'How Your Hobby Started'

Swap Meet

Courtesy of L. B. Herron, Newell, Iowa 50568.

L. B. Herron

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3904-47th Avenue, S., Seattle, Washington 98118

Another inventor and famous American businessman whose name is presently before us everywhere, was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Pliny F. Olds of Geneva, Ohio. Ransom Eli Olds, 1964-1950, was among the men who pioneered the gasoline engine, which when applied to the horseless carriage, changed the environment of the entire world.

Ransom's father, Pliny F. Olds, was a blacksmith. In his shop, he learned the details of the new harvesting implements as he repaired them. Ransom's boyhood experiences focused on the activities of his father's trade, and it was evident when he was only a boy that he had an aptitude for mechanical equipment. When Ransom was 16, the family moved to Lansing, Michigan, where his father had a small blacksmith and machine shop. Ransom went to school and also helped his father repair all kinds of farm machinery, steam and gasoline engines, as well as marine type engines on the river.

By the time Ransom was 18 years old, he built his first steam engine. He had an idea that a vehicle could be powered with a steam engine and he experimented with this project and by 1891 he completed and tested one and put it on the market. It was well accepted and given much publicity in mechanical journals. Steam power had been more refined at that time, so it was used in his first horseless carriage, he felt that steam was complicated and he continued to experiment with an internal combustion engine. When he was 20 years old, he was successful in building a gasoline engine and sold his first engine in 1885. Gas and gasoline engines were still in the experimental stages in their shop and the development went through different styles and modifications. Several types were built, both in vertical and horizontal models. After a number of years of manufacturing of their engines and with experience gained in building the different versions of the original models, it was decided to standardize on a horizontal design.

The Swap Meet held July 18 and 19, 1970, at the home of L. B. Herron, Newell, Iowa, was a lot of fun and many engines and quite a few seats changed hands. I got six seats I did not have and also four engines.

We had collectors from South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and of course, Iowa. I am going to have a Swap Meet in the Spring.

Some of the engines that changed hands were Lindsay Alamo, Fairbanks Morse Eclipse, Fairbanks Morse, Fuller Johnson, Monitor, ? hp. Associated, Galloway, New Idea, Cushman 4 hp., Fairbanks Morse Upright, Stickney and a New Holland; plus a great many parts and magnetos.

I think this was the first Gas Engine and Cast Iron Seat Swap Meet.

During this period P. F. Olds and Son was in need of additional finances to carry on their manufacturing. They were successful in organizing the Olds Motors Works of Lansing, Michigan. Edward W. Sparrow, Samuel Smith and his son, Angus, formed this company with Pliny F. Olds as President. Ransom Olds was Secretary and Treasurer. They had outgrown the factory and Samuel Smith influenced them to move to Detroit. It was 1899 and it was in the new factory that they produced the first gasoline engine powered horseless carriage.

As this business grew, Ransom Olds employed many young men in the corporation who gained much experience in the factory and went on to make their mark in the auto industry in later years. Some of these were H. E. Coffin, engineer, who in later years was one of the founders of the Hudson Motor Car Company. Ray S. Chapman, also interested in the Hudson Company, first drove and demonstrated the curved dash Oldsmobile from Detroit to New York City in nine days to show that it was a practical means of transportation.

Some of the other young men who helped in the Olds plant were Walter Morley, who later headed the Aero Car, and Alex Malcomson who was one of the first Ford Motor Company stockholders. Chas. Hastings became president of Hupp Motor Car Company. Pat O'Conner went with Packard and R. B. Jackson joined with E. R. Thomas Car Company.

When the Olds Motor Works had completed the first car and it was successfully tested, his board of directors sanctioned a program in 1897 to build a 'perfect carriage.' They had the new factory in Detroit, when in 1901 a fire destroyed many of the company's records, plans and the shop. They rebuilt, and when in production several thousand curved dash Oldsmobiles were made each year.

During these years and after the disastrous fire in Detroit, the people of Lansing tried to get the Olds Company to move back, by offering them land for a new plant, near where the Olds gasoline engines were being manufactured.

The success of the Oldsmobile had gained an enviable position in the automobile industry and the attention of the General Motors Company, who purchased the Olds Company in 1908.

