Iron Man Of The Month

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Ray Jones pumps a bucket of water from his mother's old pitcher pump, down at the bottom of the Rushville hill. Unlike Jack and Jill, he went ''down'' the hill to fetch a pail of water. Ray says his Mother felt like a millionaire when this pump was instal
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Ray Jones takes time out to listen to the nostalgic music being ground out on the old 1930 Model Juke Box, owned by LaRoi's Old Stone Mill which grinds corn meal and wheat flour each year at the Pioneer Engineers Show, Rushville, Indiana. Courtesy of Joe
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Ray Jones, always interested in the human side of the Rushville Pioneer Engineers Show, advises 4-H Exhibitors, from seat of his little John Deere. The little tractor is really a ''foot saver'' during reunion time up and down the big hills and across the
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Ray Jones explains parts of the T-Model Peerless-Geiser Valve-Gear to fellow engineer at the Pioneer Engineers Show, Rushville, Indiana. Courtesy of Joe Fahnestock, Union City, Indiana 47390.
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Ray Jones is also a religious man. Each year he passes out the hymn books and introduces the preacher at the Pioneer Engineers Show, Rushville, Indiana. This is the only time that one sees Ray without that straw hat around the reunion grounds. Courtesy of

UNION CITY, INDIANA

From plow-boy and steam thresher-man to trolley car conductor
and locomotive engineer Ray Jones epitomizes the true lover of
steam and the American ideal.

The proverbial country boy who someday dreamed of becoming a
railroad engineer Jones remembers plowing behind horses on his
father’s farm, serving as water boy for the threshing ring at
fourteen, entering partnership in a steam rig at eighteen, punching
tickets as conductor on the town trolley and throttling the big
ones as engineer on the mighty ‘Pennsy.’

‘Yes, I dreamed of someday becoming a locomotive engineer
when I used to plow with Dad’s horses and I’d hear the
trains whistling in the distance,’ reminisces Ray Jones with
that far away look in his eye. ‘I fired those big old freight
engines on the Pennsylvania Railroad, starting when I was
twenty-four. They were all hand-fired in those days-the H-6’s
and H-10’s.’ (They were known as the
‘Consolidations’ with the 2-8-0 wheel arrangement.)

‘I also fired some of the big E-6’s, which were the fast
passenger 4-4-2 Atlantic-types,’ continued Jones, his eyes
thrilling to the memories. ‘Later, when I became engineer, I
ran the larger M-1’s and I-1’s (both freight and passenger
types), and the mighty K-4’s’.

‘Ran many a fast passenger train behind the K-4’s. They
were the best locomotives that ever stood on steel,’ ‘minds
Ray. ‘That’s what all us Pennsylvania men claimed.’

The K-4 Pennsylvania steam locomotive was a 4-6-2 wheel
arrangement-fast and powerful, for many years the pace-setter of
American passenger schedules among the standard railroads. With its
prominent keystone emblem on the smoke box front, its simple,
forthright lines served as an emblem of speed and power on
calendars and in picture books throughout America rivalled in
opoularity only by our flag. Its reciprocating crossheads and
flashing rods became the inspiration of every red-blooded man and
boy in the land. And, to Ray Jones, they were the fastest, most
powerful and thrilling engines that ever turned a wheel.

Oh there came bigger locomotives, like the PRR J-1’s of
five-thousand horsepower and the longer T-1’s which Jones had
fired at the head end of fast passenger trains which sometimes
reached 110 miles an hour in the Knightstown area between
Indianapolis and Richmond, Indiana.

‘But the T-1’s slipped their drivers so easily,
especially if there was a little dew on the rails and they
couldn’t pull the hat off your head, compared to what the older
and smaller K-4’s could do,’ explained Ray Jones. ‘Many
a time I’ve throttled a K-4 up to 100 miles an hour and over,
keeping schedule with twelve, even fourteen standard passenger
coaches.’

And there were the big name trains which Jones had pulled,
‘right on the advertised’ The Union, The Jeffersonian, The
American all good trains with reputations of some fast running,
oftentimes at 100 miles an hour or more.

‘The T-1’s were a later locomotive, and larger than the
K-4’s. They could go so fast they’d scare you, and they
rode like a cradle, but they couldn’t perform like the older
K-4’s,’ is the way Ray Jones sums up locomotive performance
through his veteran engineer’s eye. ‘It was the saddest day
in my memory, when steam left the railroads. The diesels may be
clean and are like sitting at home. But the thrills left the rails
with steam. For every steam locomotive had a characteristic of its
own. Each one required a different setting of the valve, and one
would try to out-pull the other.’

‘Anybody can pull the throttle on a diesel engine,’
snapped Ray. ‘But it took an artist to run a steam
locomotive.’

