An Engine on A Rampage

| November/December 1981

  • Peerless engine

  • Peerless engine

A Landis Peerless Traction Breaks its Guide Chain and Plays Havoc on North Queen Street This article, nearly a century old, tells of an occurrence on the main business street of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in which a Peerless went 'wild.' We have picked it up intact, just as it was printed in the Lancaster New Era of December 5,1884. It was made available by Mrs. Herbert B. Krone, of Lancaster.

A large crowd of men and boys assembled on South Queen Street, in the vicinity of the Fountain Inn, a few minutes before 7 o'clock on Thursday evening, to witness the working of Ezra Landis' Peerless traction engine, which was on its way home from Quarryville, having left that place at about 9 o'clock in the morning. After it had been attached to a cart it started up South Queen Street to the square, crossed the latter, and then started up North Queen Street. South of the post-office the guiding chain broke, and the driver immediately lost all control of the engine, which began zig-zagging back and forward on the street. The driver of the Grape Hotel baggage wagon, Edward Clark, saw the engine coming, and started with his team on a dead run up the street, his promptness probably saving his team from a serious wreck.

At the post office the unmanageable engine encountered the United States mail team, which it struck with great force. The horse was knocked down and the wagon thrown over to the post office pavement, where it fell partly on the horse. The vehicle was only slightly injured, but the horse was badly hurt, having a hole knocked in its side, its hind legs badly cut and the hair of the tail taken off as with a clipping machine. Christian Fate's sewing machine agency building had its front knocked out of plumb, the French plate broken, and a sewing machine which was standing in front of the building was broken to pieces. Several persons narrowly escaped being struck by the machine before it was brought to a standstill on Mr. Fate's pavement. Considering the manner in which the machine whistled, and the tremendous noise it made, in going along the streets, the only wonder is that serious runaways did not take place. An immense crowd of people assembled about and in the vicinity of the engine as soon as the accident occurred, and it required the utmost efforts of the police to keep the pavements partly free for pedestrians.

Mr. Fate, as soon as he had recovered from his shock, having been seated just inside his office door when the crash occurred, proceeded to the office of Alderman McConomy, where he entered complaint against John Landis and Elam Herr, who were on the engine when the accident occurred, charging them with malicious mischief. The men were arrested, but were at once admitted to bail for a hearing, and shortly after 9 o'clock the engine was put in proper condition for running and was taken to the works of Mr. Landis, on Cherry alley.

A Thrilling Scene

The scene is described as quite a thrilling one. The mail wagon was thrown on top of the news stand in front of the post office, and the horse under the wagon, the boy in charge Davy Maynard holding on to the lines until the horse fell. A post at the extreme northern edge of the post office pavement was cut off as smoothly as though done with a sharp instrument, and the heavy flags used for paving in front of Mr. Fate's place were broken into hundreds of pieces. The iron pillar being a part of Mr. Fate's front was moved from its place by the collision, and the heavy engine crushed the woodwork into splinters. Rumors prevailed on the street that the engine had frightened a team on the Willow Street turnpike, resulting in the serious injury of a lady; but we have failed to trace this to a reliable source, and the nearest approach to a runaway was that of a four-mule team, on the turnpike, which a couple gentlemen from this city saw. The mules trembled with fright and tried to get away, but were controlled by the driver and others who went to his assistance.


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