Iron Man of the Month: Ormann Keyser

| September/October 1966

“Ormann Keyser’s the man who can explain the engines for your records,” said LeRoy Blaker, president of the National Threshers Association meeting at Alvordton, Ohio, that year.

“You’ll find him over there among the engines. He’s well-versed about the history of steam traction engines.”

“Mr. Keyser, I presume?” yelled I over the barking of stacks and hissing of safety valves at that busy reunion where every engine was getting its licks in. “Mr. Blaker said you could help me explain some of these engines for my recordings.”

“Well, now, I don’t know whether I can furnish just what you want or not,” replied Ormann Keyser trying to out-shout the steam whistles and exhaust.

But before he could back out I had my disc recorder turned on and spinning and was asking Mr. Ormann Keyser every question I could think of about the mighty Port Huron engine that was yanking the long, flopping belt to the Prony Brake at the other end.

I didn’t have to ask many questions, for I soon found out that the versatile and well-informed Mr. Ormann Keyser, once he got started, began telling me the history and specifications of that engine like a college professor lecturing before a class. The pulse of the stack, the yank of the whistle cord, all seemed to time out perfectly with the expert expostulations of the astute Mr. Keyser and, when we had finished that disc and began playing it back, we were happy to learn that we had one of the finest recordings of a steam engine I ever made the first time we had tried.

A Minneapolis engine was next on the brake and Mr. Keyser went right on explaining about the mighty Minneapolis almost like a schoolboy delivering the Gettysburg Address, word-perfect at the head of his class.

A Baker engine followed next and Keyser was not wanting for background material which seemed right on his tongue’s tip as the mighty Baker barked its sharp and square-cut exhaust that hot, murky summer afternoon, while its venerable creator, Mr. Abner D. Baker, sat nostalgically in the swaying, vibrating cab.