This event precluded any possible relocation of Olds Motor Works back at Lansing, where the Olds stationary gasoline engines were being built by Seager Engine Works as the successors of the Olds Gas Power Company.

This company with several of the Olds engine designs and a much refined horizontal type of construction established a good reputation with the performance of the Olds engines. Seager continued to build Olds engines until about 1908 when the Reliance Engineering Company headed by C. P. Downey, President, J. W. Wilford was Treasurer and Manager, and E. C. Shields, Secretary, took over the manufacture of Olds engines. This organization continued until 1920 when Rumely bought out the Reliance Company.

As an inventor, Ransom Olds had several patents recorded in his name. In 1896 he received patent No. 565,786 together with his partner, M. F. Bates. This patent covered an improvement for a valve mechanism to control the supply of vapor and a carbureting device. This patent was assigned to P. F. Olds and his son, Ransom. This valve assembly was a fitting that could be attached to a part on the cylinder of the engine and actuated from a push rod and eccentric on the crankshaft. The exhaust valve was located in one end of this fitting and was mechanically operated, while the intake valve was automatic. The fuel was admitted from a small reservoir by gravity into the intake valve chamber of this fitting. Located on top of the valve assembly and about in the middle lengthwise, is a combustion tube. This incandescent tube fills with fuel vapor by the compression from the piston and is ignited.

William C. Martin, Hazelwood, Missouri, is adjusting the oiler on his engine. The engine is a 1922 Witte 3 hp. The engine was at the American Thresherman Reunion at Pinckneyville this August.

My 18 hp. Fuller Johnson side shaft. Weight 5600 lbs. on the original cart. I only know of two of these engines.

An unusual governor has a pendulum device located under the valve push rod mechanism. From a spring arrangement this pendulum holds open the exhaust valve causing the loss of a power stroke, as in a hit and miss governor.

Another patent No. 570,263 was granted to him in 1896 covering a device that was intended to make a 'combined gas and steam engine.' It was a small attachment to permit water to be admitted with gasoline or vapor into the combustion chamber of the cylinder of an engine. The heat of the combustion created steam in the cylinder. Olds claimed this would 'economize in the use of gasoline or vapor by absorbing some of the heat to prevent overheating and at the same time form an excellent lubricating device for the piston.' This idea had some merit and was used by a few manufacturers. After the engines had operated for some length of time the effect of the water in the combustion space was learned.

Instead of being an 'excellent lubricant,' it was just the opposite. When steam was created it formed an acid condition in the cylinder which resulted in very rapid wear of the walls of the cylinder and the piston, requiring expensive repairs.

According to the detailed drawing of the valve and governor arrangement covered by patent No. 565,786 it is apparent that all of the engineers, who designed Olds Model 'A' and later engines, considered the idea of both exhaust and intake valves located in a unit to be an outstanding feature. They changed the late model engine valve arrangement from the horizontal fitting to a vertical position, one above the other, but otherwise about the same idea. The entire design of the Olds and Rumely-Olds engines were different in construction than their competitors. The assembly of the crankbed with the sub-base, and then with separate cylinder liner, water jacket or hopper, valve cages and mixing valve made a rather extensive job of assembling. Many gaskets were required, which also created an alignment problem, that might have been off set by the possibility of replaceable main wearing parts of the engine.

If a cylinder or piston wore out, they could be replaced. An engine then would be like a new machine when it had been overhauled. The only exception was the small size 1? hp. Type A which was a unit casting all in one piece. In later years Reliance Engineering Company changed the cylinder design incorporating the cylinder liner with a cast-on water jacket, thus eliminating two of the water gaskets in the engine assembly.

Many engine builders endeavored to overcome the possibility of damage from freezing, in the design of these stationary type gasoline engines. Olds had a rather unique design by employing what they called 'break plates.' A plate was placed on an opening in the bottom of the cylinder that was a thin casting that would break first if water was left in the engine in freezing weather. There was also another 'break plate' on top of the water jacket on an enclosed cylinder type of engine. Then Olds also offered an air-cooled 3 hp. Type 'AA' unit when these engines were being built by Seager Engine Works.

Pictured is Charles Conklin, Canal Winchester, Ohio, and his very unusual 1 hp. Mogul, Jr. There were several Moguls at the Tri-State meet at Portland, Indiana, but none of them had a water hopper like this one.

