Big Daddy - The Venn - Severin!


Courtesy of Don Gibson, Route 3, Box 800, Antioch, Illinois 60002.

Don Gibson

Content Tools

Route 3, Box 800, Antioch, Illinois 60002

I first noticed the engine at Richards Stone Cutters on Illinois 176 near Lake Bluff, Illinois, in November 1969. I stopped in and met the owner, Harry Richards, whom I had several conversations with over the next few weeks.

This is the story of how I became the owner of a Venn-Severin Oil Engine. The nameplate reads 80 hp., 275 R.P.M., S.N. 2799. The bore is 12' x 18' stroke, 2 cylinder, 2 cycle, rotary valve air intake, chain oiled main bearings, and a Madison-Kipp oiler for the cylinder. The flywheel is 52 inches in diameter with a 10' face and a 4 inch thick rim.

A large clutch came with the engine, which had been removed several years ago. The Venn-Severin and clutch weigh 5? tons without manifolds, air tank, or cooling system. The Venn-Severin Engine Company was located in Chicago on Elston Avenue and this engine was built in 1913. Venn-Severin Engines were blue-green in color with a lot of gold and red striping. The engine originally had had an engineer's deck about crankshaft height with a ladder on both sides. The earlier models were screen-cooled, the later ones, tank or service water. All fittings are bronze and the whole unit was quite a showpiece of the early engine builder's skill and care.

The net results of my visits with Harry Richards was, although he appreciated my desire to own and restore the Venn-Severin, he couldn't bring himself to part with the engine after owning it all these years.

I promised to keep in touch and to invite him to the Antique Farm Exhibit at the Kenosha County Fair (Wisconsin) in August 1970.

About two weeks before the fair opened, I stopped in to invite him over to see the threshing, gas engines and etc. as our guest.

I was very surprised to learn from his son, Chuck Richards, that Harry had passed away recently.

I only knew Harry Richards from our conversations about engines, but I enjoyed talking with him about the old days, of old engines, of the old ways of quality first and quantity second. He was especially fond of telling how you could hear the big Venn-Severin sound off a mile away when it was working hard.

The Venn-Severin as we found it. John Heisma looks on, wondering how we will load up all that iron. (Note 'hot bulbs' on each head.)

I visited with his son Chuck Richards and we came to an agreement. I was suddenly the new owner of the big Venn-Severin .....all 5? tons of it! It was the first engine I had located on my own, the others were with the help of fellow collectors.

The 'Big Twin' just after the tilt bed came down to level. I was too busy to take pictures during the actual loading.

I had to wait till after the Kenosha County Fair was over, as I was busy with the Antique Farm Exhibit. Bob Schmidt, the local John Deere dealer, wouldn't have his big tilt bed truck available till then either.

Saturday, August 22, was a fine day, cool and sunny, and we left for Lake Bluff, Illinois. All of my fellow engine collectors pitched in to help bring the big Venn-Severin home: Bob Schmidt of Salem, Wisconsin; John Davidson of Bristol, Wisconsin; Jim Harmon of Pleas ant Prairie, Wisconsin; John Hiasma of Millburn, Illinois; my son Bobby, age 11, and yours truly.

George St. John and Dan Bullis were to go also, but were upstate on vacation at the time.

When our crew arrived and surveyed the situation, we had to move some stone out of the way first. The next order of business was to jack up the engine so we could get it on 3 x 12 planks and 6' rollers. After a slight crab to one side to clear a tree, we used the trucks winch and tilt bed. In a combination of moves it was in line with the truck. With the trucks front wheels a foot off the ground at times, Bob Schmidt used the winch to pull all 5? tons of engine up the tilt bed while the rest of us shifted rollers and planks.

Within an hour we had the Venn-Severin loaded and were on our way home to Rock Lake, Wisconsin.

We really knew we had a load on the truck the way the gas gauge went down!

My neighbors at Rock Lake have suspected for some time that I was a little 'different,' because of my hobby --restoring antique engines and machinery.

Home at Rock Lake or 'Will that cable hold coming down the ramp?' John Haisma checks the tilt section. Trucks front wheels came off the ground about this time.

Suspicions were confirmed when we pulled in with the huge Venn-Severin on the truck, with the cylinder heads twelve feet above the road.

They just stood and stared in be wildered disbelief.

Rodger Phillips, a fellow collector from Rock Lake, who couldn't come with us because of work, came over on his lunch hour and with his tractor help ed us unload the engine onto blocks.

Afterwards, all of us sat down to a good Wisconsin lunch of bratwurst, sauerkraut, and beer.

I am grateful to all of the fellows who helped out that day. The Venn-Severin would never have gotten home without their willing help.

Everyone breathed easier when the engine was this far down the ramp. A good view of the clutch assembly lying crossways on the frame.

An oil engine is not a true diesel, as the diesel obtains heat for ignition through high compression and an oil engine does this by heat from the hot spot in the head.

I would appreciate hearing from any-one who has any knowledge of operating an oil engine. The finer points concerning the amount of cooling water required, the amount of preheating, the type of fuel oil, what grade of oil for the cylinders, and for the bearing boxes.

We plan to run a sawmill with the V & S and will drop GEM a line now and then to let you know how we are coming along. It will take time but I am sure the results will be worth the effort.