Iron Man Of The Month

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''HE'S THE LITTLE FELLER WHO DRAWS ALL THEM 'PITCHERS' OF RAILROAD ENGINES''. Iron-Man John Hixson displays a drawing of the Dewitt Clinton Engine and ender. Note contrast with the modern Hudson-type New York Central model in background. Inside the buildi
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IRON-MAN JOHN HIXSON OOZES A DROP OF OIL INTO THE WORKING END OF HIS MODEL THRESH ENGINE WHICH HE BELTS TO THE SMALL SEPARATOR. The outfit is made of wood, the handiwork of Grand Trunk Engineer, Joe Ernst. Hixson has installed an electric motor to give r
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IRON-MAN JOHN HIXSON OILS UP HIS BIG NEW YORK CENTRAL HUDSON LOCOMOTIVE MODEL WITH AN ENGINEER-SIZE OIL CAN. Hixson acquired the frame, drivers and mechanism from a modeler and finished the upper portions in free-lance. He always exhibits in the art hall
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New York Central No. 5200-3 4 inch Scale Model Hudson Type Length 6 feet, 3 inches Total weight of Engine and ender135 Pounds. IRON-MAN JOHN HIXSON IS SO PROUD OF HIS MODEL NEW YORK CENTRAL HUDSON STEAM LOCOMOTIVE that he had a special advertising leafle


‘He’s the little feller who draws all them
‘pitchers’ of railroad engines, over in the art

Yes, John Hixson may be a little fellow, but the pictures he
draws and colors in light blue and pink pastels are all of the big
fellows that once pulled America’s proudest fleets of passenger
and freight trains by steam over the complex network of high-iron
that sprawled from one end of our nation to the other.

The beautiful, straight lines, the intricate spokes on the big,
high iron locomotive drivers, the excellence of valve-gear detail,
the rivets and leaf springs all are neatly laid out by John in the
strictest sense of the master draughtsman’s art. From the
austere simplicity of the old DeWitt Clinton to the imposing power
of latter day Hudsons and Mountain-types, John Hixson has penned
the august beauty of steam locomotive evolution. Whether it’s
the sleek lines of a Pennsy E-6 Atlantic 4-4-0 (the fastest things
on rails), the familiar portrait of old 999 which preceded it in
setting world records, or the lately renowned high-stepping
Hiawathas whose streamlined profiles headed the famous
100-mile-an-hour Milwaukee varnish Hixson has captured the
thrilling spirit of each locomotive which, in its day, established
the railroad timetables of a growing America.

For anyone attending the National Threshers Association Reunions
over the years, either at Montpelier, or later at Wauseon, Ohio,
stepping into the Arts and Crafts Building of the county
fairgrounds the first thing that usually caught his eye was the
vast array of the Hixson art-form study in the American Steam
Locomotive. Neatly lined in several rows, the large hand-drafted
drawings reaching sometimes fifty feet from end to end always lent
an atmosphere of artistic charm to the big national reunion. Here
one could bask over the clear-cut lines of his favorite steam
locomotive, or all of them, much the same as art lovers and critics
have ventured across the oceans to glory over original Rembrandts,
Van Goghs, Millets and Holbeins at the Paris Louvre except for the
fact that these are steam engines and that’s what people come
to the threshing reunions to see.

And, like any artist, proud of his work, John Hixson fetches his
outstanding steam locomotive art display year after year to the
National Threshers Reunion, not only as his unique contribution to
the big show, but also as his right for being there. For, besides a
leisurely hour or two offered by John in the pleasantries of
reminiscing with his old cronies, there can be additional hours of
pure inquisitiveness and satisfaction for any and all who
appreciate the clean-cut, distinctive lines of the great
locomotives that once ruled as kings of speed and power throughout
the American transportation system. Indeed, in our lifetimes we
boast of having seen many famous portraits of kings and queens and
presidents. But to those who love steam engines there’s simply
nothing so fulfilling as viewing the John Hixson art gallery of
Famous American Locomotives.

But not being merely satisfied to show off his own art work in
behalf of the history of railroad engines, John Hixson has, over
the years, gone a step further by bringing along some very
excellent models, which he has acquired, to further enhance his
exhibit of rail-roadiana at The National Threshers. For there is
the large model of a New York Central Hudson 4-6-4 type locomotive
the chassis, drive-wheels and valve-gear of which were built by
some expert modeler, and which John finished by adorning it with a
boiler, steam and sand-dome and stack, along with headlight and
other typical accoutrements of the railroading era from the late
twenties till the end of steam.

‘I installed an electric motor to turn the driving wheels
and rods so people can see how a locomotive looked, running,’
explains Hixson. ‘I have the drivers jacked up enough to clear
the rails so they can turn,’ quoth he.

