RD 4, Box 143 Greensburg, Pennsylvania 15601
By March of 1994 my 11 year old son had finished work on the 2 HP Witte that his mother and I had given him for Christmas (see GEM October 1994), and we were both looking forward to the 1994 show season. My only problem was that I had no 'new' old iron to show for the upcoming season. I had looked, but nothing of real interest had surfaced.
Then my wife suggested that an ad in a small weekly paper we receive might get some results. I didn't think so but the ad was free so I decided to give it a try. 'Wanted Antique Stationary Engines. Hercules, Witte, Oil City, Fairbanks-Morse, etc. Any size, any condition,' the ad read. To my surprise, two days after the ad appeared, my wife got a call from a woman whose husband had started restoring a large engine and had then injured his back and could not complete the restoration. I called him immediately, and set up a time the following evening to go to see what he had.
Scott Rubright had begun the job right! The 8 HP Witte which he was selling had been completely disassembled and sandblasted. He had removed and cleaned the piston and rings, honed the cylinder and reinstalled the piston and crank. Other than that, the parts were in boxes all neatly labeled! Scott told me that he had obtained the engine in upper New .York state several years ago, and that although he had never had it running it was 'all there.' The only problem was the exhaust valve which had been rusted shut and was now in three pieces. We agreed on a price, and the next evening I picked up the Witte and brought it home.
Being a member of the Fort Allen Antique Farm Equipment Association has many advantages not the least of which is that there is always a club member who either has the part you need to complete a project or can make it! What I needed was an exhaust valve for my Witte and ,1 thought I knew a club member who could help. I called Harvey Bush at H&B Machine Shop and he told me, 'Sure, bring the head down and I'll either find a valve for it or make one.' The next day I delivered the head to Harvey.
Now came the real fun. It looked like the parts were all there, but how the heck did they go together? That's where my son Dan's 2 HP Witte sure came in handy. His and mine were exactly the same except that someone had given mine steroids! After several evenings' work, the 8 HP Witte was all together, but it still looked pretty sad. Scott had primed it after he sandblasted, but he had used about four different colors of primer! I was now convinced that the engine was complete, however, and Harvey had manufactured a new exhaust valve for it, so it was time to take it apart and ready it for paint.
I had decided the day I first saw the Witte that it would look better than new by the time I got done with it. That meant lots of grinding on the casting, and I must admit some 'Bondo' also. After the grinding and lots of sanding, it was time to paint. I decided to use PPG Concept (DCC 3726, Dark Sage) on the engine itself and black on the flywheels.
Three days after it was painted, my Witte was all back together and ready to be put on what? The Witte had come home on 6x8 inch skids but I was not about to put it back on the skids and load 1,000 pounds on the back of my pickup each time I went to a show. My Witte needed its own trailer!
Call it lucky if you wish, but the week after I painted my Witte there was an ad for a '4x6 Army Utility Trailer' in the same local paper in which I had placed the ad that led to my buying the Witte. The price was right and I now had an appropriate trailer for the engine. Once the utility box was off and the trailer frame painted, I cut 1-inch oak boards to length, planed them, and then put five coats of polyurethane varnish on before bolting them to the trailer. Next the Witte was bolted on. Our club's first show of the year was in two days and I hadn't even tried to start my Witte yet! I put gas in the carburetor, primed the engine, and spun the flywheels a few times nothing. Oh well, there would be plenty of help at the show to get it adjusted and running! I turned my attention to loading other old iron that I planned to take to the show.
Was I ever right about help! As with any 'new' piece of equipment, the Witte drew lots of attention from club members and everyone had their own ideas as to why it wouldn't start. The only thing everyone agreed on was that the problem wasn't a lack of compression! By dinnertime our arms ached from turning the flywheels and we all agreed that it was time to get back to basics and systematically check things out one at a time. After dinner John Frankhauser, Carl Miller, Jake Faith and I did just that.
Each of these club members knows more about stationary engines than I ever will. Several of them used them on their own farms or in the oil fields in their younger days, and each seems to specialize in particular areas. Jake went to work on the carburetor and fuel system. It didn't take him long to discover two mud wasp nests inside the carburetor and clean them out. My face was rather red for the rest of the day about that, but at least the engine would now get fuel when we got it started. Carl and John worked on the timing and I concentrated my efforts on the ignition system.
The timing was easily corrected, but I found that the magneto was very weak and the Wes Plug Giant spark plug I had purchased simply would not fire under pressure. Lawrence Carey (one of our club's resident experts on ignition) took the magneto to his van, where he just happened to have a magneto charger, and returned in a short time with the magneto now fully charged. Meanwhile, I located the old rusty AC 56 spark plug that was in the Witte when I purchased it (likely the original plug!) and installed it.
Now, the moment of truth! Everyone gathered around as I primed the engine and spun the flywheels. The first time over it barked, the second time it started, and with only minor carburetor adjustments smoothed out and purred like a kitten. I think that every club member on the show grounds recognized the new sound and stopped by to comment on how well the Witte ran and to razz me a bit about the mud wasp nests in the carburetor.
During the 1994 season I showed the Witte at eleven different events and it ran well on both gasoline and kerosene for over 85 hours. It seemed always to be a show stopper and runs every bit as good as it looks!
My Witte (S/N 80188) is a Type H (the H signifies cast iron base) and was probably manufactured in the late 1920s. Bore and stroke are 6x7 and it's rated 8 HP at 430 rpm. If anyone can provide me with an exact date of manufacture I would appreciate it.