1920 3 HP Glasgow

Next to none


A close look at the sleeve valve design of John A. Burgoyne's Scottish-made 1920 3 HP Glasgow.

Christian Williams

Content Tools

John A. Burgoyne, Ft. Worth, Texas, likes the fact that his unrestored 1920 3 HP Glasgow engine is one of only three known in the world. But the single-cylinder sleeve valve engine is so interesting that John would be happy to find out that other examples still exist. 

History revisted 
According to the article "The Glasgow Tractor", written by Ian J. Fleming in the February 1995 issue of Gas Engine Magazine, the Glasgow name in agricultural machinery is more commonly associated with a 4-cylinder tractor produced in 1919 by Wallace (Glasgow) Ltd. It was Scotland’s only indigenous tractor, and it is believed that only a few hundred were ever made.

In 1922, the same company began production of single-cylinder stationary engines for farm use. The Glasgow stationary engine featured a single sleeve valve design developed by Scotsman Peter Burt, who simplified an earlier concentric sleeve design developed by American Charles Y. Knight. Both designs were originally used to make early motor car engines much quieter. “In the United States, the best known sleeve valve engine was the Knight, which had two sleeves that moved in a straight line, parallel to the cylinder bore,” says John. “The Knight engine enjoyed considerable success in the 1920s. It was used in the Willy’s/Knight automobile and was also licensed overseas, most notably to the Daimler Car Co. in England and sold as the Knight Daimler. After the 1920s, presumably following the intro of the more practical single sleeve engines, it seems to have faded away.”

The design did manage to have a lasting impact in England. “In England, the single sleeve- valve engine with its unique elliptical sleeve motion became highly developed,” adds John. “The last example was the Bristol Centaurus 18-cylinder radial aircraft engine, unquestionably the most advanced and probably the most powerful piston aero engine made in Europe.”

Built for the farm
The Glasgow farm engines were mainly used for operating milking machines, farm lighting plants and other barn machinery, says John. It isn’t known how many Glasgow engines were produced or sold before the company went bankrupt in 1924, but it is known that the company made a 7 to 9 HP horizontal model and a 3 HP vertical model, one of which is on display at the National Museum of Scotland. That engine, John’s engine, and one recently discovered in Australia make up the three known examples.

John’s Glasgow
“I found it advertised in Stationary Engine [a U.K. gas engine magazine] and recognized the phone number as being from my hometown of Bristol, England,” says John of his Glasgow. “The man had owned it since the 1960s and overhauled it sometime ago.”

The man thought the engine had been used as a winch engine on a ship, but a little research by John helped uncover its agricultural roots.

Compared to the other two known examples, John noticed that his engine is different, the most notable difference being the location of the fuel tank, which John recognizes is not original to the engine. His engine also has a suction-type mixer with a needle valve for adjustment.

In addition to the single sleeve valve design, John also marvels at the craftsmanship on the fins at the cylinder head. “It’s very difficult to cast thin fins like that,” says John. The Glasgow also features a very elegant English-style tulip oiler.

All points bulletin
It’s been more than 13 years since GEM reintroduced the Glasgow to the world, and John is hoping that another mention of it might yield some fresh examples. Late last year, John was able to contact Ian Fleming, now 92 years old, and is waiting for more information from him and the National Museum of Scotland to assist with the restoration and operation of his engine. “I am particularly keen to know the exact timing of the two eccentrics that operate the sleeves,” says John. “They obviously operate at half-crank speed, but how are they timed relative to the crank and each other?”

John’s also interested in finding out more information about the Knight engine, if the company ever produced a stationary engine and if there are any blueprints available that could be used to make a working example of the engine. If you have any information, please share it with John and GEM.

Contact John A. Burgoyne at 3024 North Sylvania Ave., Fort Worth, Texas 76111mototech@flash.net