Collision on the Tracks: Geiser Peerless Traction Engine and Electric Trolley Accident

Steam engine and thresher rig collide with electric trolley on New York line in 1916

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Thomas Chorley's Geiser Peerless traction engine and hand-fed thresher after it was struck by the electic trolley on the Syracuse & Auburn line in New York on the morning of Aug. 11, 1916. Thomas Chorley survived the incident, but the trolley motorman, William Forbes, later died of his injuries.

courtesy Steve Davis

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Dando, N.Y., 7:30 a.m., Aug. 11, 1916: Thomas Chorley leaves his yard with his Geiser Peerless traction engine pulling his hand-fed thresher. He soon pulls onto the tracks of the Syracuse & Auburn electric trolley line. Approaching and also unseen is the westbound trolley controlled by motorman William Forbes, whose line of sight is possibly obscured by a curve in the track and a waiting station. When Mr. Forbes sees the engine and thresher crossing the tracks he applies the brakes and jumps before impact.

The trolley hits the rear of the engine, tearing off the rear wheels and platform and demolishing the front half of the thresher. The engine then topples on its left side, still on the tracks. A section crew working nearby rushes to the scene and renders aid to those involved and later drags the engine off the track using rope and tackle. Mr. Chorley was injured somewhat but the unfortunate motorman was severely injured. He was taken to Auburn hospital by auto, where he later died of his injuries.

The above information came to light when I was investigating the background of the wreck photos I purchased on eBay from a dealer who had acquired it in the Skaneateles, N.Y., area. I then wrote to the town historian for Skaneateles, Elizabeth Battle, who after much research kindly supplied the information surrounding the probably all but forgotten tragedy. Sometimes a little detective work pays off and a unique story such as this emerges from the past. I wonder what Mr. Chorley did with his wheelless Peerless?