Desert IRON

Old Engine

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3 Edna Terrace New Hartford, New York 13413

So, the doctor says that we are most certainly expecting, and we figured we had better take a vacation this summer before my wife got too big.

I always wanted to see the southwest, and we have friends in Phoenix, Arizona, so we decided to go. Now, I admit that Arizona in July is not the best plan in the world, but under the circumstances we didn't have many options.

The reader, by this time in the story, will no doubt be wondering, 'Just what does all this have to do with Old Iron anyway?' Well, a couple of our friends do a bit of four wheeling, and they stumbled across an old gold mine out in the middle of the desert one day. (Aha!!) Now anyone who has known me any length of time at all will have seen hit-and-miss engines on occasion, and can ID one on sight. So when my friend told me there was an old engine at this mine, I of course was very interested. So one of the plans was an excursion out to this site.

It was about 111 degrees outside, and we rolled down these very dry gulches and canyons for several hours. We eventually had to walk because the trail ran out, but at the end of the road was a building which was evidently a processing plant. It was mostly gutted, but the rafters contained quite a bit of line shafting, and some of the larger pieces of processing equipment were still about. There was a large, much abused, multi-cylinder generating plant, as well as the remains of a four-cylinder power unit that had been used extensively for target practice. But the gizmo of interest was a large one-cylinder engine. It had no name tags, but several features made me believe it was a Fairbanks-Morse, or maybe an Ingersoll-Rand. It was belted up to a large two-stage Ingersoll-Rand Imperial Type 10 compressor which sat behind it. At first, I couldn't fathom what such a large compressor setup could be doing at such a small plant out in the middle of the desert like that, but it dawned on me that it provided air for the jackhammers used to dig the mine shafts up on the hill.

The engine was complete, except for the belt pulley and magneto. The mag was a high tension setup firing two spark plugs deeply recessed in the head. The drive coupling to the mag was similar to the type used on early cars and tractors. It had a large pre-heater around the carb to help burn low-grade fuels, and fittings for air-starting which had seen better days. The six foot-eight, spoked flywheels are probably the clue to its maker. I didn't have the foresight to bring a ruler for bore and stroke measurements, but it looked to be around 20-30 HP, and all of five tons. It had a mechanical oiler on the back, disk crank, atmospheric powered intake, and rather conventional exhaust valve gear to an 'L' head mounted valve. The governor was flywheel mounted, with throttle linkage to a butterfly valve near the carb.

Whoever dragged that back in there must have really wanted to do it in a bad way. It seems that there was a bit of a gold rush in Arizona in the teens and twenties, and the plant was last used in the fifties.

The drive back was just as hot and scenic as the drive there, and we got back just in time to miss the gully-washing flash floods. The rest of the trip was also very nice but, except for the mine, it was not very Old Iron oriented. I did see a 2 HP Sparta Economy in a store window in Sedona, Arizona, but alas! It was not for sale. It would have made a nice souvenir.