Iron Man Of The Month

Russell engine

WATCH HIS SMOKE!. The mail man can't miss this guy's mail box. Stanley J. Mouser of Well-man, Iowa, is a bit proud of the 25 H.P. Russell he built atop his rural box Mail is held in the Russell ''firebox''. Photo by Mrs. Ellen Fenn, Washington, Iowa. C

Content Tools


The rural route carrier could never miss this guy or shove his mail into the wrong box. And what better place for junk mail and/or unwanted bills than to have them stuffed into the firebox of a Russell steam engine?

It's just the way an engine man's mail box should look, according to Stanley J. Mouser (no relation to Mouser the cat) of R. F. D. 1, Well-man, Iowa. Although, with all that nice, black smoke belching from the Russell stack wouldn't it be fetching to just have that 'Bull' chug the mail right on up to the house of Mouser?

Several years ago Iron-Man Stanley Mouser conceived that it would be a very novel idea to outdo the other Mt. Pleasant engineers by having a steam engine mail box. But before he could find a suitable piece of sheet-tin around the barn on which to draw his pattern and snip out the outline, a better idea lit up a bulb and started the reels to whirring in the computer of his brain.

'One day the thought struck me that a mail box was just the shape of an engine firebox, so why not build an engine that would enclose my mail box?' mused Mouser. 'It took me about two years to figure it all out (I don't think very fast) and about a year and a half of spare time (and some that wasn't so spare) to build it.'

Naturally more time was spent in figuring and looking for parts. That doesn't surprise any of us woodshed mechanics. But the most difficult thing that Stanley Mouser had to search for was the fly-wheel, finding as he did that most wheels the right diameter were just too heavy. However, finding a flat pulley from an old belt-drive washer saved the day.

'The only things I had to go elsewhere to have done were for rolling the tin into shape for the wheels, the boiler and the smoke stack,' says he. 'The rest I made in my farm shop.'

And, since it is not our intent and evil purpose to just let the reader hanging in mid-air, lest he might also want to someday point with pride to his own steam engine mail box, we up and asked the master Mr. Stanley J. Mouser just how he went about fabricating such a handsome mail box in the image of a 25-75 Russell which could even cause no less a personage than Iron-Man Percy Sherman to drool for the mere want of one.

Where, oh Where did you find that neat governor? And where, oh where, Mr. Mouser, did you locate a cylinder with cross-head guides, and how about the steam dome and the cast-iron smokebox door and such, we queried on and on, world without end.

'A quart oil-can was just the right diameter and length for the making of the cylinder, and a pint can with the sides cut away formed the cross-head guides,' explains Iron Man Mouser. 'An old corn-planter box lid with the globe valve wheel in the center for an emblem, was just right for the smoke-box door.'

There were other innovations the non-machinist type of work shop genius employs, preferring (as I myself often do) the application of ready-made parts from an unassorted junk heap that can easily be converted to the job at hand. Such as, for instance, finding a tension-adjusting Wheel on the wire-winder of an old corn-planter and using it as the Russell mail-box steering wheel. And of course dismantaling the wind-up motor of the old parlor gramophone in order to use the three-ball governor as an authentic adornment which lends a prototype look atop the engine boiler. (As a lover of the old phonographs, I should voice resentment of this practice, but I won't.)

Once again raiding the family heap of cast-off tin cans, Stanley Mouser came up with an old Go-Jo hand cleaner container that, with proper contour and trimming, made a perfect steam dome which he placed on the boiler just behind the governor. And, slicing a gallon can in two, lengthwise, he finished off with the nicest looking water tank and coal bunker that any Russell lover could wish for. The clutch, reverse and throttle levers were fashioned by hand from strap metal, the injector pipes are 3/16th inch rods with short stove bolts welded on for valves while the injector hose (the easiest of all) was a plastic covering 'stolen' from his wife's clothes line.

But the hardest thing to make, in my opinion, was that canopy around the roof which Mouser patiently seal loped out of sticky black adhesive tape with an old razor blade without it gooing up into a solid mess around his big thumb. (Imagine!)

And now, Mr. Mouser, with your Russell Engine built so solidly around that Uncle Jam mail box, just how could you or the mail man ever get the contraption opened for the dispatching and collecting of such things as Sears catalogs, monthly bills and/or personal epistles?

'The platform or engine deck is fastened onto the mail box door and serves as a handle for opening it,' explains Iron Man Mouser. 'I'm still working on a small coal-oil lantern to hang on the engine. About the only thing I didn't make was a small child's sand shovel for the scoop. 'I bought one at the Five-and-Dime Store.'

