In 1876, Frederick Eames established the Eames Vacuum Brake Company on Beebee Island in Watertown, New York. Eames Vacuum Brake manufactured vacuum braking systems for railroad engines and cars. In 1890, the company was reorganized in order to manufacture railroad air brakes, and it was renamed the New York Air Brake Company. Due to increased demand for its air brakes, New York Air Brake relocated its operations in 1902 to a much larger ten-building, seventy-acre facility on the corner of Starbuck Avenue and Pearl Street in Watertown. During World War I and World War II, the company manufactured artillery shells, gun carriages and tank hulls. In 1967, New York Air Brake merged with the General Signal Corporation, and in 1991, it was acquired by German air brake manufacturer Knorr-Bremse AG. The company is still in operation, and it currently employs around 400 people.
Prior to the late 1970s, asbestos was incorporated into materials used during maintenance and repairs at New York Air Brake. Pipe covering, insulating cement, block insulation, gaskets and packing material contained asbestos. Employees and contractors who worked at New York Air Brake were at risk for asbestos exposure. Exposure to asbestos can cause mesothelioma, lung cancer and other asbestos-related diseases.
In order to heat the buildings and to operate production equipment at New York Air Brake, a network of pipes delivered steam throughout the plant. Boilers, pipes and valves within the steam system were covered with asbestos-containing pipe covering, insulating cement and block insulation. During maintenance procedures, workers removed asbestos-containing insulation from equipment within the steam system. After the repairs were completed, new insulation was applied. Applying and removing asbestos-containing insulation caused asbestos dust and fibers to become airborne, which workers inhaled. Many workers were not aware of the dangers of exposure to asbestos dust and carried on their work without masks or protective gear.
Workers who performed maintenance or repairs on pumps or valves frequently removed and replaced asbestos-containing packing material and gaskets. In order to prevent leaks, packing material was wrapped around valve stems and pump shafts. Workers at New York Air Brake also scraped asbestos-containing gaskets from flanges on pumps and valves during repair procedures. New gaskets were fabricated from sheets of asbestos-containing gasket material. When asbestos-containing packing material and gaskets were removed, cut or handled, asbestos fibers were emitted. Inhaling dust and particles from the application and maintenance of asbestos-containing materials placed workers at risk for developing mesothelioma or lung cancer.
In the process of representing workers and their families, we have gathered a vast amount of information concerning the type and variety of asbestos-containing products to which our clients were exposed. Our clients understand the importance of securing legal representation as soon as possible after a diagnosis of mesothelioma or lung cancer. If you or a loved one were once employed at New York Air Brake in Watertown, New York and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or lung cancer, we urge you to contact us regarding your legal rights.