Russell engine

Jerry D' Attilio and his Russell engine.

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Corydon, Iowa 50060

There is an old saying: 'Big Oaks From Little Acorns Grow.' If this saying is true, the Decatur County Historical Society at Leon, Iowa will be hunting for more room in a few years. On August 14 and 15, 1976, they staged their 3rd annual show. Rainy weather held down attendance but the exhibits were larger than last year.

Four full size steam engines were on hand. Jim Smith from Garden Grove, Iowa brought his Case engine. Everett Anderson from Humeston, Iowa brought his Aultman Taylor engine. The Maxwell brothers from Ridgeway, Missouri came with their Nichols and Shepard engine. A newcomer to the show was Jerry D'Attilio from near Humeston, Iowa. Jerry brought his Russell engine which he purchased last year. The engine at one time belonged to Ed Vogel of Buhl, Idaho. All of these engines had turns at threshing. At times, the Maxwell brothers put their engine on a stone burr mill, also owned by them. This burr mill was manufactured by Nordyke and Marmon Company, Indianapolis, Indiana, patent date August 1871. This mill had 18' stone burrs and the Maxwells were selling fresh ground cornmeal and wheat flour.

Everett Anderson belted up to a saw mill owned and restored by Glenn Dyer of near Lucas, Iowa. I guess this was the second time the mill had been in use since Glenn had restored it. I understand Glenn's farm is operated on 32 volt electricity, supplied by light plant and wind chargers both.

The Decatur Historical Society last year built a large new tin building for storing items connected with this show. In this building were many common items of farm equipment such as corn planters, cultivators, etc. One item of interest in here was a McCormick Deering Combine made in 1926, owned by Rollie Fight of Garden Grove, Iowa. Another interesting item owned and displayed by Rollie was a farm wagon made in Derby, Iowa in 1918 by some of Rollie's relatives. This wagon was number 157 so it shows that the A. Fight Company made several wagons. I think Rollie also has many of the tools used in this shop. Other items of interest in this building were a horse drawn hearse and a horse drawn mail buggy. Some of antique cars that came to the show were also in this building, also some nice model A Fords shown by Basil Dale of Humeston, Iowa. There was a nice Chevrolet 490 hack wagon owned by Wilbur Ries of Murray, Iowa and a beautiful 1925 Dodge touring car. I didn't learn the owner's name. Another car of the show which is seldom seen today was a nicely restored 1928 Whippet Coupe owned by Warner and June Rouse of Albia, Iowa.

There were a number of antique tractors on hand. The old Moline Universal with drive wheels in front; a Thieman, an Iowa product which was made by using Model A Ford motor and other parts; several McCormick Deering, an Allis Chalmer, Case, John Deere and old Farmall tractors. Russell Moss of Hamilton, Missouri brought up his model of a Mogul 45 tractor. This is a nice model. He belted up to a buzz saw several times and the wood was used by some of the steam engines.

A corn sheller powered by a John Deere tractor was shelling corn. Also, a Model D John Deere tractor was running a baler and was baling straw from the stacks behind the separators.

Also, I watched Calvin Wineland of Garden Grove, Iowa working the Baker fan with an old Allis Chalmers tractor owned by Harry Olson of Garden Grove, Iowa. I understand this tractor also won the antique tractor pull.

Joe Dent, of Humeston had his McCormick Deering W30 tractor belted to his neighbor, Gary Arnold's McCormick Deering separator. Joe said they had quite a time as they had no experience with the separator and put a belt on wrong. He said some old timers such as Jim Smith of Garden Grove helped them get straightened out.

The Baker fan used at this show was made by Rosco Doolittle of Davis City. This was the first time for the show to have a Baker fan. Another first for the show was a Rumley Oilpull tractor shown my Tom Borrall of Indianola, Iowa. Rumley's are scarce down here in Lapland. O. C. West of Garden Grove, Iowa showed two model steam locomotive engines and a model Case steam engine.

During this show I met Marion and Kathy Thompson of Aledo, Illinois. Marion showed me an unusual hot air engine and I saw some ladies antique purses Kathy has collected. Kathy has 204 of these and, of course, is looking for more. During the threshing show, there was a horse show going on the grounds, too. As I said in the beginning, this show is a growing show.

'I wish my automobile engines would run that long,' Orville A. Sobie said as he looked fondly at the 275 HP steam engine that has kept a rope and twine plant here in operation for many years.

The steam engine, which powers about 100 machines, lights and heats the Badger Cordage Mills, 3035 W. Hadley Street, is to be replaced by two modern electric motors.

Sobie, 60, manages the plant, which employs about 35 persons and produces rope and twine from imported manila and sisal. He has worked there 45 years.

The steam engine, made by Vilter Manufacturing Corporation, 2217 South 1st Street has been working at the plant nearly 70 years.

'That engine has been running since 1908 when they built the building,' Sobie noted. 'It has been reliable all these years but, after all, things do wear out.

'There aren't any replacement parts available. The manufacturer could still make parts for it but that takes time and costs a lot.

'It's the time element mostly, more than the cost. No company could afford to shut down for three or four months.'

Sobie pointed out that a big leather belt that drives the many ropes which turn the many machines also dates back to 1908.

'The belt is wearing out, too,' he said. 'It slips in hot humid weather.'

The engine is fueled by high pressure steam from gas fired boilers, and Sobie explained that 'we heat the building with the exhaust steam.'

He and Harry J. Haltner; 64, plant engineer, had a hard time recalling when the smooth running steam engine last broke down.

'Once a bearing went to pieces,' Haltner said, 'That must have been 25 years or more ago.'

Haltner, who has worked at the plant 49 years, recalled that he shoveled coal into the boilers before they were converted to gas. The boilers used two tons of coal each day.

'We have these steam engine fans who come in here,' Haltner said with a tinge of pride in the machine he has oiled and helped keep running so many years. 'They take pictures of it from every angle you can think of.'

'It's a museum piece,' said W. E. Buesing, president of John Rauschenberger Company, 193 North Broadway, which owns Badger Cordage Mills. 'We are going to keep it on standby in case the electric power system should ever fail.'

As a post note, the electric motors have failed to operate properly and when this letter was written, the old steam engine was still going strong while the contractor pulled hair. And also, before all the museums come-a-running to try and get the engines, our club at Sussex has first nibs.