In fact Iron-Man Mouser's Russell mail box looked so real when he finally got all the parts together that it just began smoking right away out the stack. And that's just exactly where he identified his particular mail box (as if it needed identifying) by painting on his name. In other words it was just Stanley Mouser's clever way of informing his neighbors up and down the pike and his mail man too - to 'watch Stanley Mouser's smoke.'

Although as a young man Stanley Mouser never actually ran a steam engine out in the field, after seeing his Russell Engine mail box, we can well understand what his father meant when he said his son must've been born with 'wheels in his head.' For, as a lad, Stanley was always making something with wheels cars, wagons, even a little rather crude tractor (which he still has), powered by a spring motor from an old clock that he belted, by binder-twine, to a tiny unorthodox looking separator which he also made.

It was back in 1851 that the Mouser ancestral family moved from Washington Courthouse, Ohio, to the tall corn state of Iowa. Came the year 1913 and his father and uncle purchased a tract of 66 acres which was added to the original homestead of 200 acres.

By 1916 his father and uncle decided to divide the acreage and it's on one of these farms that the Stanley Mousers have been living ever since.

'Back in 1900 my father and a neighbor, Mr. J. W. Bishop, purchased a threshing rig Which consisted of a 16 H.P. Avery Engine and a 36 x 60 Avery Yellow Fellow separator,' relates Mouser from the archives of his family records. 'They operated this

rig till the threshing season came to an end in 1919 when my father sold his share to his partner who continued to thresh this run until 1934.'

After the selling out of the Mouser share in the threshing rig, young Stanley found much time on his hands during the threshing season. But he always managed to ride out on his bicycle or pony, or even walk if he had to, just to be near the old threshing rig when Mr. Bishop was threshing for others.

'I hauled water on three jobs, but the weather got too hot for my little Shetland pony to stand the gaff any more,' writes Iron Man Mouser. 'In 1920 Mr. Bishop retired the old Avery Engine and purchased a new 25 H.P. Russell straight flued Engine. It was a very nice running engine and has always been my favorite ever since.' (And so we know why Stanley Mouser's mail box now looks like a Russell Engine).

'I'll never forget the year 1934 when the chinch bugs and the drought took care of most of the oats out here so that Mr. Bishop didn't even pull either of his rigs out into the fields, 'recalls Mouser. 'Only three of us had oats good enough to cut a neighbor with a little 21-inch Wood Brothers separator and a G. P. John Deere tractor threshed them for us.'

It was in 1942 that the combines came and the old-time steam threshing became a memory of the American past. But Iron-Man Stanley Mouser, having married the neighbor girl down the road, a lifelong school chum who later became sweetheart stayed down on the farm and together they've been running the 325-acre family homestead which they now own.

'Although I consider myself semi-retired I manage to keep quite busy helping my son with the farming and also driving a school bus,' says Mouser. 'And on Sundays we always attend church where my daughter-in-law sings in the choir.'

Missing the rhythm of the barking stack and the whine of the old separator, when The Midwest Old Settlers and Threshers Reunion organized at Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, Stanley Mouser attend.

'I've never missed a one of the Mt. Pleasant Reunions,' says he. 'Although I never got to run a steam engine in the field when we threshed, I always get plenty of opportunities to climb up on an engine and run it there. I was elected to the Old Threshers Board in 1960, served two terms, and still work on the Engine Placing and Parade Committees. My wife says I have steam, not blood, in my veins.'

Meantime the Mouser steam Engine mail box has taken on an additional service in the way of helping to preserve the Iowa agricultural ecology. For what better place to keep her little fledglings warm is there than atop a Russell boiler (even a mail box model) where Mrs. Robin neatly tucked her summer's nest, hard by the big fly-wheel. All of Which added more worries to the daily rural carrier juggling the Russell firebox open and shoving the Mousers' mail in without jostling the speckled eggs.

But we feel quite assured that the Stanley Mousers have everything under control, what with that picture Stanley sent showing the giant corn they raise out Iowa-way, being loaded by a railroad crane, one ear at a time one ear to a car.

For his efforts in preserving the steam dynasty atop his mail box post, and going one step further in the nurturing of nature's lovely ways, we humbly reserve a seat for Stanley J. Mouser in our Iron Man Hall of Fame. May the Good Lord grant him many happy years around the Mt. Pleasant steam throttles and much lingering in by-gone memories as he reads the Iron Man Album by the Russell mail box at the end of the lane Where Robin Red Breast sings his song.

Keeping the birds happy, polishing the old Russell and growing the corn tall and straight That's Iowa Iron Man Heaven. And Brother, that's not all for the birds!