Iron Man Of The Month

By Staff
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‘Lord, we thank Thee for this, another beautiful day. Bless
each and everyone at this reunion. Watch over us and protect us
against all danger as we labor and work together in Christian
Brotherhood. May we ever be mindful in all that we do of Thy
presence, and to Thee be the glory. In His name we ask it.

Thus it is that another wonderful day is begun at the Old Time
Threshers and Sawmillers on the Jim Whitby farm, near Fort Wayne,
Ind., with all heads bared and bowed while the divine blessing is
intoned from the lips of engineer-chaplain, Irvin Bandelier.

BANDELIER. He prayed for a steam engine, got a Baker 21 75. Then he
began praying for nice weather each day at The Old-Time Threshers
and Sawmillers on the Jim Whitby farm near Fort Wayne, Indiana. He
got the nice weather, and his daughter, Elaine, the
schoolma’rm, got converted to steam engines. Before his prayers
were fully answered, he wound up with a school teaching son-in-law
and a Port Huron, who married the daughter who ran his Baker, then
came two future engineers all five of whom have steam in their
blood. Left to right on the deck of grandpa’s 21-75 Baker are:
son-in-law Dean Saunders, Beverly Ann, Grandpa Irvin, grandson
Frederick Irvin and Elaine, the comely schoolma’rm, hand on
throttle. No wonder grandpa Irvin Bandelier wound up in the
Iron-Men Hall of Fame.

Raised in a Christian home, the son of an old-time steam
thresherman, Irvin Bandelier’s life was epitomized that unique
and admired parallel in an engineer love of God, and love of the
steam engine. For him the power of a piston driven by steam is
matched only, and no less, by the power and impact of the good
life. The same God who laid down the laws of thermo-dynamics from
the beginning, is likewise the giver of the golden grain that man
has threshed each harvest by the power governed by those very laws.
To Iron Man, Irvin Bandelier, being a Christian is just a better
way of being an engineer. Thus it is that, when things go wrong, as
things often do when a wrench a fellow needs can’t be found,
the water in the boiler foams, the firebox wood is too wet, a flu
begins to leak, the injector lays down on the job, the clutch slips
and/or the blamed thing gets stuck on dead-center how much more
noble it is to calmly take stock of one’s self and deliberate
on the cause rather than inflect invectives against fellow man and
the Creator.

Deep-running in the hearts of the farm folk that have made up
the backbone of our great nation was the faith and conviction of
right over wrong. And for Iron Man, Irvin Bandelier, a better
engineer because of his faith, life has rewarded its dividends

For first-generation Irvin, the lonely role of being merely a
nostalgic steam buff, basking in the memories of yesteryear, can
and often did portend a rather unrewarding lot in life. But not for
long. For there was a daughter, who unlike most girls, seemed
tomboyish enough to crawl up on the vibrating deck of Dad’s
21-75 Baker Engine and reach for the throttle just to be like Pop.
And one time daughter, who had also become a school teacher, became
acquainted with another young school teacher who also liked steam
well enough to buy his own Port Huron Engine. And of course there
was no better place for a steam engine girl to meet a steam engine
boy than at a threshermen’s reunion. (Where else?)

Thus it was that, from the meeting of the twain, Dean Saunders
and second-generation Elaine Bandelier, came third-generation steam
hopefuls a grandson and grand-daughter to lend -company to grandpa,
Iron Man Irvin, no longer alone on the deck of his Baker.

Says daughter Elaine, explaining the humble beginnings of an
interest in steam reciprocation that has engulfed the entire
Bandelier family, headed by Iron Man Irvin, ‘Dad was raised
with the steam engine. His father had a Gaar-Scott engine and a
threshing rig. Along with the separator, they also had a clover
huller and a corn shredder.’

At first he started in as just the water boy, the young Irvin,
then only twelve or thirteen. As he grew older, he began spending
more time around that fascinating machine known as the

Meantime there was the engine nearby and the kid, keeping an eye
on the workings thereof, soon\acquired the know-how of firing and
running old Gaar-Scott sufficient to go along with Grandpa to help
do the Saturday custom sawing for the neighbors thereabouts.