Although the top of the locomotive model is more free-lance than
scale, the fact remains that John Hixson did a pretty good job
utilizing already fabricated parts of odd-lots of brass caps,
tubing, wire, etc., to adorn the locomotive domes, fashion the
stack, the feed-water heater and headlight and simulate the steam
piping throughout to lend the finishing touch to his fine

Then there is the beautiful free-lance wood model of a steam
threshing engine and separator which furnishes another important
part of the Hixson exhibit which John attributes to the skill of
Joe Ernst, retired engineer on. The Grand Trunk Western Railroad
who, for many years, has taken these delightful models to The
National Threshers Reunions. Hixson has belted the model engine to
the separator, which he keeps running for the reunion onlookers by
means of a small electric motor in the engine to lend realistic
animation. Thus it is that, if one prefers threshing operations to
that of railroading, the John Hixson exhibit can satisfy that too.
For anything that chugs with steam, or even suggests it, pleases
the Hixson ego and that, in turn, is what the typical threshing
reunion is all about anyway.

Over the years that we have ‘set up’ at The National
Threshers, we never could pass up drooling for an hour or so over
the John Hixson locomotive pictures and models. During all that
time there was only one brief time that I ever had a short
conversation with John. Most of the time I would merely see the
Hixson image passing our stand loaded with engine models and
records of steam engines waving his arms as if in a tremendous
hurry to get to the main dining establishment, or hunting for his
lost hound, Pal. in his frequent commuting, back and forth, there
was the quick, ‘Hello John’ (from us), and the ‘Hello
there,’ coming back from John. Then on he’d hustle in quest
of either food or dog. John was either wondering where the food
was, or where his dog had wandered and folks viewing his pictures
would be wondering where John was. That was the vicious cycle
throughout the four-day stand of the N. T. A. conclave.

But one year, after the big show had ended and folks were
leaving the parade grounds, heading in every direction for their
cars and home, the wife got a brilliant idea that a big
‘kittle’ of chicken and noodles would be mighty handy
should some of our friends and cronies come by a little hungry.

Frank McGuffin had dropped by, to bring me up on his latest
‘wild tales’, and John Hixson who finally had found his
hound, Pal, and locked him in his car ready to depart the grounds,
also was hustling past. Smelling the chicken ‘n noodles
simmering in the pot, he slowed down, sniffed the air, then
sauntered up and took a chair. Having a hungry glint in his eye, we
did the polite thing and asked him if he could stand some chicken
‘n noodles. To which he replied, ‘Boy, could I. 1 am hungry
and was just wondering where I could find something to

McGuffin was talking quite loquaciously in his humorous but dry
Irish vein. Hixson listened between polite but voracious gulps of
stringy noodles and chicken broth to the usual McGuffin tales of
‘Threshing Watermelons’, and the time he once dismantled
some old abandoned oil well riggings and sawed up the post holes
and sold them to farmers who were delighted to ‘buy post-holes
that were already dug.’ After hearing all he could stand, John
Hixson then interjected with a single joke that topped them

‘There was once a farmer who rented out a bull for breeding.
Then there was the farmer who lived quite a distance away who
rented the bull’s services. The owner of the bull, when he
delivered it, said, ‘Whenever you are through with my bull,
just send me a telegram and 111 come after it’,’ explained

Well, the farmer had finished with using the bull, but he was
poor, and couldn’t pay for more than a single word in the

‘He finally figured out one word that would convey the whole
message,’ laughed Hixson. ‘Comfortable (Come for de

Sounded at first like it was going to be a bit dirty as a joke,
but John Hixson polished it off clean as a whistle, sufficient to
send even a Frank McGuffin scurrying on his way. And to out-joke
Frank McGuffin is really a feat.

Besides being an expert draftsman of steam locomotives and a
lover of everything about steam engines in general, John Hixson is
essentially a very religious man at heart.

Handing me a few issues of THE RAILROAD EVANGELIST-a religious
magazine devoted to railroad Christians John went on to explain
some of his own religious activities and experiences.

‘I was a personal friend of Nelson Blount the millionaire
New England clam industrialist who owned the largest collection of
railroad steam locomotives and even a railroad to run them on,’
explained Hixson.

I recalled reading about Nelson Blount in the pages of RAILROAD
MAGAZINE, several years ago, in the well-known Railroad Fans
Column, written by editor, Freeman Hubbard. Later in his life,
Blount had become converted to Christianity during a Billy Graham
sermon, and devoted the rest of his life to leading others to

‘Nelson Blount, the first time I met him, said, ‘If you
are for the Lord, I can use your help’,’ is the way John
Hixson explained his conversation with the converted millionaire
industrialist and railroad enthusiast. ‘Whenever he would take
a group through his grounds to view his locomotives, he would also
give them a little talk on becoming a Christian.’

John Hixson lent some of his drawings also as an added exhibit,
from time to time, at the Blount estate.

Over the years too, Hixson has been invited to bring along his
exhibit to show in the lobby of the big Billy Sunday Christian
Tabernacle at Winona, Indiana. To many a lover of the steam
locomotive there is something akin to the Love of God. Steam power
and Divine power both seem to have a way of mustering the best
within the human heart. And no exception is John Hixson who has
glorified both the steam locomotive and God the one in art form,
the latter in his heart as a testimonial and blessing to his fellow

An honorary seat in our growing Hall of Iron Man Fame to one
John Hixson ‘the little feller who draws all them
‘pitchers’ of railroad engines’ and hands out Gospel
tracts to make other folks christians.

And John, fetch along Palthere’s a seat for him too.

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