DISASTER AVERTED!


| September/October 1967



435 English Lane Dubuque, Iowa 52001

Enclosed is a manuscript of a true story which happened to my father many years ago. Since it involves steam traction engines, I thought you might be interested in printing it in your magazine.

I've heard Dad talk about this incident many times and last summer I visited with him and we sat down and put the details on paper and I have since written it out in story form. Dad is still living, and can verify all of the details. Bill Davisson is dead, but I have secured his wife's written permission to include his name in the article.

It was a hot August afternoon in 1921 while two men were moving their threshing rig from one farm to another in the extreme northwest corner of Iowa. The front wheels of the Port Huron threshing steamer had just crossed one of the rails of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Rail Road at a rural crossing when the two men on the engine's deck looked to the northwest and saw smoke. They had been watching and listening carefully, for they knew that this was a bad blind crossing with a worse reputation. Why hadn't they seen the train's smoke before they got the engine on the track?

Moments earlier the fireman on one of the two engines of the long, fast freight had put a shovel or two of coal into his firebox. He had been taking it easy, for the tracks from Inwood to Rock Valley, Iowa, are mostly down hill, requiring less steam than usual. Thus, his engine had been making very little smoke for some time. The black cloud of thick smoke was just coming out of the stack, and he looked with pleasure out of the north window of his cab to see the shadow of his magnificent plume of thick smoke spread over the tall Iowa com.

Three men were riding the front locomotive that day, for, beside the engineer and fireman, the head brake-man was riding on the pilot at the front of the engine. He had spotted the threshing rig just beginning to cross the track, and was pondering the few moments left before he would be caught between the hot, exploding energy of three high pressure steam boilers, and the grinding impact of an entire threshing rig with the overwhelming force of a double-header freight train.