Headless Fairbanks-Morse


Elmer working on the piston with a slide hammer.

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I have farmed all of my life, and got interested in engines from Don Irvin of Irvin Models. I read his article “Ben, Don and Otto” in the March/April 1979 issue of Gas Engine Magazine. It’s been a while since then and I don’t know whether to thank him or blame him.

Fire in the hole!
I have a farm-type shop with lathe, old mill and three different sized sledge hammers to make things fit. I am no machinist, but I never give up. Case in point: a headless Fairbanks-Morse engine Elmer Sherwin and I recently worked on. Elmer is a neighbor and engine collector. He knows engines, and he can usually fix my goof-ups. This headless had a stuck piston, and we were in the process of removing it with the slide hammer method when a storm destroyed some of the trees in our yards. We had a cleanup party and decided to put the headless in the brush fire overnight. The next day, the slide hammer brought the piston right out.

Elmer cleaned up the piston and put on some good rings. We shined up the cylinder with a homemade sandpaper hone. Elmer was able to save the intake valve but needed to make a new exhaust valve. All of the gears were gone, along with the bearings, one bearing cap and the connecting rod cap. We made brass bearings and fabricated the other bearing cap and rod cap.

A sideshaft? Sure thing!
Looking for more to do to the engine, a little Domestic in the corner of the shop caught my eye. I looked back at the headless and said, “Elmer, let’s make it a sideshaft; those gears look just like washers.” So we started working on a hub and some big washers, cutting and grinding and eyeballing. We were careful not to measure too much because that seems to complicate things for me. Eventually, we were able to weld those pieces into gears, and with a little more grinding, they now go around easily. We just kept adding lobe-shaped pieces until it opened the valve enough to keep Elmer happy.

The bearings are automobile-type connecting rods cut and welded to a plate that we could bolt to existing holes in the side of the engine. We were able to rig up an adjustable point system on the end of the sideshaft and it works great. We also made a governor lever from the flywheel to the exhaust valve that works just like the original, making our engine a true hit-and-miss. This engine could not have run any better than when it was new.

I would like to thank Eugene McIlvaine for his interest in our project. He surprised us with a muffler that he made and it sure sounds good.

Contact Ben Romich at 13875 Cleveland Rd., Creston, OH 44217, or through his daughter, Lynn Hershberger, by e-mail at ahersh@sssnet.com