Iron Man Of The Month

Case engine and water wagon

Joe Fahnestock

Content Tools

Union City, Indiana.

Courtesy of Joe Fahnestock, Union City, Indiana 47390. IRON-MAN (WOMAN) Mrs. Florence Klusman of Hemritage, Mo., points out minute details of tiny scale model Case engine and water wagon she made from aminated paper. Paul Curtiss left the Prony Brake at Wauseon, N.T.A. to see the model. Shown here, Curtiss peers into open smoke box door to observe actual flues. Gears on the quadrant, spark arresters on the stack, working clutch, grates that shake, throttle, wheel spokes even to rivet head ends of spokes in the tire all are on this authentic Case Model, serial number 1458. Mrs. Klusman didn't know a thing about an engine, but got up on the engines, asked the men what this and that was for then went about making the laminated paper model to perfection.

Men you horny-handed sons of toil who strut like cock-roosters, tooting whistles and yanking throttles at a threshermen's reunion as if steam engines were solely a man's world! You of the masculine gender who flash wrenches and feint with your long-spouted oil cans, like the fabled knights of yore, as if in mortal combat with the Iron Horse while the weaker sex looks on ....

But gentlemen you who envision yourselves as the vaunted masters of the mighty steam engine in all its diverse, multi-faceted idiosyncracies from firebox to pop-off have never really fabricated a complete steam traction engine from wheel spokes to cap-stack and whistle, with but your two hands, like a certain little lady we know. Oh, you brag about the engines you've built more possibly assembled from parts the factories have cast and machined. But we'll wager you didn't actually fashion every piece and part, say the boiler, the quadrant and gears of the throttle, the water pump, the gages, cocks and valves and other gadgets, not to mention even the flues, as perfectly scaled and workable as has Florence Klusman, using only her two hands, a pair of scissors, a razor blade and lots of womanly inquisitiveness and intuition.

Yes, men you who fawn at the reunions over the model steam engines you've built from the catalog parts-lists, the components that the shops have lathed and machined for you to assemble let's see you try your hand at making a scale model Case Engine from nothing more than laminated paper, so perfect that every part works like the prototype from which it was scaled down to tea-table proportions.

'If it were possible to put steam into this little Case boiler, it would run and operate just like the big engine,' says the comely Florence Klusman, Iron Man-woman of the month, who hails from the little village of Hermitage, Missouri.

And coming from Missouri, as Florence does, she literally 'had to be shown' how everything worked, measured and appeared in proper proportion on the prototype before she could get back to her kitchen table and meticulously make the tiny parts which ultimately became the superb model Case she displays annually at the various steam threshing reunions.

'I didn't know a thing about a steam engine,' explains Florence with a twinkle of triumph over the masculine gender in her feminine eyes. 'I had to get up on the engine decks, ask the engineers what this part did and how it was fastened onto the engine, what kind of gears it had and what drove it, before I could scale it down and then make it up out of laminated paper.'

'I had trouble making the worm-gear, and I had to ask the enginemen about the reverse,' she goes on to explain. 'For instance I made the intermediate gear out of a strip of paper a quarter-inch wide and ninety-four inches long, notched with a razor blade for gears, which I glued together in thin laminations for the desired result.'

The steam gage she fashioned from the cover off a bottle of Canadian Salad Dressing. The smoke-box door-latch was made from an earring, and it latched the door perfectly.

The little Case model was one of the wonders displayed at the National Threshers Association Reunion at Wauseon, Ohio. But it was standing unnoticed in a dark corner of one of the display cases in the National Thresher-women's exhibit. Barely noticing it, right across from the scale model locomotives which I was displaying, and the Ritzman Iron Man Album headquarters, my eye finally acught its significance just as the big reunion was drawing to a close.

When I was informed a woman had made it, and that it was a perfect scale model with all the working parts and of paper at that I had George call in the little woman genius from somewhere on the grounds so we could remove it from its darkened case and get a picture of the tiny marvel.

Grabbing opportunity by the horns, we likewise paged some engineer-worthies and mechanical geniuses of the masculine gender, such as President LeRoy Blaker and Paul Curtiss to look over the fabulous little Case model and evaluate its various components from an experienced man's standpoint.

'It's complete in every part certainly the work of a genius,' commented Blaker, extending his sun-tanned engineer's paw, like a Pope giving his blessing to the tiny Lilliputian Case. 'It would really run if you could fire it up.'