A number of engine combinations were offered for specialized applications, such as a hand truck mounted type A hopper-cooled unit. There was a Venturi carburetor to adapt the engines to burn gas for fuel. A concrete mixer of somewhat unusual design mounted on a long hand truck, and truck mounted orchard sprayer with the Type A engines were available. A gear driven hoist with a 6A engine all mounted on a cast iron sub-base made a compact unit for contractors, as well as a high pressure piston pump and various models of portable units on horsedrawn trucks. For the grain grower there was a Champion Harvester with a Type A engine.

When the horseless carriage was being developed a horizontal single cylinder lightweight engine was designed that developed 5 hp. at 500 R.P.M. that would propel the curved dash car at 20 m.p.h. These were built in large quantities for the Oldsmobile by Henry M. Leland. Drodge Bros, built the transmissions. The Oldsmobile was the first car built in this country to be driven across the United States.

Ransom Olds had many 'irons in the fire.' In 1905 another patent No. 792,158 was issued to him which covered 'a vaporizing device for explosive engines.' This was another method or model of a carburetor. It was assigned to the Olds Motor Works.

One of the most unusual engines at the Tri-State meet at Portland, Indiana, was this 5 hp. Richmond Standard serial number 1667. I would hate to guess the weight of this engine.

Standing by his 1924 Ottawa 4 hp. log saw is Zane Prifogle, Cannersville, Indiana. This is one of several engines that he brought with him to Portland in August.

Here is a 6 hp. IHC Famous engine. It was laying on its side in a pasture and is a little rough but all there. The man I bought it from bought it second hand in 1921. The five muscle men who helped me load it from left to right are: Jim Renander, Clarinda, Iowa; Norman Mier, R. R., Clarinda, Iowa; Scotty Kurtz, Oregon, Missouri; Mike Kurtz, Industrial Arts Teacher at Clarinda, Iowa, and Emmett Kurtz, Oregon, Missouri.

Here is a picture of my six horse Novo which I have just purchased and is yet to be restored. I am a junior collector and so far I have seven engines. I enjoy your GEM very much. Keep up the good work.

In the stationary engine catalogs collected by Roger Kriebler of Mainland, Pennsylvania, and Tom Graves of Tigard, Oregon, much helpful historical information on the Olds engines has been obtained. Charles Bibler of Findlay, Ohio, has also contributed much information in the preparation of this Olds story. From these catalogs the following engine specifications of the Olds Motor Works Type A are available:

235006 x 4700
34?4508 x 51100
4642510 x 51500
5840012 x 61700
61237518 x 62700

In addition to these units, they built a large engine for power plant installatior with a rating of 300 hp.

The Seager Engine Works offered the following units of Olds Type A engines in their catalog about 1908:

1A1?6004 x 4350
2A35006 x 4700
3A4?4508 x 51050
4A642510 x 51500
5A840012 x 61700
6A1238018 x 62650
8A2040020 x 84500

The Reliance Engineering Company Catalog of 1916 offered additions to the range of sizes and mechanical changes in the construction of the Olds engines. Instead of a separate cylinder liner with the water jacket bolted on, they cast the cylinder with the water jacket as one part. The valve cages were opposed top and bottom with valve lock rod on the intake valve that 'presses up against the spring stiffening it so it cannot teeter and allow gasoline to be wasted.' The cylinder head is not removable as the cylinder and head are in one piece. The cast iron sub-base was the main fuel tank. Ignition was a battery system, and a magneto could be had for an additional price. The following sizes were offered in the Type A modifications.

1?6001?4 x 4370
35004?8 x 4735
4?4506?12 x 51090
6425916 x 61430
84001018 x 61770
123801220 x 82600
154001520 x 82680

Olds Type 'B' engines were built in larger sizes with throttling governor, with closed water jacket. They were available in the following sizes:

184006020 x 84100
354008032 x 106000
6540020032 x 1411700

The 65 hp. is a 4 cylinder horizontal unit. They also offered a Type 'G' engine which is similar to the above engines, with the exception of the modification of the valve arrangement which was assembled on the side of the cylinder near the head and operated direct from a push rod off of an eccentric on the crankshaft. They were as follows:

1825024 x 186,500
25200 x 22532 x 128,200
35200 x 22536 x 129,000
50180 x 20042 x 1414,000

There was no mention in any of the Olds catalogs and Repair Parts Books of the bore and stroke of their engines. No dates appeared on their literature, so the dates given are as near correct as could be ascertained.

