Taken from the September 11, 1908 issue of the Fairbury Blade,
Hurls Heavy Iron In All Directions and is Heard Two Miles. John
Hehl The Only Man Injured
The traction engine belonging to George and John Hehl exploded
with terrific force yesterday about one o’clock at the farm of
William Mundell, six miles south of Fairbury. The engine was
literally torn to pieces and John Hehl who was running it at the
time was badly injured. One remarkable thing about the accident was
that nobody was killed.
The Hehl brothers and their force had been engaged in hulling
clover in the neighborhood and had just pulled into Mr.
Mundell’s yard. About a dozen men, women and children were
standing around watching operations and the engine had scarcely
stopped when the air was rent by a deafening explosion, the force
of which knocked everyone present down; shattered the windows in
Mr. Mundell’s house, and hurled heavy pieces of iron in every
When the men who had been standing around recovered themselves
their first thought was of John Hehl who had been standing on the
footboard of the engine. Where he had been standing was a twisted
mass of iron and steel, the whole end of the boiler being torn
away, leaving the flues exposed and the steam pouring out. The
engine had been partly turned around and reared on end and the
tongue of the water tank was broken off. Mr. Hehl was found in a
semi-conscious condition under the wrecked engine. He was taken to
the house and physicians were summoned from both Fairbury and
Corpse. Examination showed that he had suffered a few scalp wounds;
his lips and chin had been cut by flying pieces and several of his
teeth had been knocked out. His knee and body were badly bruised.
He had also been scalded some by the steam but it is believed he
No one can view the wreck with-out wondering how anyone standing
near escaped. The front wheels of the engine were twisted out of
all semblance of wheels and thrown about fifty feet in front of the
engine. Both front and back of the engine were blown off and thrown
a distance of fifty to a hundred feet away and heavy pieces of iron
were blown in all directions. One piece of the boiler weighing
about 800 pounds was torn out and blown high in the air and passing
over a large cottonwood tree fell in the road about half a block
distant from the engine. A cat sitting in the yard about fifty feet
from the engine was killed by a wheel and one chicken was killed.
These were the only fatalities.
Flying pieces of iron tore a number of large holes in the corn
crib and buildings, but George Hehl, who was standing just beside
the engine suffered but a slight scalp wound.
The engine was an old one bought of Russel Brothers of Peoria,
but the boiler was thought to be safe. It is said there was plenty
of water in the boiler at the time of the explosion and no one
seems to know what caused the trouble. It is certainly remarkable
that no one was killed considering the number of people who were