The cleats, spokes and rivets in the connection plates of the wheels were what first caught the fancy of Paul Curtiss, operator of the Prony Brake at Wauseon and long-time member of N.T.A. upper-echelon.

'All the rivets (spoke-ends) show in the wheel rims, just like on the real engines,' commented Curtiss, taking his seat to get a close-eye view of the little wonder.

From part to part, the deft fingers of Iron Man (Woman), Florence Klusman pointed with pride demonstrating how the little firebox grates actually work, the boiler drain, the guide-chain roller all of which appeared to Curtiss to be absolutely correct in scale and function.

'The wheels all turn, and the steering mechanism works,' added Florence, demonstrating a deft maneuver by turning the little steering wheel, like a veteran engineer lining up the belt to a separator. 'At first I used graphite to lubricate the steering and other workable parts, but I discovered that was too dirty.'

Opening the little firebox door, Paul Curtiss exclaimed, 'Why you've even got a 'fire' in there.'

To which replied Iron Man (Woman) Florence Klusman, 'I used red glitter-glass to look like live coals.'

As Curtiss peered into the open smoke box front he almost shouted, 'Look it's got a real set of flues!'

'Yes the right number and size, just like the big Case,' reminded Florence.

The spark tube on the front of the smokestack, and the spark arrester all are right in their places just as the Case Factory blueprints have dictated. And, should the job of the day happen to call for threshing in the broad, sweeping wheat lands of Kansas or Nebraska there's a peep-hole cover used when burning straw for fuel. The whistle chain she made from a delicate bit of jewelry chain found in her mother's jewel box.

For keeping the little Case in perfect combustion, there is a diminutive flue-swab and also a tiny scoop, all made of paper, for shovelling the scale-sized coal from the coal-bunker, while, for proper long-life lubrication, Florence fashioned a very minute engineer's tallow pot all necessary accoutrements in the great Age of Steam.

'Even the pump on the water wagon works,' exclaims Iron Man (Woman) Florence Klusman. 'And the rear drawbar hitch hooks up just like the big one.'

Just as in viewing the marvelous ingenuity exhibited in the tiny Case model, so the water wagon was equally a reflection of this unusual lady's engineering skill.

'At night I dream of how to do things, then get up and work with them,' explains Florence. 'I have to work while the paper is wet, I make my own paste and work right with the clock.'

'My husband, John Klusman, retired from the telephone company in 1955, is a very patient man. Sometimes, when I get a good idea that can't wait, I get out of bed and start working on it,' she continued.

Florence Klusman began her interesting work in fabricating unusual objects from laminated paper when she worked with the late Walt Disney, early in his career, at a motion picture advertising company in Kansas City, about 1920.

There's absolutely nothing but what Mrs. Florence Klusman can make out of paper, when the fancy strikes her.

'I made a very decorative and ornate copy of the cup in the Russian Royal collection as well as other art pieces pictured in Life Magazine.'

She loves to make wrist watch boxes, lined with velvet, and beautiful to behold.

Often she's called upon to make tiny paper models of famous persons or patriotic figures for tableaux she creates for particular decors.

'We have no children I can pose, so my poor husband has to be my model for all the human figures I make,' sighs Mrs. Klusman. 'He has to be a dear to be so kind and cooperative, doesn't he?'

Though Mrs. Florence Klusman may not be known well all over her hometown of Hermitage, Missouri (population 340), she has, by virtue of her unparalleled skill at outdoing the masculine engineers in making a complete and working scale model of a Case Steam Engine, succeeded in scaling the mountain top to claim her rightful place in the Iron Man Hall of Fame.

We doff our hat and bare our pate to this pert and knowledgeable little female genius for out-engineering the male engineers who thought they had 'done their thing.'

Mrs. Klusman, since you can make 'anything out of paper' could it be that by the time next season rolls 'round you will have worked out some method of fabricating steam out of laminated paper, so the little Case Engine can run for the many who will want to drop by and see it in actual operation? (So far everything's there but the steam!)

And oh yes, Iron Man (Woman) Klusman why not make a big sign (out of paper of course) to let folks know your wonderful scale model engine is around at National Threshers or at Mt. Pleasant, where you exhibit it year after year. And don't forget to point out the serial number, Case 1458, so the male engineers can check on the authenticity of your model's prototype. (For they're a jealous bunch, you know.)