Young Iron: Seth McKitrick

Bit by the bug at an early age


Seth McKitrick with this 1922 2 HP Ottawa.

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Take a quick glance at the exhibitors and attendees at gas engine shows, and it’s easy to think that this is an older person’s hobby. But take a closer look and you’ll find a growing number of younger enthusiasts. You’ll meet them in Young Iron.

Name: Seth McKitrick
Age: 19
Location: Maine, NY

Q: How long have you been collecting gas engines?
A: I have been collecting engines since I was 5 years old when my parents bought me a model steam engine and my great-grandfather gave me an old Briggs & Stratton to go with it.

Q: What attracted you to the hobby?
A: I was always interested in mechanical things, and after my great-grandfather took me to our local show when I was 3 years old I became hooked. Also, the history behind the engines and the companies that made them is extremely fascinating to me. Since then I’ve learned to enjoy the hobby even more because it has such great people in it.

Q: Who else in your family collects engines?
A: My cousin, Christopher Underwood, collects engines and we attend shows together all the time.

Q: How many engines do you have in your collection?
A: Eight, with the rarest engines being the 1922 2 HP Ottawa and the 1-1/2 HP IHC M. I have never seen another 2 HP Ottawa at any of my local shows. And the IHC M is equipped with the American Bosch magneto. It was not produced long with it because the magneto was unreliable (the Bosch was soon replaced by the WICO EK).

Q: What’s your favorite engine in your collection?
A: My favorite engine would have to be my Ideal lawnmower engine with 11-inch flywheels. It belonged to the man who gave me my first flywheel engine and I acquired it after he passed away. It starts good, runs like a clock and is easy to move around – all great qualities for taking it to shows.

Q: Are you working on  any projects?
A: My current project is rebuilding the igniter on my 1-1/2 HP Hercules E. The engine is in good original condition with 80 percent original paint and I’d like to get it running.

Q: In general, what are your favorite engines?
A: Fairbanks-Morse tends to be my favorite. They are simple, dependable, smooth running machines. Also, the prices are reasonable and parts are plentiful.

Q: As a young collector, what are some obstacles you’ve come across in the hobby?
A: Money is the biggest obstacle to actually collecting engines. Since I’m a first-year college student, I don’t have a lot to spare on engines.

Q: If money weren’t an issue, what is your dream engine to own?
A: I would love to own a large Mogul sideshaft. They are mechanically beautiful and run with such a pleasing sound. Also, it would be just the right size to run my buzz saw, which has been in my family for five generations.