Answers To Spectators' Questions

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20201 Arthur Road, Big Rapids, Ml 49307

Q. When did gasoline engines first come into use, and what period of time utilized the old 'one lungers?'

A. Although experimented with for a century before this, they were introduced as a potential source of energy and power around 1880. At the turn of the century, they became very popular. During the period of time between 1900 and the late 1930's, there were approximately 2,000 companies advertising engines for sale. Gasoline engines were competing with steam engines for tractive power until about 1920, then gasoline engines took over. In the late 1920's, high speed multiple cylinder light weight engines made the old cast iron engines less desirable.

Q. What size engines in terms of horsepower were available in these old engines.?

A. All of the companies, including about 2,000 trade names, advertised engines of various sizes. The most popular were 1 1/2 to 10 h.p. at a rated speed of approximately 450 rpm. However, many models producing 40 horsepower and more were built. During the 1920's, some manufacturers built multiple cylinder engines of over 1,400 horsepower.

Q. Why were gasoline engines so popular when electric motors were available during this time?

A. Electric motors were available, but electricity to run the motors definitely was not available in many areas. Not until the late 1930's was electricity available in most aeas.

Q. What were these engines used for that made them so popular?

A. Wherever a wheel turned or hand power was needed, someone would adapt an engine to do the work. Such as: pump water, saw wood, grind feed, run the washing machine, chop corn fodder, churn butter, power source for a line shaft to operate a lathe or drill press; last, but not least, to power a vehicle later called an automobile and to power a tractor to compete with steam engines.

Q. How many manufacturers of these old engines are still in business?

A. When you consider the almost 2,000 manufacturers of these engines and compare it with the number of American tractor companies and American automobile manufacturers in existence today, you have a fair idea of how many companies survived. John Deere, International, Fairbanks Morse, and Briggs & Stratton are a few of the most popular.

Q. What is meant by the term 'Hit and Miss' in reference to antique engines?

A. 'Hit and Miss' is a term referring to the type of fuel and ignition control used in conjunction with the governor to both limit and maintain the speed of the engine. In this type of control, there is a latch engaged on a lever to hold the exhaust valve open. When engine speed slows down, the governor action releases the latch on the lever. The exhaust valve closes and the engine operates in a conventional manner.

Q. What is a throttle-governed engine?

A. During the development of gasoline engines, some manufacturers decided that a carburetor with fuel reservoir could be used more effectively than a mere mixing valve. The mixing valve was the former device used to control air and fuel mixture. The carburetor would provide a more dependable fuel supply and would use a throttle butterfly control. With this device, the engine would fire every compression stroke. The speed of the engine would not fluctuate as much as the Hit and Miss device. The speed could be more accurately controlled through the throttle butterfly and the governor. However, some manufacturers still relied on suction of the piston to open the intake valve.

Q. Why did they change the operation of the suction action to open the intake valve and replace it with a rocker arm and lever to open the intake valve?

A. The demand for speed increase changed the requirements for fuel delivered to the combustion chamber. The old method of piston suction opening the intake valve was too slow in action. A positive valve opening time, duration, and closing time had to be built into the system.

Q. What is the difference between low tension and high tension ignition?

A. With the low compression engines of the time, a little spark was all that was needed to ignite the fuel mixture. This was provided by an igniter installed in the combustion chamber. An igniter was a device that provided a path of flow for an electric current inside the combustion chamber. At the precise time a spark was needed, a movable arm and lever would open a set of contact points that electricity was flowing through. The abrupt break in the path of flow caused the spark to ignite the fuel mixture. Some engineers of these times decided a spark plug with high-density, high-voltage spark would be more efficient and dependable than the low tension spark device. Higher compression engines and increased speed made the igniter and low tension spark less dependable. The development of high-tension spark ignition carried over into modern engines. High tension spark ignition could reach as high as 20,000 volts.

Q. What is the difference between battery ignition and magneto ignition?

A. Ignition refers to the source of electricity that furnished the spark to ignite the fuel mixture. Low tension or high tension ignition could be either a battery or a magneto. A battery (usually 6 volt) provided the initial electricity to flow through a coil of single winding to activate a spark in the low tension igniter. A magneto could provide the same spark using a permanent magnet to provide the initial electric flow. Low tension ignition required no condenser or contact points. High tension spark required a condenser, contact points, and a coil with two windings, a primary winding and an induced current on a secondary winding of the coil.

Q. What is the difference between a two-cycle and a four-cycle engine?

A. In engineering terms, a cycle refers to the number of strokes of the piston to complete a cycle of events within the cylinder of an engine. In 1862 a French scientist, Beau DeRochas, stated the principle that for an internal combustion engine to operate efficiently, it would require four strokes of the piston. The strokes included: An intake stroke; a compression stroke with ignition at the end; a power stroke; an exhaust stroke to eliminate gases. Dr. N. A. Otto and Eugene Langen produced an engine using these principles in 1876. This became known as the Otto cycle or four-stroke cycle. This same year George Brayton, a New England man, introduced a two-cycle engine exhibited at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, 1876. This engine combined the first two strokes, intake and compression, in one and combined the power and exhaust in one stroke. This engine used part openings in the cylinder in place of the conventional valves. It was more complicated than conventional two-stroke cycle engines but proved a successful theory.

Q. What is a sideshaft engine?

A. A sideshaft engine, although similar in construction and purpose to any other engine, had one major difference. In place of a camshaft gear and lobe operating a long push rod to activate the exhaust valve lever and ignition device, a sideshaft used a worm gear on the camshaft. The worm gear was in mesh with a helical cut gear keyed to a round shaft. The shaft ran the length of the engine, and lobes on the rotating shaft operated the exhaust valve and the ignition device.