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Ray Mauss


Posted By: Errin Wilker (email)
Date: 2/9/2010 at 16:39:45

Making Miniature Steam Engines Iowan's Hobby
By Robert C. Gehl, Tribune Staff Writer

Waukon -- “Before I was able to follow a threshing machine I used to sit on the seat of the steam engine by the steering wheel until I either got kicked off or fell asleep. I always have had steam in the back of my mind.” Thus does friendly Ray Mauss explain his fixation with steam engines and also why his hobby has been to build miniature working models of them for 15 years. Ray is now 66 years old and making plans to build another one.

“Steam engines are just a hobby,” he said. Ray lived with his folks on the home farm midway between Waukon and New Albin until he was 20 years old. “Until then,” he said, “I worked at home and I worked like hell because farm work was hard then as farmers did not have anything to work with like they have now.”

He went to work next operating mule-driven graders on road construction and maintenance before operating Caterpillar tractors on road construction between 1928 to 1942.

Ray faced being drafted into the army in 1942 and decided to enlist in the Navy instead. He served two years as diesel instructor in Ames.

He married Leona Selberg December 26, 1942, while on a 72-hour leave, but, he said, “I had been going with her quite awhile and it was no rush thing at all.”

While in the service it was discovered he was getting multiple sclerosis and he was honorably discharged for medical reasons. “Multiple sclerosis is progressive, and I was not affected too fast,” he said. “First my right eye went blind. I have been lucky that it has progressed slowly and I got the kids through school,” he said.

The couple have four children, Ronald of California, is an electrical engineer who formerly worked for General Dynamics now is a hospital engineer. He holds a master’s degree. Then there are Mrs. Ann Blakemore of Chicago, a registered nurse working in an intensive care unit of a children’s hospital; Mrs. Sheryl Lee of Mason City, a legal secretary; and Sandra, a home economics teacher in West Des Moines.

Ray drove truck two years after being discharged from the service until he was unable to do so any longer, then spent the next 15 years as a repairman for two implement companies. It was while he was still working that he established his own Mauss Electric Shop in a well-equipped building in his backyard. “it keeps the “bear” away from the house,” he said, alluding to the extra money he makes repairing electrical appliances.

Ray, by the way, gets about with some difficulty and has to use a cane. And he finds time to do a lot of trout fishing. Both he and his wife have individual 1930 Model A cars and she drives hers downtown every day.

Ray obtains rough castings which he then machines and assembles from blueprints to build his miniature steam engines. He has three engines completed and is now working on a fourth. The three still need water boilers, however, as he runs them on air from his own compressor. “I spent about 300 hours working to assemble one of them,” he said.

He said he purchased a steam engine with a water tube boiler last year which was used to run the printing press in the LeRoy, Minnesota, newspaper prior to 1900.

All the engines are workable, and he also has two operable miniature ones in his home which came from England and Germany. Where, you may ask, did he learn to repair electrical appliances and equipment? “I learned by doing and seeing,” he said.

~La Crosse Tribune, La Crosse, Wisconsin, 1973


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