But when young Irvin became nineteen, just old enough to really
handle a steam engine father Bandelier up and sold the old
Gaar-Scott, switching to the early gas tractors as the source of
power for his ring, made up mostly of relatives. Though the days of
King Steam were over, the Bandelier relatives kept their family
ring going by gas power ’til ’43. Thus it was that steam
lay dormant a forgotten relic of the past in the mind and life of
one Irvin Bandelier. That is, ’til the year of 1949 when the
late Ferman Bloom happened to be showing off his wonderful little
steam roller rig at The National Threshers. And Irvin Bandelier
just happened to be there, too. Ferman did a little ‘preaching
on steam’ and like the New Testament parable, the
‘preaching’ fell on fertile ground. Irvin Bandelier, who
happened to be listening, suddenly ‘got religion’ steam
engine religion, that is.

Memories of the good old days of steam threshing the
neighborliness and brotherhood of the ring, the threshing dinners,
the bark of the tall stack, and the wail of the steam whistle
suddenly obsessed one who’d thought steam was dead and buried

Like that rousing old camp-meetin’ hymn ‘Gi’ me that
old-time religion it was good enough for Dad and Mom, and it’s
good enough for me,’ so Irvin Bandelier’s theme song
became, ‘Gi’ me an old-time threshin’ engine. It was
good enough for Pop, and it’s good enough for me.’

‘Dad began looking around for a steam engine,’ says
Elaine Bandelier. ‘In 1957 he bought the Baker he now has from
James Conrad of Waterloo, Indiana. And I, being a sort of tomboy
and interested in Dad’s things, helped him get ready for the

‘Before I knew it, I had steam in my blood,’ muses
Elaine, blushing but jubilant over her unique role wielding her
schoolma’rm’s hickory stick nine months of the year, and an
engineer’s coal scoop the remaining three. ‘I learned to
fire and run the engine because I enjoyed it. And I guess I enjoyed
even more the startled looks on people’s faces when they saw me
running a steam engine.’

They say all marriages are planned in heaven. And certainly
heaven must have done a little prompting here, although Iron Man
Percy Sherman once confided to me that he did a little coaxing and
urging of schoolma’rm Elaine Bandelier to get to know better a
certain young and rather good-looking Dean Saunders who’d
fetched a Port Huron to the Montpelier, Ohio, show. And, although
Percy Sherman in oily engineer’s coveralls doesn’t look
like heaven somehow he did the work of heaven in bringing the twain

Dean was pointed out to Elaine as ‘that school teacher from
Hillsdale, Michigan’ and Elaine was pointed out to Dean as
‘that school teacher from New Haven, Indiana,’ with Percy
Sherman, a wrench in one hand and coal scoop in the other,
arranging the delicacies as agilely as any traditional Chinese
court in planned marriages.

‘After the evening show at Montpelier in 1961 I met
Dean,’ laughs Elaine of that portentious event. ‘Before
that N. T. A. reunion was over, we were pegged as ‘Mr. Dean
Port Huron’ and ‘Miss Elaine Baker’.

‘You know the rest,’ says the comely Elaine, beaming and
blushing ear to ear. ‘We were married in June of 1962. I still
run Dad’s Baker Engine, Dean still runs his (or our) Port Huron
and now we have two future steam engineers Beverly Ann, born in
1966, and Frederick Irvin, born in 1968. Dean was raised on steam
engines as much as I was and our kids have already got steam in
their blood.’

Iron Man Irvin Bandelier your prayers have been answered most
bounteously. Not only did you get that ‘old-time steam engine
religion’, but a 21-75 Baker thrown in to boot. You also reaped
a Port Huron and a son-in-law who married the daughter who ran the
Baker and two little ‘grand-kiddies’ the grand total of a
foursome to help you keep the steam up.

Who said prayers aren’t answered for them that love the Lord
and keep His ways? May you, Iron-Man Irvin Bandelier, ever remind
your brother engineers in steam, and the rest of us who gather
annually at the Old Time Threshers and Sawmillers near Fort Wayne
of the virtues and values of living the good life.

To you, Irvin Bandelier, a niche in the Iron Man Hall of Fame
and God’s blessing for pointing a better way.

Farm Collector Magazine
Farm Collector Magazine
Dedicated to the Preservation of Vintage Farm Equipment