PINION ClTY, INDIANA.
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
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
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
‘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
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
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
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!