How many acres does the John Deere Harvester Works manufacturing facility cover?
Two important indicators of East Moline’s history are visible from this spot: the world’s largest combine factory and the bridge to Campbell’s Island.
In the early 20th century, East Moline grew very rapidly as a “manufacturing suburb” of Moline. Factories were established to produce a variety of goods, ranging from automobiles, to toys, to farm implements. Among the largest of the farm implements are combines, which are used to harvest corn, soybeans, wheat, rice and other crops.
By the middle of the century, East Moline was producing thousands of combines per year in two sprawling factories. Red-painted combines were manufactured at the International Harvester facility, located about a mile downstream from here near the Moline border. After 80 years of operation, that factory was closed in 2007. All that remains today is a large empty concrete and asphalt lot.
Not so here, where the large green Deere combines are produced. We are on the back side of the John Deere Harvester Works, which dates back to 1912. With 90 acres under roof, it is the largest combine factory in the world and the largest employer in East Moline. If you want to see how combines are manufactured, the plant offers daily public tours.
Upstream is the current highway bridge to Campbell’s Island. The first bridge at that location, built in 1904, carried only trolley tracks. The trolley company had developed the island as a weekend and summer resort, with a lodge and numerous recreational facilities. For the next 27 years, the island was a very popular destination for visitors who came via trolley from East Moline, Moline and Rock Island.
In 1931, the trolley line was discontinued and the bridge was covered with wooden planks for automobile use. In time, the bridge become rickety with the planks occasionally giving way under the weight of vehicles and even pedestrians. In 1938, it was replaced with a concrete highway bridge, the predecessor to the one you see today.