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The Cultivator
Thoughts from the editor.

Learning by Accident and the Monovalve Diesel Engine

I learn a lot by accident, although I think serendipity is a better word, the learning often the result of a chain of events sparked by a simple question or observation.

This issue’s Patent Page, an examination of a unique single valve – or monovalve – 4-stroke diesel engine, underscores this thought. Prior to last issue, I was unaware of the American Diesel Engine Co. and the 2- and 4-cylinder monovalve diesel engines it produced in the 1930s, but then reader Brian Barber wrote in to ask about a monovalve diesel engine he vaguely remembered. A little research turned up an article by Warwick Bryce in the October/November 1994 issue of GEM  about the American Diesel Engine Co. and the monovalve diesel designed by Charles A. Winslow, which led to some leads to more information on the engine, which led to a further examination of the design for this issue.

Winslow’s monovalve engines were an interesting bid to grab a share of the growing diesel engine market by offering a unique product that, it was claimed, possessed distinct advantages over any other engine available, a superior product guaranteed to render superior service. That’s hardly an unfamiliar claim, and judging by what little we know it might have been true, yet the monovalve failed to find market footing.

There could have been many reasons for that. While it did seem to offer some advantages – chief among them low fuel consumption – the design also had inherent limitations, including flexibility in engine speed. With a single valve and a huge opening duration, an engine like this would perform best in industrial applications, where steady speeds are desired, but would likely perform poorly in automotive applications, where engine speed flexibility is key.

Yet the monovalve 4-stroke diesel concept was, for at least a time, a high-profile, developing technology. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, both Packard Motor Car Co. and Guiberson Diesel Engine Co. manufactured a 9-cylinder radial monovalve diesel engine. Packard’s engine, the DR-980, was intended as a competitor to the popular 9-cylinder radial Wright J-5 Whirlwind, the engine that powered Charles Lindberg across the Atlantic in 1927. The Packard engine proved to be very efficient in tests, but was ultimately a non-starter owing to poor development and running issues including extreme vibration. Packard had high hopes for the engine, anticipating production of 6,000 units a year. Ultimately, it’s believed fewer than 100 DR-980 engines were built.

Guiberson, which developed its monovalve diesel around the same time as Packard, turned to a standard intake and exhaust valve layout and continued production of diesel radial aircraft and tank engines through World War II.

Ultimately, other designs prospered and the monovalve concept faded away, revived briefly in 2011 as the subject of a Southern Illinois University engineering thesis.

Richard Backus

Behind the Story of Restoring a 1912 Stover and a 1907 Gasser

Most of what we publish in Gas Engine Magazine comes to us by way of our readers. Historically, we’ve looked to engine enthusiasts themselves – that’d be you – for information, inspiration and restoration tales of mechanical daring do.

This issue is a great example of that fact, amply illustrated by two stories in particular: Ike Lockridge’s short tale of the discovery and restoration of his 1912 Stover 4 hp Type YB vertical and Dave Irey’s much longer examination of his restoration of a circa-1907 Grasser 2-stroke marine engine.

Ike’s engine was a woebegone wreck when he rescued it from the weeds. Broken and abandoned, it was the kind of engine most would consider good for parts only. Problem was, it didn’t really have that many good parts left on it, so Ike did what any good engine man does; he fixed it. And boy did it need help, as Ike explains.

Dave’s Grasser looked a lot better on first blush than Ike’s Stover, but like the Stover it needed a lot of love to get back to running. And where Ike had broken pieces, Dave had a few major ones completely missing, chief among them the piston and connecting rod.

That wasn’t enough to stop Dave from getting the Grasser running. If anything, it provided the challenge he wanted. Working with instinct born of experience and employing some simple practices we can all learn from, Dave determined what he needed in the way of a piston and connecting rod, making the former from a billet of aluminum and crafting the latter from old parts. Where someone else might have seen a boat anchor, Dave’s ingenuity – combined with a healthy dose of mechanical skill and a good lathe – enabled him to envision a running engine.

