1973 in west Placer County near Roseville that locals still talk about. Auburn Journal reports at the time said the explosions broke the calm of a western Placer County morning and continued for five hours. The source of the blasts was a Southern Pacific freight train parked in the Antelope extension of the giant Roseville switching yard. Onboard the train were more than 7,000 Mark-81 bombs weighing 250 pounds apiece bound for use in the Vietnam War. As well as 21 munitions cars, there were several cars carrying liquid propane and had passed through Auburn a short time before parking in the Roseville complex for a routine layover. The force of the first explosion sent shockwaves 100 miles away, blew out thousands of windows, and shook surrounding houses and buildings, the Journal reported. For the 40,000 people living in the area, mostly in Sacramento County, the next few hours were sheer terror. Some 15,000 were evacuated as boxcars continued to blow up. In all, about 60 people reported injuries, many from flying debris. The tally from damage was more than $10 million but, luckily, no one lost a life. – Gus Thomson