I've been past this ancient, old-growth hemlock many times. Somehow, I never thought about the tree being hundreds of years old, and that it witnessed a tragic event in 1864.
The hemlock tree can't tell me whether it was one of the trees on which bodies were found.
This hemlock tree stood between the two railroad grades... the ill-fated locomotive was on the upper one, just out of sight to the right in the picture below.
There's a real good chance the locomotive, La Copiapo is a sister engine (same year, same builder) to the Westmoreland, so click here, here ,or here for a better idea of exactly how the engine looked.
Here is a photo of a model of a similar engine. Well, one with a Bury boiler.
Here is a photo of a boiler fragment from the Westmoreland. It was found on the mountainside across the valley from the locomotive explosion.
I have found other pieces of the locomotive over there on that mountainside...
like the rusty piece on the left side of the photo below... probably part of the spring safety valve
I theorize that the engineer was showing off to his passengers.... by keeping the spring safety valve from doing its job... just to show them what the old girl could do
Unfortunately, that's one way to have a boiler end up as shrapnel.
About a hundred yards or so from the spot where the boiler fragment landed there are some more old-growth hemlock trees.
This photo is looking past one old-growth hemlock toward the locomotive boiler explosion site.
Until recently I didn't think about the trees that were in the way of flying debris from the boiler explosion. In light of the fact that I've found pieces of the locomotive boiler clear on the other side of the valley, I wonder how many trees intercepted shrapnel?
I realized I might find some clues when I saw the tree rings... a record of a long history.
If only this tree could talk.
At any rate, it's a historical tree and that's how I get to weave some history into a nature website.