P.O. Box 44, Paragon, Indiana 46166
It takes persistence and determination to put these engines together, and that is just what Bob Hughes of Bloomington, Indiana, has. He worked for five years finding the parts for his Russell engine, serial #3184, which was 100 years old in 1981, and was featured then at the Pioneer Engineers Club at Rushville, Indiana. The engine was found in a briar patch on the farm of Irvin Norman of Mahalasville, Indiana; the wheels and boiler were found by John Hall in Cape Girardeau, Missouri; the throttle and levers Bob got from John Holp of Lewisburg, Ohio; and Sherman Bird, Perryville, Illinois; and the front boiler door which he finished putting on the engine just this past September, was being used as a cistern cover and was found by Norman Skinner of Perryville, Illinois. Part of the gearing he obtained from Charles Geisler, of Madison, Indiana, and other parts which he couldn't find he made in his machine shop at home. After $1,500 and nearly two years of putting the pieces together, this is the beautiful engine it used to be and it's hard to believe that the parts were scattered all over the United States, and how hard and dedicated Mr. Hughes worked to find the original Russell parts.
Bob worked with his dad, William Hughes, when they did threshing all around this area and finally he left that and went to work as a machinist for the Bloomington Limestone Company for 31 years. Having worked with the engines when he was a kid, he kind of got fed up with them, but then he began attending the Rushville Show and the bug bit again. One thing about it, when the 'steam bug' bites, and you get that coal soot on you and the steam in your eyes, you have to get busy--and besides, he didn't like sitting on the sidelines. He is now a director of the Pioneer Engineers Club of Rushville, and they depend on his expertise, along with nine other directors, for decisions concerning the show.
Bob is presently working on a 22 HP Advance Rumely engine which belongs to a friend, Earl Walker of Paragon, Indiana, and is helping put in new piston rings, make new water tanks, put on a new roof, etc. He has been accused of running a steam engine hospital and has even been known to make house calls. He is free with his advice and loves to talk about steam. On a couple of city lots on South Maxwell Street in Bloomington, Bob maintains a variety of early farm machinery. His first love is a Keck-Gonnerman engine, serial number 1754, that was made in Mount Vernon about the turn of the century, and he has the engine, tractor, grain separator, and water wagon that all go together, but then he wouldn't part with the 100-year-old Russell that he has just finished either. In fact, he wouldn't put a price on the Hart Parr tractor that began his collection in 1965, or the Avery 'bulldog' tractor, or the 1935 John Deere, or the unrestored Frick steam engine, serial #16547, or the Oil Pull tractor which was another restoration which tried his patience in finding all the parts and having to make several of them. He made the heavy-duty front end complete for this tractor.
When Bob and his wife, Margie, bought their house in 1941, Bob built a machine shop in the garage, and this is his pride and joy and he spends many hours there. Bob says he couldn't afford this hobby if he didn't have his machine shop and couldn't make his own parts. In 1965 and 1966 he built a one-half scale steam engine from scratch, using salvaged pieces and making most of it in his shop. Then he obtained the Oil Pull and has been looking for parts for it ever since. Bob says he has had a lot of things given to him by other collectors and has traded for other pieces. He is generous with his time and knowledge, and is a consultant for anyone who needs his help.
You have to know this man to appreciate that there are still people like this in the world who love to help their fellow man and share in their knowledge of these antique farm machinery. Bob and his wife want all their many friends who have helped him collect the parts and pieces of the different machines to know how much they appreciate their help. These friends are in Ohio, Missouri, Illinois and Indiana, and it certainly would be worth your time to look him up sometime and spend a day going over his 'museum' of farm machinery. There is a certain twinkle in his eye when he talks about the 'steam days'; it was a lot of hard work, but it brings back memories.
He is hoping to take his shingle mill to the 1982 Rushville Show. His last show of 1981 was the Boonville, Indiana show at Thresherman's Park where he showed off the Russell with its new front door and used it on the corn shredder of which he is very proud, and to pull the old sorghum mill. He also has a miniature sawmill; and, who knows, he may find another item to add to his collection, which will start him looking for parts and pieces all over again.