The Last of the Old Wood Burners

Mr. John J. Menchhofer, Secretary of the Pioneer Engineers Club
of Indiana, Inc., sends this article for the ALBUM. He has gotten
permission from the Indianapolis Star Sunday Magazine,
Indianapolis, Indiana, to use it with a credit line. Mr. Ralph L.
Brooks is the editor of this great Sunday Magazine and is very
gracious in this matter. We thank him. Also you will notice that
Clifford W. Cox is the writer, and we appreciate his efforts. Elmer
By CLIFFORD W. COX

This Hoosier farmer, living near Middletown, has collected a big
group of antique tractors

PERHAPS THE WORLD’S largest antique collection volume-wise,
that is belongs to Keith Mauzy, Route 1, Middletown, Indiana.
Mauzy’s collection of steam engines, reminiscent of earlier
wheat threshing days, occupies perhaps three acres of his farmland.
Almost anywhere you look, his equipment sheds house either an
engine or remnants of several. It is an impressive scene.

Mauzy is an active member of the Pioneer Engineer’s Club (of
Ind.,) which holds is annual meetings at Rushville. Every year
members bring together a colorful assortment of engines sporting
‘feathers in their bonnets’ steamer talk for the vapor
plumes spraying from pop-off valves, meaning the steam pressure is
up and they are ready to roll.

‘Don’t know how many engines I do have,’ Mauzy says,
‘when you count a lot of odd parts and the stationary models.
Probably in the neighbor hood of 15.’

The oldest, an O. A. Garr engine built in 1840, is worth perhaps
$2,500 depending on how badly a collector wants one. The latest
model is a Keck-Gonerman built in 1924. Mauzy has a couple of
gasoline models which closely resemble the steamers. With the
modern excavating machinery parked among the steam engines one can
almost trace the evolution of heavy power. Most of the steam
engines were built in the Middle West. Several were produced in
Ohio and Pennsylvania and a few models were built in Indiana.

Mauzy divides his time between farming and doing mechanical work
on heavy equipment. He began collecting the steam engines back in
the mid-40’s when his admiration for them became irresistible.
But he still finds them actually useful. Occasionally someone wants
a steamer for stand by boiler service, as in the case of an
electroplating plant which had to repair its heating unit. Some are
still being used to power sawmills and are convenient for
exchanging wood slabs into saw revolutions an ideal waste disposal
system. But to Mauzy they are ‘mostly playthings.’

Persons of the older generations may recall the thrill they knew
when a threshing outfit came into the neighborhood. The owner of
the engine usually announced his arrival with a hoarse toot of his
one-note calliope whistle. The sound resembled that of an old
riverboat. It signaled community gatherings, threshing diners and
barn dances. The engine’s chugging approach, accompanied
usually by a troupe of boys and dogs, caused many a horse-and-buggy
runaway. The engines are a lot like monsters, somehow, with their
walking beams and enormous flywheels ‘breathing’ noisily
and dripping water; but a lot of romance went out of the Machine
Age when they were left behind.

Mauzy hopes some day to have a museum of steam engines, but at
present he is content to tinker with them and show them off at
fairs. Actually he is a rare individual a pioneer engineer in an
age of atomic power.

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