John W. Fouche, Sr., of Ryan, who is known as the 'miracle engineer and mechanic of Loudoun Ryan' is still astounding his neighbors.
Seventy-nine years old on June 19, Mr. Pouche recently has completed constructing a miniature steam traction engine, the second one he has made in his long mechanical career. He built his first engine when a young boy of 16 years.
Mr. Fouche, who was born in 1873 and still lives in the same community of his birth, says as a youth he was called 'crazy' about machinery, and the only subject he was interested in as a boy in school was natural philosophy.
The following article was taken from the Londoun News, Leesburg, Va. July 1952. It is all very interesting.
He says the first steam engine he ever saw was at Ashburn, then known as 'Farmwell'. It was an old wood burning locomotive. The first traction engine he recalls seeing belonged to G. W. Bradshaw. This was steered by two oxen which provided a good part of the power sometimes, according to Mr. Fouche. The driver sat in a seat up front and operated the throttle, while an engineer would walk behind and feed wood and water from a cart hitched to the back of the engine.
Seeing these mechanical miracles intrigued Mr. Fouche. He was working in his father's shop at the time and set about to construct a steam traction engine.
Mr. Fouche always has had the reputation of doing anything he set out to accomplish, and it was even so in his youth.
The engine was a success. Many of the older people in the area can still recall Mr. Fouche giving them a ride in a little cart he hitched behind that first engine.
He said about that time the first bicycle made its appearance in the area and he wanted one more than anything. To obtain one he gave up his traction engine in trade.
And so it was down through the years. As new inventions and vehicles made their appearance, Mr. Fouche was never happy until he had successfully mastered everything he came across.
He owned one of the first automobiles in Loudoun County and was recognized as about the only person who could make one run.
As Mr. Fouche told The Loudoun News, 'it would take a large book printed in small type' to trace his amazing and interesting career.
After working for many years as head mechanic and foreman for a large firm in Washington, he returned to Ryan in the late thirties. He has lived in semiretirement in that community ever since.
Two years ago one of his daughters, Mrs. Keith S. Brown, urged Mr. Fouche to make another traction engine. This was about the only encouragement he needed.
'There is nothing we old 'engine men' like more than to hear the sound of the perfect exhaust of a fine locomotive or steam engine,' he said.
It took him approximately two years to make this second engine, but considering the perfection of detail and hand workmanship involved, that is comparatively a short time.
All parts for the engine, which is now at the Downs Service Station, junction of Route 7 and Ashburn road, were worked out and made in Mr. Fouche's Ryan shop with the exception of a few fittings, fly wheel and gears. No castings were used.
Mr. Fouche is the father of seven children, five daughters and two sons. His wife died several years ago.
His two sons, Julian and John. D., Jr., are well known mechanics in Loudoun County today. His daughters are Mrs. John Dunnigton and Mrs. Lewis L. Cornell of Arlington, Mrs. Keith S. Brown of Alexandria, Mrs. William L. Costello and Mrs. A. Q. Aquino of Ashburn.