Dave’s approach is an interesting study in contrasts compared to the labors we see this issue from regular engine man Peter Rooke. Faced with a good piston but a poor bore, Peter took the long road with his ongoing John Smyth restoration. Instead of cleaning up the existing bore and making a new piston, Peter figured out how to make a portable boring machine and re-sleeve his engine.

Ike, Dave and Peter display great talent and tenacity. While their approaches to their challenges were quite different, in each case they led to a successful conclusion.

Richard Backus, Editor-in-Chief;

Gearing Up for the 2016 Show Season

It’s a bit early still to start trumpeting the coming of the new show season, but I can tell that folks are gearing up by the increased activity I’m seeing in online discussion forums and by the increasing numbers of letters we’re getting here at GEM. As ever, many of you have “new” engines you’ve found or rescued and are now restoring, and we hope to share them here in the pages of Gas Engine Magazine.

One of those engines is the circa-1902 6 hp Goold, Shapely & Muir belonging to Canadian reader Alan Hough. Rare and beautiful, it’s been lovingly restored by Alan’s good friend Brad McBride. Abandoned and broken, it sat for decades before Alan happened across it. It took many years for the engine to finally emerge whole again, and now that it’s running it’s been viewed by hundreds of old-engine fans as Brad takes it to shows. You can read about this engine’s interesting history and amazing restoration here.

As you prepare for the 2016 season, don’t forget to order your copy of the 42nd Annual Farm Collector Show Directory. As the most complete guide to engine and tractor shows across the U.S. and Canada, it’s become a vital resource for old iron fans. This year’s directory gives date and location information for more than 1,000 shows, swap meets and consignment auctions, plus listings for national clubs and show features. You can order your copy by calling us toll free at (866) 624-9388 or by going online to

One of the shows we hope to hit is the 2016 Coolspring Power Museum Summer Exposition & Flea Market. We covered the highlights of last year’s amazing expo featuring flame ignition engines from the early years of gas engine technology (Gas Engine Magazine, October/November 2015), and we hope to return for this year’s expo featuring rare, one-of-a-kind engines. Given Coolspring’s track record for pulling in surviving examples of some of the most amazing engines ever built, it’s a safe bet this year’s expo will be another home run.

We’ll be looking closely at some of the other major shows coming our way in 2016, and like the rest of you we’ll also have plenty of excellent local shows to attend, where new surprises show up every year. And fingers crossed, I might finally have my circa-1920 5 hp Piersen running and ready to show. Featuring a unique cooling system that routes engine cooling water through the flywheel (Piersen called it the Piersen Flywheel Radiator), it’s a unique engine and one I’ve never witnessed in running condition. See you at the shows!  

Richard Backus, Editor-in-Chief;

Inspiring the Next Generation

For as long as I’ve been around the engine crowd, I’ve listened to enthusiasts express concern over how to encourage younger people to join the old iron fold. As we get older, it’s only normal to wonder; who’s going to step in behind us?

Our “hobby” (some people think it’s really more of an obsession than a hobby, but what else do you call it in polite company?) was founded by a unique community of enthusiasts, most of them people with direct ties to the engines and equipment they were set on preserving.

With time, however, those ties have become more tenuous. To be sure, there still exists a significant crowd of collectors with strong ties to their old iron. Yet even then, many of those ties are likely looser than they might have been years ago.

Back in the 1960s, there was a good chance that someone rejuvenating a 1921 IHC 1-1/2 hp M actually grew up with the engine they were restoring. If you were 60 years old in 1966, you were already a young man or woman when that old M came to the farm, and you remembered – directly and powerfully – what that engine meant to your family, and to get it running again was to embrace your history.

Fast-forward to 2016 and that same 60-year-old collector. Born in 1956, if he or she grew up on a farm or in a rural setting, electric motors were doing all the work previously done by stationary engines. Their parents most likely worked around engines in their youths, but if there were any engines on the farm, it was only because Mom and Dad were collecting them, preserving them as reminders of the old days.

That’s still a pretty direct connection, because if you’re that 60-year-old today, you grew up with stories of how work got done back in the day, and you grew up appreciating what these old engines could do.

