| January/February 1985

  • Louis V. Johnson

  • Louis V. Johnson

President, North Central Illinois Steam Power Show, Inc. Davis Junction, Illinois 61020.

On March 11, 1898, near Stillman Valley, Illinois, in a rural setting, Louis V. Johnson was born. He was destined to spend the next 86 years recalling the past history at numerous steam engine reunions. He was known far and wide as 'Louie', and enjoyed the simple things in life. He spent his early years working with his father with various steam engines, doing agricultural duties such as threshing, clover hulling, corn shelling, silo filling, etc. Louie was always at the controls of the steam engines. He was familiar with many different makes of the old steam engines, such as Avery, Russell, Greyhound, Minneapolis, Advance, Case and others. He loved them all!

Sixty seven years ago when Louie was 19 years old he started a new career. The excitement of the gallant steam locomotive on the Milwaukee Railroad, which went by Johnson's rural home beckoned to Louie. He started his job on the railroad as a fireman, and was soon promoted to engineer on the steam locomotive. This job was to last for the next 50 years and it did. He often took time off during the late summer month to operate a steam engine during threshing season. He retired from railroad work in October 1967.

I was a young lad on the farm a mile east of Davis Junction, Illinois in 1936, when I had the privilege to meet Louie for the first time. I was 13 years old, and had built a model of an under mounted Avery Steam Engine, using a 50 gallon barrel for the boiler, a stove pipe and farm implement wheels. It looked quite real from the highway and Louie drove in to see it, as he didn't know of any Avery engines being around. He had his son, Eddie, along and they marveled at my play-engine. We became great friends and he was my inspiration during my steam engines experiences. Louie and I went to many steam shows around the country and his knowledge was a great help to those restoring old engines. Louie helped me get my first Case steam engine, a 50 HP and advised the restoration. He helped me run the engine during my first steam threshing show in 1957, two miles east of Davis Junction on the Glen Vaupel farm. Thereafter, Louie would generally take a vacation from railroad duties, during the month of August, to run a steam engine at the annual threshing shows. He operated one of my steam engines for 20 years. He received a double 'Flag Pin' and a 'Honorary Membership Card', of North Central Illinois Steam Power Show, Inc., at this time at a Banquet Dinner. Louis Johnson was crowned the first 'King' of North Central Illinois Steam Power Show, with his wife, Mae, who was crowned the 'Queen' of the 1980 show.

After retiring from the Milwaukee Railroad in October 1967, Louie enjoyed country life, his home, running his tractor and mower, and driving his blue pick-up truck, to Hickory-Oaks Farm, where the steam engines, the threshing machines, and numerous other farm machinery are shedded in a 60 x 144 building. He enjoyed steam engines and all steam shows, and visiting with all his friends. When at home or in Davis Junction, hearing the sound of the Milwaukee Railroad whistle, Louie would pull from his watch-pocket a railroad watch, to see if the trains were on time. He enjoyed reading his large collection of steam engine and railroad books, and magazines which he had at his home. He greatly appreciated all the kindness bestowed upon him, by the multitude of steam engine friends he acquired thru the years.

Louis V. Johnson's lifetime on this earth ended, September 22, 1984, at 5:30 A.M., in Neighbors Nursing Home, Byron, Illinois, where he was a bed-patient about two months. He reached the age of 86. He was laid to rest in the Mouth of Stillman Valley Cemetery, September 25th, near his home, and close to the Milwaukee Railroad tracks. He will be greatly missed by all who gained his friendship, and our humble wish is that his eternal rest be forever peaceful. May his hand stay firm on the throttle of his steam locomotive that propells the train for his friends through eternity.


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