18 HP Peerless Crashes Through Bridge

A traction engine collapses a bridge across LaMoine River on Aug. 24, 1912

| September/October 1972

  • An accident of many years ago
    AN ACCIDENT OF MANY YEARS AGO — First man from left behind the engine is Frank Greenlief, owner. Others unknown. Picture taken August 24, 1912.
    Courtesy Ralph Hussong
  • The LaMoine River Bridge
    The LaMoine River bridge with Mrs. Jackson and her husband standing where her father's engine went through in August of 1912.
    Courtesy Ralph Hussong
  • Earl Brooks in his barber shop
    Earl Brooks in his barber shop, November 15, 1971 — still very active.
    Courtesy Ralph Hussong
  • The bicycle
    The separate picture of the bicycle Mr. Jackson built has nothing to do with the story but is in quite an invention.
    Courtesy Ralph Hussong
  • Mrs. Mae Cowdery of Augusta
    Mrs. Mae Cowdery of Augusta, Illinois, who gave writer valuable assistance in story.
    Courtesy Ralph Hussong
  • Double bicycle
    Mrs. Omar Jackson and husband in double bicycle.
    Courtesy Ralph Hussong

  • An accident of many years ago
  • The LaMoine River Bridge
  • Earl Brooks in his barber shop
  • The bicycle
  • Mrs. Mae Cowdery of Augusta
  • Double bicycle

This story will attempt to describe a traction engine accident, which happened many years ago.

I knew of the accident and have known the engineer who was injured for many years but never thought of sending the pictures and story to the Iron-Men Album, until I saw the account and picture of the bridge collapse of Earl Hayes on page 40 of the November/December 1971 Album, then I began to inquire about a picture of the one following.

I learned that the only picture known to exist was in possession of a daughter of the outfit owner and that she was a rather restive person and probably would not allow it to be sent away. She said that it was all she had left of her daddy’s steam engine.

I requested the aid of a neighbor of the owner of the picture, and so got the picture for a copy of the same, and I returned it to her again. She has become a very interesting person to know.

The engine and water wagon shown are the property of Frank Greenlief, of Birmingham, Schuyler County, Illinois, and the lady who owns the picture is his daughter, Mrs. Omar Jackson, of Augusta, Hancock County, Illinois.

The engineer in charge at the time of the accident was Earl Brooks, who is now a barber in Augusta, Illinois, at the ripe old age of 87. As a token of the accident he wears an artificial limb on the right side.



The bridge involved covered the LaMoine River, east side of Birmington, Illinois. It covers a stretch of 205 feet, including approaches. The one on west end was short, being about 20 feet long where it happened. They had completed the threshing run and were storing the separator and going after clover huller, making the fourth trip across the bridge when it happened. The engine was removed, repaired and at work during the next season, in charge of the same Mr. Brooks, but he had a young man firing for him.

The engine involved was a Peerless 18 HP. It had tubular steel spokes in its rear wheels — not wood like the earlier Geiser engines.