So if the well of people with a direct connection to the old iron we collect is going dry, who is going to be left to keep alive the heritage we work to preserve?

The answer, I think, lies in that second generation of collectors and people like Jim Faith of Monticello, Wisconsin. Jim’s business immerses him in mechanical activities. He’s also an engine fan, and a committed one. Jim’s dad got him into engines when he was only 8 years old, and he’s carrying on the tradition, teaching his son Joel (18), nephew Dana (16) and their friend Traiten (17) about old engines by guiding them through the restoration process.

Jim and Dana recently restored a 1908 2-1/2 hp Galloway (click here for the story), and while the finished engine is beautiful, its real significance lies in Jim’s mentoring, inspiring the next generation of collectors. If they’re anything like Jim, they’ll pass the torch onto yet another generation.

Richard Backus, Editor-in-Chief; Email:

Celebrating 50 Years of Gas Engine Magazine and Other Old Engine Anniversaries

It seems 2015 was something of a banner year for books in the old engine category. New titles don’t come along all that often in our little corner of the world, but this year we’ve seen three books produced for old engine enthusiasts, all of them, notably, self-published.

First up was Wayne Grenning’s fantastic tome on engines built before 1900, Flame Ignition. Written to help celebrate the Coolspring Power Museum’s 30th anniversary, it is a detailed examination of flame ignition engines, a seminal work covering an often overlooked chapter in the history of gas engine development.

Next up was Jack Alexander’s The Regan Vapor Engine: The Beginnings of California’s Gas Engine Industry. An examination of the development of the West Coast gas engine industry, it traces the early industry through profiles of more than 60 West Coast companies, including Regan’s. Important developments and companies are noted, making this  a valuable reference material for engine history buffs.

The latest work is from engine enthusiast Ron Cairns and his self-published Power Pioneers: The Art of the Engine – Pre 1956. The first of a planned two-volume set (the next volume will feature engine patents from 1956-on), Cairns’ book looks at engine technology through the lens of patent applications. The book is essentially a collection of snapshots, the result of one enthusiast’s years of engagement, hunting and pecking through patents.

On another note, we’ve decided to change A to Z Engines to simply Readers’ Engines. Why? Well, the A to Z angle seemed fun at first, a way to order showing engines as we moved along, issue to issue. Yet in the final analysis, I think all any of us really want to do is show off our engines, regardless of where they fit in the alphabet. So with that, send in your engine photos! We want to see what you’re collecting and show it to the rest the GEM crowd. And when you do send in your engine photos, include as much technical information as you can (model, horsepower, serial number, bore and stroke, ignition type, governing type, weight, flywheel diameter and face width), plus a little background on your ownership and anything special about the engine.

Finally, this issue, Volume 51, No. 1, marks the 50th anniversary of Gas Engine Magazine. Not many magazines last even 10 years, let alone 50, and I doubt GEM founder Rev. Elmer Ritzman ever imagined his “Baby” – as he called it in the first issue, January/February 1966 – would have such a long life.

That it has survived this long is only because of the undying enthusiasm of the old iron community. Your interest in keeping alive the memories of days long gone and your fascination with early engine technology has preserved a slice of the past for everyone else to enjoy, keeping the flywheels of this little magazine spinning along all these years.

Richard Backus, Editor-in-Chief, Email

Coolspring Summer Expo and Sharing Your Engines

The summer show season will be just about over by the time you’re reading this. Chalk it up to too many irons in the fire and a general lack of time, but it’s frustrating to realize how many shows I missed this year.

One show I didn’t miss was the 30th anniversary Coolspring Summer Expo, this year celebrating flame ignition engines. I’d been beating the drums for this show for some time, encouraging readers to attend what seemed certain to be one of the most important engine gatherings not only of the year, but possibly the decade.

Now that the Expo has come and gone, I feel even stronger about that sentiment, as the event pulled together more than 60 flame ignition engines. Underscoring its importance, it also drew almost 100 foreign visitors to the Coolspring Power Museum in Coolspring, Pennsylvania. Add an estimated crowd of 4,000 enthusiastic engine fans and you had the makings of an extraordinary event. You can read all about it — and we have more photos on our website at Coolspring Power Museum Expo 2015.

