Tommy Jordan Gets His Steam Engine

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for Tommy L. Jordan R.R.2 Knoxville, Iowa 50138 2723 Abraham
Drive Cedar Falls, Iowa 50613

Tommy Jordan exhibits his half-scale 65 Case at the Midwest Old
Threshers Reunion, Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. This was the newest steam
engine at the 1988 show.

His love for steam engines began as soon as he could walk. When
Lena Jordan could not find her four year old son, she searched
across the fields in the direction of the sound of the steam
engine. She would usually find him there where the men were
threshing grain.

Even before that, when he was just three, Tommy took off down
the road to his grandfather’s, where they keep machinery. Then
Santa Claus, fully dressed in the middle of a hot July day, came
hunting this boy who was drawn to the sound of farm machines.
Scared of Santa Claus, he ran all the way home.

‘Oh, steam engines have always been in my heart and mind,
ever since, I suspect, I was four or five years old,’ Tommy
said recently when reminiscing about his life-long love for steam

‘I rode around a lot with Dad in his, especially plowing in
a field, and even when he was threshing. I could hear them
threshing a mile away could hear the old engine, and I’d take
off afoot across the field, and followed that old sound until I
found it.’

One time when he was really lost, the whole ‘gang’ and a
hired man set off looking for him, but Tommy had gone down to the
railroad tracks to see what was going on there and came back to the
house. When the search party came in they found him in the kitchen
eating cookies!

Throughout his life in Marion County, Iowa, Tommy has
experienced all the changes that have taken place in farming from
horses, to steam, and gasoline engines. Of all of them, it is the
steam that fascinates him the most and when asked why it was so bad
that tractors had replaced steam engines, he emphatically said,
‘They took away the best thing they ever made!’ Then he
told me how a few steam engines were saved from the cutting torch
because they were the ones that rounded up the others and brought
them in to be cut up for scrap for war needs.

After he retired in about 1970, Tommy began to think about
having his own steam engine. ‘I’d go to steam engine shows
and I’d try to buy onea big one,’ he said. ‘Well, one
year I went to Mt. Pleasant, and there was this big ole Shepard,
just like we used to have. If I’d had $8,000, I’d probably
have bought it. But I didn’t have a shed to put it in.’ The
next one he found was for $12,000, and Tommy decided he just
didn’t have the means to buy an engine and thought he’d
have to give up the idea. But his buddies at Old Threshers Re union
at Mt. Pleasant kept looking for him and told him not to give up.
One of them gave him a tip on a steam engine in Missouri.

On a vacation trip to Texas with his wife Mary, Tommy got this
notion to stop and look at that engine in Missouri. He hadn’t
said anything to his wife about why he wanted to stop in this
little town, and his dream about owning a steam engine was not
something Mary was aware of. When he started measuring the steamer
to see if it would fit in the pickup, Mary got suspicious that he
was serious, and wouldn’t even get out of the truck to look at

When asked if she knew he was wanting one, she said she never
knew, and to that he replied, ‘She wasn’t listening,’
and laughed.

On their winter trip to Arizona in 1987 Tommy wrote a letter and
sent a dollar to Tom Terning in Wichita, Kansas, for the price list
of a steam engine and steam engine parts to build your own. Then
one day, when Tommy and Mary were walking in their courtyard, there
was Tom Terning’s mother waiting for them at their trailer. She
introduced herself and talked to them about steam engines. At about
the same time there was an antique show and tractor pull nearby,
and to Tommy’s delight there was a fellow exhibiting his scale
steam engine, made of Tom Terning’s parts. Mary went with Tommy
to see the steam engine and while they were there, she visited the
man’s wife and learned how much he enjoyed his steamer.

On the way home from Arizona, they stopped in Kansas to see Tom
Terning. Already Tommy was ex cited about the prospects, as Tom had
said, ‘I’ve got the engine for you that you want.’

Tommy knew he couldn’t afford $14,000 or $15,000 for an
engine, and Mary had not even asked about the cost of one. Tom took
them in, let them park their trailer by his shop and gave them
supper and they talked, but didn’t see the engine until the
next day.

‘It was an engine he started six years ago,’ Tommy said.
‘The fellow couldn’t come up with the money to finish it,
and Tom says if I pay that man off and he’d accept the check,
you can have the engine.’

When it came right down to the wire, Mary was getting a little
‘soft’ about the steamer and she said to him, ‘Well, if
you want it. . .’ Then there was a little dickering going on.
She said she didn’t like her second hand Wurlitzer organ, that
it didn’t sound as good as a Baldwin and asked, ‘Do you
suppose I could get a new organ if you got the steam engine?’
To her request he answered, ‘No problem, no problem.’ Then
Mary wrote out the check and Tommy signed it.

His colorful half-scale 65 Case steam engine is the biggest toy
Tommy Jordan has ever had. He laughs and says about it, ‘Well,
I never had anything like this. All I ever had was a pocket knife
and a French harp.’ He readily adds, ‘I never thought Ma
would like the steam engine as well as she does.’

Dressed in their old-time clothes, Tommy and Mary Jordan ride in
parades and visit with all the people who come along asking about
the steam engine. Some younger people don’t even know about
steam engines, so in the 4th of July parades or RAG-BRAI
(Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa) in
Pleasantville, Iowa, near where they live, they affectionately
explain how farming was done with this great machine, how it
operates on water and fire and wood or coal. Some of the bicycle
riders from the coasts want to know if everyone farms with them.
Some call it a tractor; others have never even heard of steam
engines. All are fascinated with it and how it works.

Wearing clothes from the 1920s, Tommy and Mary Jordan drive
their steamer in the Midwest Old Threshers Reunion parade.

Each year Tommy and Mary take in six steam shows and are often
the only steamer in local parades and holiday events. Tommy never
dreamed the Case could be so much fun. Friends come to their home
to see the steamer, and they spend the evening sitting over coffee
and cookies talking about steam days. There are so many requests
for the Jordan’s to bring their steamer to events around the
county, that they no longer accept all the invitations. They keep
the engine licensed in several states and take in a new show

Tommy Jordan, R.R. 2, Knoxville, Iowa 50138, has always had a
great love for steam. He finally got his first engine, this
half-scale Case, in 1987. It’s his pride and joy. The engine at
home near Pleasantville, Iowa.

Tommy enjoys chatting with a friend who has dropped by to see
his engine. For the full scoop on Tommy and his Case, look inside
for ‘Tommy Jordan Gets His Steam Engine,’ a story written
by his daughter, Tomma Lou Maas.

The dream of getting his own steam engine has come true, and
it’s much more than Tommy ever imagined possible. ‘I
thought if I got one I’d fire it up and drive it out in the
field a couple of times a year or saw some wood, then put it in the

But the steam engine became a work horse for fun during their
retirement. Mary stitches up colorful long dresses with bonnets to
match and keeps Tommy’s engineer’s hat and red kerchief
ready to go. They ride together on their Case with its two
decorative flags flying because, as Tommy says, ‘I have this
love for steam engines.’ And to that Mary replies, ‘It
keeps him young at heart.’

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