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

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.