As the season draws to a close, many of you will no doubt put your engines away for the winter. Before you do, I encourage you to take a look at your collection and think about sending along photos of your individual engines for us to share with readers of the magazine in our regular department A to Z Engines.

The idea behind A to Z Engines is simple, a place in the magazine where we can highlight your engines, in the process introducing the rest of the old iron crowd to engines they may not have seen or rarely see, giving them an opportunity to learn a little more about them.

The alphabetical order gives a hint of predictability, but there’s no set schedule on when A begins and Z ends. Don’t let that stop you from sending in photos and info on whatever engines you have whenever you want. Just because we’re on A at any particular moment doesn’t meant you can’t send us a Z engine. We’ll file what you send, and it’s a huge help to have your engine photos and information before we need them, waiting in line for the opportunity to be profiled.

For photos, regular digital cameras still do the best job, but cell phone cameras are getting better all the time, which makes taking photos even easier. Whichever you use, try and keep the sun to your back for better natural lighting, and make sure you send us the largest image file you can. You can email photos directly to me, or if you prefer you can mail them, either as hard copies or burned onto a CD disc.

And don’t forget to keep us abreast of any new engine projects or restorations you have in the works – I can guarantee you that everyone else is interested to see what you’re up to, and we’d love to share your hard work with the rest of the old iron crowd.

Richard Backus, Editor-in-Chief; Email:

Making Old Engine Connections and a Book Review

I’m constantly intrigued by how certain threads of thought and subject come together, with no apparent forethought. It seems to happen a lot in the vintage gas engine world, as some of the articles in this issue underscore.

Some months back, I contacted collector and restorer Keith Kinney after stumbling across some photos of Keith’s fabulous 4 hp 1907 Atlas King Bee horizontal engine. I’d taken the photos way back in 2010, at the Badger Steam & Gas Engine Club show in Baraboo, Wisconsin, and I couldn’t believe I’d never shared Keith’s engine with GEM readers. A beautiful, finely crafted engine, it’s also important for formerly belonging to noted engine collector and Hercules Gas Engine Co. historian Glenn Karch, who passed away in 2009. One of the most unassuming and intelligent individuals I’ve ever had the pleasure to know, Glenn’s contributions to the hobby and GEM were immense. When Keith mentioned he had an article written by Glenn I might find interesting, a history of Atlas engines never published, there was little question but that we had to run Glenn’s piece, with Keith’s engine backing it up. Read the story in Atlas Engines.

The joining thread to this was the arrival of Peter Rooke’s latest engine restoration project, a circa-1923 Hercules Economy Model F. Although Peter resides in England, he has a particular interest in American engines, as his restoration series show. American engines Peter has restored have included brands such as IHC; Amanco; Bull Dog; Alamo; Fairbanks, Morse & Co.; and Baker. That Peter would restore a Hercules is no surprise, but that his article on the beginning of its restoration should coincide with the chance to share one of Glenn’s unpublished works is. Read Peter’s article here: Hercules Gas Engine Restoration.

Another thread in this issue wraps around Raymond G. Scholl’s memories of the Tri-State Gas Engine & Tractor Show in Portland, Indiana. Raymond didn’t make it to the first show, in 1966, but since 1974 he’s tried to make every show he can. His memories of Portland are a rich reminder of what the Tri-State show means to our hobby, and his article came in as we were thinking about the importance of this year’s show, the 50th annual holding of what’s arguably become the largest, most important show of its type in the U.S. Raymond’s recollections begin in Portland Memories: The Tri-State Gas Engine & Tractor Show.

Finally, harkening back to my ramblings in the last issue, as promised we have a review of Jack Alexander’s new book, The Regan Vapor Engine: The Beginning of California’s Gas Engine Industry. Jack is a prolific researcher in the field of early West Coast engines, tractors and agricultural implements, and has over the years produced a number of important works, including the highly recommended The First American Farm Tractors and Steam Power on California Roads and Farms, 1858-1911.

Richard Backus, Editor-in-Chief