A 'Friend' Indeed

Sprayer model T

Sprayer model T

Content Tools

Rt 1, Box 42 Bowman, GA 30627

Very possibly a majority of Gas Engine Magazine readers believe to some degree that man's best friend is his dog. Quite a few subscribers probably could relate stories of how his dog performed in a spectacular way and brought honor to his master.

Having enjoyed numerous stories presented in GEM, I would like to share this one about a different kind of man's best friend.

In November 1984,I visited one of my co-workers in Elberton, Georgia. The purpose of the visit leaves me at this time, but I well remember my first experience at seeing an unsightly wagon parked below his house.

The wagon had an engine bolted to a wooden platform in the front and what appeared to be half of a large wooden barrel attached between the large rear wheels. The four wheels were all metal and the two rear wheels were much larger than the front ones.

Trees were growing out of and through this contraption in all directions. Some of them reached eight to ten feet in the air and one had grown between the gas tank and water hopper. With years of swaying about, the tree had bent the gas tank badly.

Rust was everywhere. The engine, the wheels, the frame and the axles all showed the scars that years of neglect can give to a piece of equipment. The axles and hubs were worn so badly that the wobbling motion of the wheels had cut deep grooves in the edges of the top boards.

My first reaction to what I saw was that the unit was an old fire engine, a horse drawn device used to extinguish fires years ago. I had no idea how old the thing was but I was sure it was older than I was at the time.

It is hard to explain, but I think GEM readers will understand, how I took an immediate liking to the delapidated heap. Of course I had no intention of buying it at the time.

My co-worker explained that he had received the unit in exchange for some work he had performed earlier in the year. He seemed to have no emotional attachment to it what-so-ever and his wife had less feelings of endearment toward the ugly squatter on her property.

On my return trip home, I found myself thinking about the old relic and its possible historical significance. By the time I got home I knew I would visit the unit again and ask some questions.

Now keep in mind that I had never seen a Stover nor an IHC, and had never heard of a Sandwich nor a Simplicity like the ones so many GEM readers are familiar with. I had never started an engine by spinning the flywheel nor cleaned a Wico magneto. To be quite honest, I had never heard of a Wico magneto prior to seeing this engine - so, why was I having difficulty in shaking this piece of junk from my consciousness?

One thing that kept returning to my mind was our town's annual Christmas parade that was scheduled in just three more weeks.

Bowman, Georgia is a quiet, little town of about 650 people and has one of the proudest Volunteer Fire Departments around. I have been a member since 1979 and at the time I was looking at the engine, I had been straining for an idea for us to use in the parade.

I kept thinking that with a little work the unit could be made to look like an old horse-drawn fire engine. This led me to approach my co-worker the next day.

My questions to him revolved around his intended use of the wagon. He had a special gift of turning unusual items into functional items around the house, so he shared plans of discarding the engine, salvaging the heavy frames, and constructing a decorative gate with the wheels and axles.

This was my chance! I offered him a sum equivalent to about two days wages for his diamond in the rough and told him of plans for the Bowman Christmas parade. Ten minutes later he accepted my offer and I made arrangements for a trailer to go after the unit. Again, I knew nothing about old engines or about this unit except its basic size and shape. When it came time to move it, I found it to be much heavier than it appeared to be.

With the help of Bill Scott, chief of the Bowman Volunteer Fire Department, we were able to clear the trees, replace the rotted wooden tongue, build a top for the reservoir, and paint the engine red in time for the parade. We painted over rust, missing parts, broken timbers and the damaged gas tank with no concern for restoration at the time. We simply wanted it painted for the parade.

We included fire department signs, two small ladders, a reel and hose with a brass nozzle, and a large chair for Santa Claus. We used Bill's tractor to pull the unit in the parade since we did not have time to locate a team of horses. Needless to say, the paint and face-lift made it the talk of the town.

After the parade, we placed the 'fire-engine' in an old building on Bill's property to spend a year waiting for the next years Christmas parade.

A mutual friend of Bill and me and a collector of old engines, Alan Skelton, encouraged me to get the engine running. Alan was a member of the Georgia Antique Club and had restored several engines for his own collection. He had seen the engine and offered his help in the restoration process.

After talking with Alan, I armed myself with wrenches, a large can of WD-40, and an oiler can. Next, I visited the old engine and examined it more closely than ever before. The name 'FRIEND' Mfg. Company, Gasport, N.Y. was visible in raised letters on the crank throw cover, but this was about all that could be read in the way of identification. A lot of parts numbers could be seen in raised letters on the engine and pump.

I removed the spark plug and squirted oil into the cylinder with the hand oiler. Then with WD-40 and oil, I liberally soaked everything with threads, moveable parts or excessive rust. I replaced the spark plug and left my 'FRIEND' for what turned out to be three years total except for Christmas parades.