Throttling the big steam locomotives on the ‘Pennsy’ was
quite a comeuppance for Ray Jones from his earlier attempts to
break into railroading.

‘I left the farm rather early,’ says Ray. ‘I was
only eighteen when I applied for a job on the Cincinnati Traction
Company to work on the city trolley cars. I wanted to be a
motor-man, but they said I didn’t have enough whiskers on my
chin. Instead of getting on the front end, they put me on the back
end as a conductor,’ chuckles Jones who began his railroading
experiences punching tickets and helping old ladies and pretty
young chicks up and down the rear steps on the swaying decks of the
city street cars in the Queen City.

But to the young Ray Jones, being a conductor on the rear end of
a town trolley did seem like the step upward toward becoming a real
railroader someday, having graduated from the neighborhood
threshing ring at seventeen to one-third ownership in a
16-horsepower T-Model Peerless Geiser just the year previous. The
romance of railroading must have beckoned overwhelmingly to lure
him from such a promising career in agriculture at only
eighteen.

Working for the electric city transit in those days was, after
all, quite a venture to be proud of for a boy fresh from the farm.
And, who knows, maybe that could lead someday to becoming a
motorman on the front end of one of the big, sleek interurbans that
ran from city to city. It was an age when folks looked up in awe to
the men in this day and age. At least, if the aspiring young Ray
Jones might never make it to the right-hand side of a locomotive
cab, as engineer, this would surely be the next best. But fireman,
then engineer he did become.

To the long-haired, wild-eyed political idealists of our
generation who complain that America doesn’t have a
non-pollutant system of mass transportation to relieve the highway
congestion and move the commuting traffic we would like to point
out that we did have just such a network of efficient electric rail
communications throughout our land when the rest of the world was
traveling by ox-cart. Not only were the large, speedy electric
interurbans and city transit systems non-polluting, but the sparks
from their overhead trolleys and axle-wound motors actually gave
off ozone which acted as a purification to our atmosphere. The city
street cars moved the populace to and from work and shoppers from
home to downtown and back several times each hour. And the big
electric interurbans sped from city to city, through village and
hamlet and countryside, serving the rural populations better than
any other modern transportation system in history. And even for the
farmer or housewife who didn’t wish to ride the cars, there was
the special accommodation of having the big electric car stop right
in front of your farm residence to pick up a crate of fresh eggs or
cans of cream and milk which the crew promptly shipped to its
specified destination. But the coming of the internal-combustion
bus and automobile, and the gobbling up of public taxes to improve
the roads and highways, relegated this once fine system of electric
mass transportation into the valhalla of no return. The busses that
were supposed to herald ‘the new era’, by boasting they
could do a better job, forced the more comfortable and speedier
electric interurbans into bankruptcy and more commuters onto the
busy highways. Now the busses, once serving villages and towns in
rural America, have flunked out. The public tax-dollar is split
wide to maintain the constant hammering on what have become modern
trackways throughout the nation. The modern airways are likewise
subsidized by the government, provided by the same public tax,
while the passenger trains are driven from the rails for want of
finances and patronage. And the political gripers about mass
transportation today aren’t even cognizant of the fact that the
once-splendid electric interurbans and railroad passenger trains
paid for and maintained their own systems without biting into the
public tax.

‘We had wonderful mass transportation systems in the
interurbans and railroads, serving both the large cities and the
rural areas,’ pines Ray Jones. ‘It’s enough to break a
person’s heart. The modern generation doesn’t even know how
good it was.’

But over the years, the grand and glorious memories of steam
have remained in the heart of one Ray Jones. True, he witnessed the
passing of the electric cars and the thrill of the steam
locomotives from the rails. But through the organization known as
the Pioneer Engineers Club of Indiana, Inc., of which he’s
served as vice president and president for some twenty years, there
still lingers the smell of coal smoke and cylinder oil, the feel of
the coal scoop and throttle, and the plaintive wail of the steam
engine whistle which have haunted him since his boyhood on the farm
and his years in the cabs of railroad locomotives.

‘Twenty five years ago about forty of us men met up here at
Rushville, Ind., at the Metzcar Lumber Company we called it a
basket lunch,’ recalls Ray Jones. We discussed the matter of
forming a threshers club. We didn’t take any action that year
but agreed to meet the following year.’

‘Some people insist that this should be our twenty-fifth
year for the organization,’ says Ray. ‘But it wasn’t
until the following year that we actually began organizing, and we
had but one engine, an old 6-horse Garr-Scott portable owned by
Luther Caldwell. So, when our 1973 reunion is held, we will then
celebrate the 25th anniversary of our Pioneer Engineers’ Club
here at Rushville, Indiana.’

‘Nelson Howard, now deceased, was our first president,’
recalls Jones. ‘He had his 50-horse Case Engine at our first
show, and it has been here ever since. A dentist, Dr. Russell
Holmes of Louisville, Ky., now owns it and continues to bring it
every year.’