As previously stated the Rumely Company purchased the Reliance Engineering Company in 1921 and continued to manufacture the Olds gasoline engines. They made no major changes in design and offered the same size of engines as the previous builders of Olds engines.

Mr. Charles E. Bibler of Findlay, Ohio, has given the G.E.M. readers the specifications of the Rumely-Olds engines in the Jan.-Feb. 1970 issue, which well covers these units and rounds out the history of these famous old gasoline engines.

Crescent Iron Works located at Front and Franklin Streets in Elizabethport, New York, manufactured the Crescent Oil Engines in 1905. Samuel L. Moore and Sons Corporation at 26 Cortland St., New York City, were the representatives, with Carl D. Bradely, President, and Joseph H. Blanchard, Secretary and Treasurer.

According to the Crescent Oil Engine Catalog No. 1, published in 1906, offered a two cycle vertical oil engine in single and two cylinder machines. Their advertising stressed the economy by their slogan -- 'We burn our oil -- not waste it.' They claimed to get from 8? to 9 horsepower hours from a gallon of fuel burned.

These vertical engines had a heavy cast iron base, which was utilized for a fuel tank. The engines would burn either kerosene or distillate, which in those days cost about 4? cents per gallon. An injection pump was located on the governor side of the crankshaft, and a spring loaded centrifugal governor controlled the speed and the fuel injector pump. A drip oiler was located on the side of the cylinder for lubricating the cylinder and bearings. These engines were a type of semi-diesels, as they were started by heating an ignition tube in the head with a blow torch and then they would continue to run from the heat of combustion. Even back in those days the matter of economy was foremost in the engine builders policy and it was this type of engine that started the trend to high compression engines.

Crescent offered one and two cylinder stationary power units. Being of the vertical type they were equipped with a flywheel on each end of the crankshaft. The air intake was through the crankcase of this two part type of two cycle engine.

Various models of combination units were built and the directly connected centrifugal pump outfit made a nice compact machine. Also directly connected engine and electric generators were built from 5 to 25 hp. which in those days were rated in the number of 55 watt 15 candle power lamps the outfit would supply. They guaranteed these plants would furnish electric lights that would not flicker. This required good constant speed.

Originally these engines were manufactured by Universal Kerosene Engine Company of New York. Samuel Moore Corporation were engineers, machinists and founders at No. 10 First Street in New York City. The specifications of the power and generating sizes that were available are as follows:

536 x 3250?12 x 6?400501200
842 x 365614 x 10375801800
1246 x 406816 x 113501202500
1862 x 365620 x 123751803600
2572 x 406850 x 123502504500

Standard equipment furnished with the engines included a muffler, pulley, wrenches and starting blow torch, with complete operating instructions.

A marine adaptation of these engines were built in a low crankcase type with a built-in rotary water pump for cooling, a sight feed oiler to all bearings, injection pump mounted on the front main bearing and with a marine type flywheel. Marine thrust bearing and reverse clutch were also available on special equipment orders. The specifications were as follows:

152500 to 6004018?21750
223500 to 6004818?211000

Regular standard accessories were supplied and the propeller, shafting and fittings could be supplied on special order.

In Evansville, Wisconsin, the Baker Manufacturing Company built a line of gasoline engines as early as 1900 that were known as the Monitor Gasoline Engines.

Through the courtesy of Tom Graves from his Monitor Catalog No. 51E, he supplies the details of these engines. These were of the vertical single cylinder four cycle type and also built in a horizontal unit of approximately the same size. A complete selection of auxiliary equipment was offered including a small 2 hp. pump jack, wood saws, concrete mixer and a diaphragm pump.

The small 2 hp. vertical engine was built with the cylinder and top part of the crankcase cast in one piece with a hand hole to get at the hinged type connecting rod bearings. The cylinder water cooling jacket was of a special design to allow for freezing without breaking the casting. The shape allowed for the expansion in freezing weather. The valves were fitted in cages and bolted to the cylinder head to make an 'L' head engine and operated from the camshaft. A splash lubricating system oiled the crank and wrist pin as well as the cylinder and piston. The ignitiom system consisted of a battery and coil. The governor was a hit and miss unit. A Dixie Magneto could be supplied at extra cost.