In January, 1987 after parades were over, I decided it was time to really acquaint myself with what made this 'FRIEND' tick. Using a boom, mounted to a tractor, I removed the engine from the front platform and brought it to my house.

After removing the double action pump, I found the engine could be turned fairly easily and with further applications of oil, a lot of progress was made in a short time.

I removed the magneto, removed the covers and strap, performed some initial cleaning, and studied it very carefully. The permanent magnets, two coils, and condenser were not that much of a mystery. After several cleanings and reassemblies, I finally got a spark to the spark plug. By spraying gasoline directly into the cylinder and replacing the old spark plug, the engine finally fired once and lifted my spirits considerably. What I just described sounds simple enough but I left out several hours of work that led to this eventful, noisy puff from this engine. I could not help wondering how many years it had been since the old engine had fired and turned from its own power.

The engine was extremely stubborn for several months due to magneto problems. The magneto simply would not present a spark for any length of time.

After some minor surgery in April, I looked for some light projects to busy myself during the recovery period at home. I thought of the magneto on the old engine and decided to give it my very best efforts! It paid off! Using an OHM meter, I found the culprit to be an insulator near the points. This proved to be a rather insignificant problem but with major consequences when it came to a smooth running engine.

The Schebler carburetor was my next problem to tackle. The specially shaped cork float was broken and brittle, and could not be used. I spent months looking for a piece of cork thick enough to use in the construction of a float. Once I found the cork, I had little difficulty in shaping the cork into the rounded horseshoe shape necessary to fit a Schebler.

Now with the gasoline problems solved (with the carburetor), and the firing problems solved (with the magneto), and a host of rusted or broken parts repaired or replaced, I found myself with a great running 5 horsepower engine.

I have spent hours sanding, scraping, buffing, and painting on the engine, the wagon, the wooden reservoir, and the wheels. The reservoir deck had to be rebuilt using pressure treated lumber, and several coats of paint had to be applied.

I discovered a simple way to take the excessive wobble out of the four iron wheels. I cut cone shaped shims from galvanized sheet metal and let them take the shape of the cone shaped axle. It took two shims per wheel to make it satisfactory, but the results were excellent. I got by without having to melt and work with babbit.

The largest problem I experienced in working with the wheels was in removing the large threaded nuts on the end of each axle. I finally heated them for removal.

My next goal is to restore the double action pump so the unit will actually pump water. For this I will need to construct two large packing glands (unless some of the GEM readers happen to have a couple of these lying around the house).

My Volunteer Fire Department and I have become quite fond of my 'FRIEND' and will probably have it around for a long time to share with viewers at Christmas parades. In May of this year, just before I remounted the engine on its platform, I took the engine and pump to a large Southeastern show in Pendleton, South Carolina.

That did it! The many hours I spent working with my 'FRIEND' and the experiences at the Pendleton show have hooked me, forever.

My interests and attitudes have been reshaped and turned about since January, 1987. Now, I am a fond reader of GEM, that is when I can get my copy from my three boys, have joined the Georgia Antique Engine Club, and have already attended an engine show in Pendleton, South Carolina, one in Chatanooga, Tennessee, and a small showing in Calhoun Falls, South Carolina.

The Georgia Antique Engine Club has brought new friendships with members offering assistance and answering questions for this new enthusiast (right now I am looking forward to a show that is to take place in Jasper, Georgia on September 19-20 of this year). I always learn a lot from these shows.

I have found that the more one tries to help one of these engine 'nuts', the more help is returned. For example, I saw a request in GEM from Edward Swanson (Florida) on information about the color scheme for a 4 horsepower 'FRIEND'.

I responded by sending pictures and writing a description of my restoration. To my surprise, Mr. Swanson sent me a copy of operating instructions and parts listing for my DX model (a reader in New York had shared these materials with him).

My 'FRIEND' has brought me friends like Mr. Swanson and John White, president of the Georgia Antique Engine Club. Also, several members of the Club, like Jim Cox from Phoenix City, Alabama will always be remembered by me for taking time at shows to explain 'how it works' to me. As I look back over just the past few months, and think of the hours spent with this engine, the many new friends I have made as a result of the engine, I cannot think of a more appropriate name for a piece of equipment than 'FRIEND'.

I am amused as I recall a statement made at the Pendleton show by John White. He said he shared this with his wife after he recently purchased a 3 horsepower 'FRIEND'-'We have a Sandwich in the garage, so we'll never go hungry, and now we have a 'FRIEND' to prevent us from ever being lonely.'

Several photos of Gary Jar-vis' best 'FRIEND'.

The 5 HP engine was used to drive a double action pump, capable of producing 300 P. S. I. of pressure. According to Wendel, 'FRIEND' began their sprayer business about 1896, advertising protection from Blossom to Basket.