Ray Jones, as president of the Pioneer Engineers’ Club of
Indiana, is a busy man each year at the show, with a vitality and
interest in its every facet befitting his office. Wherever he goes
over the reunion grounds, Jones has become a familiar fixture
commuting here and there oh his small John Deere tractor whether
it’s greeting old friends, pumping a bucket of water from the
old pitcher pump that was once in his mother’s kitchen, carting
off garbage cans, going to church services on a Sunday morn, or
organizing the big Sunday afternoon thresh engine parade. Whether
the business of the moment happens to be out by the engines, or
down in the natural amphitheatre over by the sawmill, or on the
hill-top among the various concessionaires and exhibitors Ray Jones
is going somewhere on that little green tractor beneath the big
straw hat with the brim turned back. For Jones is a president that
believes in helping where the help is needed. No task is too
trivial, no human so humble but that he shares his burden. His
philosophy and religion are universal, reaching both the depths and
the heights overlooked by most. In the Sunday morning services, he
hands out the hymn books, leads the singing and introduces the
preacher. In the afternoon, he heads the big Sunday parade, astride
his John Deere, doffing his straw katy to his many friends on the
overlooking hillside bleachers. And on Monday morning, after the
big show was over, he was still on the little green tractor beneath
the straw hat, advising the 4-H Youth concerning problems of the
‘Now Generation’.

The Rushville Pioneer Engineers’ Show is one of the old-time
organizations that started out with a hard-core nucleus of steam
and has remained so ever since. But, like most such
historically-minded associations, it now includes a generous
portion of internal-combustion in way of antique farm gas engines
and tractors to round out its exhibits.

‘We try to please both those who like steam, and those who
like the old gas engines and tractors,’ is the way Ray Jones
officially puts it. ‘They’re all a part of the farm
history,’ quoth he. ‘I like steam, because I’ve got
steam in my blood. A gas tractor does not thrill me personally, but
others are thrilled by them and don’t care for steam.’

‘Steam engines come high these days, and it takes money to
transport them,’ was my reply. ‘I often think of the humble
gas engine as the ‘poor man’s steam engine’. He can buy
one fairly cheap, work it over himself, and take it to the shows in
the boot of his car.’

‘That’s right, Joe. Everyone can participate that
way,’ agreed President Jones.

It was a time for reminiscing, and Ray Jones took me down to the
bottom of the hill at the Pioneer Engineers’ grounds. Unlike
Jack and Jill, we went ‘down’ the hill to fetch a pail of
water. ‘This old pitcher pump was once in my mother’s
kitchen. When we got this, she felt like a millionaire because she
didn’t have to go outside to pump the water,’ laughed
Ray.

Across to the backfield he led me, to where some of the old Iron
Horses stood. The big Peerless Geiser was the one he crawled up
onto, because it reminded him of the first engine he had ever
threshed with as a boy. It was the unusual T-Model slide gear which
the Geiser Works had designed for the valve that interested him.
And he toted along an actual piece of that special valve gearing to
explain to us its unusual function.

Over the first quarter century of The Pioneer Engineers’
Club existence, Ray Jones remembered only four times the weather
was bad.

‘The worst time we were rained out was back in ’58,
Joe,’ he recalled. ‘It was like a river down at the bottom
of the hill. The sawmill was covered and in some places you waded
water up to your waist.’

The Master of his Masonic Lodge at Sunman, Ind., and always a
sincere Christian, Ray Jones believes and lives the old-time
religion, just like it is preached at the Sunday morning services
each year, attended by his Pioneer Engineer friends. For Ray Jones
is not the kind of an engineer who sits out on his engine and toots
the whistle during the Sunday morning ‘preachin’. Always up
in front, helping to direct the services, Jones believes that the
average thresherman and his family are basically religious, and he
wants them to feel at home, even if it takes Kitch’s steam
calliope playing the old-fashioned hymns outside the door to back
up the preacher’s sermon on hell-fire and repentance.

It’s for all these wonderful things that we love you, Ray
Jones. For being such a tireless leader of the Pioneer
Engineers’ Club over its first quarter century of exhibiting
the grand old line of Steam Traction Engines. For preserving the
hard-core steam nucleus that started your organization, yet being
human enough to welcome the internal-combustion segment of old gas
engines and tractors that helped share the burdens on the American
farm of yesteryear.

For all these, and for your generous interests and contributions
to the human element and soul we invite you, Ray Jones, to an
honored seat in our Hall of Iron Man Fame. (A real-for-sure Iron
Man, named Jones!).

Keep the steam up, Ray so we can all come back and help
celebrate your 25th year with one of the great American steam
engine shows the Pioneer Engineers of Rushville, Indiana, in the
Year of Our Lord, 1973.

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