Iron Man Of The Month


Rube Goldberg Express

'Kilowat' Klopfer and Queenie head parade of 'Rube Goldberg Express' before N.T.A. grandstand crowds this year at Wauseon, Ohio Courtesy of Joe Fahnestock, Union City, Indiana

Joe Fahnestock

Content Tools

Union city, Indiana.

The tiny, green-boilered Case Engine chuffs to a stop, bringing its 'train' of coaster wagons and assorted odd-lot of farm rigging to a grinding halt.

'Now ladies 'n gentlemen we have here................', booms out the giant voice from the parade microphone at the N.T.A. Sunday grandstand parade. 'And now do you have a whistle?'

A slight duchy figure with nearsighted glasses and sauerkraut moustache pauses to light his corncob pipe, then wipes his greasy paws on overalls and reaches for the whistle cord to give two mighty yanks to the grandstand crowds while a giant German Shepherd pants approval from the fireman's seat.

A jerk on the tiny throttle sends the whole kit and caboodle on its way and the big parade grinds on.

It was none other than 'Kilowat' Cecil Klopfer and his 'fireman' Queenie heading their strange menagerie of farm rigging a fitting replacement to the once-famous brothers Bloom the late Clint and Furman who always lent a generous flavoring of Rube Goldberg slap-stick to the big National Threshermen's afternoon parade.'

Queenie's really the engineer-I only go along for the ride,' yelled Klopfer between pipe puffs and engine exhausts when I rushed forward for a box camera snapshot and one-minute trackside interview.

Then on he and Queenie thundered under full throttle losing the entire 'Blumen' contraption in a halo of steam and dust.

According to Klopfer the little engine that heads his 'Rube Goldberg Express' is actually a one-third scale model of a 50 horsepower Case.

'Me, my wife and Russ Slosser all worked together re-fluing, re-piping and rebuilding the entire engine,' says Klopfer in his best amateur radio broadcast announcer's voice which resembles a perfect blend of Morse Code staccato and ham jargon. 'Altogether we spent upwards of 900 hours doing the refurbishing job. Next winter we still have more work of repairing linkage and connecting-rod bearings.'

Klopfer, who has been working with steam since the age of ten, and Queenie, his German Shepher mascot, weaned from her mother's milk via the sweet lullabies of steam engine whistles, make up about the most inscrutable pair of 'engine folk' in the history of steam engine threshing. Engineer Klopfer simply cannot run the engine without 'fireman' Queenie. because fireman 'Queenie' is always 'firstest' on the deck of the engine. And before the engine moves, these twain must always meet may that accursed time never arrive when these twain shall part.

I always contend that Cecil Klopfer. versatile as he is, must have at least three kinds of speaking voice. When he's steam engineer at his daily job of firing the big boilers at the 500-bed Toledo Hospital he must of course speak quietly and subdued for benefit of the sick and the ailing. When broadcasting over his amateur radio band his voice takes on the stentorian tones of legal and technical jargon. But when he's at the threshing reunions, with hair down he can yell, 'Hi-ya old buddy,' as loud as the rest of 'em.

And whenever Klopfer takes his family to the big steam engine reunions it's always in the strictest tradition of early Americana. Pitching his tent, bright and early, and partaking a big breakfast of his good woman's best cooking, Klopfer emerges from his 'general's field tent' like a lord of his castle, to feed and fondle his bevy of baying hounds and puppies prior to hitting for the infield with Queenie to fire up his third-size Case special.

Then, hooking on his coaster wagons, the little 'Baker Fan' which he rescued from the hospital attic with the help of a fellow-engineer, and a couple of extra trailers, Cecil and Queenie are soon chuffing around over the infield and up and down the fairground raceway yelling, barking, waving and panting at their many friends.

It's all a fitting replacement to the big 21-75 Baker which Klopfer and his collie dog used to ride over the National Threshermen's parade grounds in years gone by. But now that the little third-size Case has proved so good on the belt, Klopfer and Queenie just buzz their own wood back home without having to fire up their 5x7 upright boiler to get the job done.

Whoever is naive enough to shout from pulpits about golden-paved streets for departed souls and dog heavens for respiring canines just hasn't seen Cecil and Queenie chuffing in parade form down the National Threshermen's raceway. And if preacher-editor Elmer has ever been guilty of such theological diatribes against the dignity of man and dog, this warning is for ye editor, also.

You are fulfilling a much-needed mission, Cecil and Queenie filling the honorable boots of the departed Bloom brothers.