The Last of the Old Wood Burners

Mr. John J. Menchhofer
September/October 1958


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The old iron hobby is alive and well across the country.

Mr. John J. Menchhofer, Secretary of the Pioneer Engineers Club of Indiana, Inc., sends this article for the ALBUM. He has gotten permission from the Indianapolis Star Sunday Magazine, Indianapolis, Indiana, to use it with a credit line. Mr. Ralph L. Brooks is the editor of this great Sunday Magazine and is very gracious in this matter. We thank him. Also you will notice that Clifford W. Cox is the writer, and we appreciate his efforts. Elmer By CLIFFORD W. COX

This Hoosier farmer, living near Middletown, has collected a big group of antique tractors

PERHAPS THE WORLD'S largest antique collection volume-wise, that is belongs to Keith Mauzy, Route 1, Middletown, Indiana. Mauzy's collection of steam engines, reminiscent of earlier wheat threshing days, occupies perhaps three acres of his farmland. Almost anywhere you look, his equipment sheds house either an engine or remnants of several. It is an impressive scene.

Mauzy is an active member of the Pioneer Engineer's Club (of Ind.,) which holds is annual meetings at Rushville. Every year members bring together a colorful assortment of engines sporting 'feathers in their bonnets' steamer talk for the vapor plumes spraying from pop-off valves, meaning the steam pressure is up and they are ready to roll.

'Don't know how many engines I do have,' Mauzy says, 'when you count a lot of odd parts and the stationary models. Probably in the neighbor hood of 15.'

The oldest, an O. A. Garr engine built in 1840, is worth perhaps $2,500 depending on how badly a collector wants one. The latest model is a Keck-Gonerman built in 1924. Mauzy has a couple of gasoline models which closely resemble the steamers. With the modern excavating machinery parked among the steam engines one can almost trace the evolution of heavy power. Most of the steam engines were built in the Middle West. Several were produced in Ohio and Pennsylvania and a few models were built in Indiana.

Mauzy divides his time between farming and doing mechanical work on heavy equipment. He began collecting the steam engines back in the mid-40's when his admiration for them became irresistible. But he still finds them actually useful. Occasionally someone wants a steamer for stand by boiler service, as in the case of an electroplating plant which had to repair its heating unit. Some are still being used to power sawmills and are convenient for exchanging wood slabs into saw revolutions an ideal waste disposal system. But to Mauzy they are 'mostly playthings.'

Persons of the older generations may recall the thrill they knew when a threshing outfit came into the neighborhood. The owner of the engine usually announced his arrival with a hoarse toot of his one-note calliope whistle. The sound resembled that of an old riverboat. It signaled community gatherings, threshing diners and barn dances. The engine's chugging approach, accompanied usually by a troupe of boys and dogs, caused many a horse-and-buggy runaway. The engines are a lot like monsters, somehow, with their walking beams and enormous flywheels 'breathing' noisily and dripping water; but a lot of romance went out of the Machine Age when they were left behind.

Mauzy hopes some day to have a museum of steam engines, but at present he is content to tinker with them and show them off at fairs. Actually he is a rare individual a pioneer engineer in an age of atomic power.


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