The horizontal version of this make of engines were built in 3-5 and 8 hp. sizes. One engine feature of the design was the location of the crankshaft which was set lower than the center line of the wrist pin of the piston. They claimed the angle of the relationship between these two points of the power transmission reduced the the wear on the cylinder and piston.

The valves were assembled in separate removable cages, with an automatic intake and mechanically operated exhaust valve. The governor was of the hit and miss type. The specifications of these Monitor Engines were as follows:

1?5003? x 418 x 2?7021? x 31? x 1?320
24504 x 624 x 2852?1? x 3?1? x 2525


4504 x 624 x 2954?1? x 41? x 2530


4005 x 728 x 2?1507?1? x 4 3/817/8 x 17/8850


4005 x 7?30 x 2?17001017/8 x 52 1/8 x 2?900


3756 x 834 x 2?2251321/8 x 5?2? x 2?1320


3506 x 936 x 3280152? x 5?2? x 5?1450

Fuel tanks supplied with engines had the following capacities: 1? hp.-1? Gals.; 2 hp.-l 3/4 Gals.; 3 hp.-2 Gals.; 4 hp.-3? Gals.; 5 hp.-5 Gals.; 7 hp.-5 Gals.; 8 hp.-6? Gals. Complete wood saw outfits were offered in the catalog with horizontal 5, 7 and 8 hp. engines on steel horsedrawn trucks. Monitor feed grinders and wagon elevators or loaders were available. Pulleys were listed for all engines.

Lansing, Michigan, not only witnessed the development of the Olds gasoline engines, but it was also the home of the Novo Engine Company.

In the 1916 Novo Catalog No. 816, a complete description of the line of engines manufactured, were shown together with the company policy, under the direction of Clarence E. Bement, Secretary and General Manager, who stressed their slogan as 'Our desire is to sell our product by rendering service.'

The Novo management catered to and specialized in general contractors requirements for engine driven hoists, air compressors, diaphragm, triplex and centrifugal pumps, as well as deep well heads and pump jacks.

The engines were all vertical single and two cylinder units. Their selling pitch was a description of a vertical cylinder and piston which have longer life than a horizontal piston dragging on the cylinder wall. Commenting on this theory of a vertical engine, it is somewhat evident that good long service was available from a horizontal engine because of the greater number of this style in the small and medium size units that were sold as compared with the vertical type.

The Novo was an 'L' head engine with the top of the head of the cylinder up in the water jacket hopper. A plug was screwed into the only opening in the head of the cylinder. The lower crank-case and base had the babbitted lower half main bearings and replaceable top half and caps. The upper casting was the cylinder and the water jacket. A splash lubricating oil system supplied the cylinder, piston and main bearings. The timing gears ran in the open, and a fuel pump supplied the bowl type carburetor which was mounted on the intake suction opening on the side of the cylinder opposite the exhaust outlet, which was fitted with a round exhaust silencer.

The valves were fitted in valve cages. The exhaust valve was mechanical and operated from a push rod, while the intake valve was automatic spring loaded. A hit and miss governor was used with a battery and coil ignition as standard equipment. A magneto could be fitted at an added price.

The water jacket hopper was so designed that it was guaranteed by the company not to break or damage the engine in case of freezing. The specifications offered by Novo in the 1916 Catalog were as follows:

1-Jr.60015 x 1?1 1/81250
1?60015 x 1?1 1/81?300
260015 x 1?


2?52518 x 2?1?2?425
352518 x 2?1?2?450
447520 x 2?1?3?590
642524 x 2?26850
840027 x 323/1691150
1040029 x 3 5/82?111675
1240030 x 3 3/82?15?2000
1540030 x 3 3/82?15?2100

The 12 and 15 hp. engines were two cylinder units. The vertical engines took up less floor space than the horizontal machines and for that reason many were used on portable equipment. The wide range of sizes made them easily adaptable to all kinds of equipment.

It was a popular engine, that was sold by dealers in many states, so they are quite readily found today discarded and in a condition which makes it possible for many collectors to include this make of engine in their collections of restored and operating displays.