Verne's grain truck is always seen at the local show, he says. .. 'Everyone asks me for bits and pieces so I just load in everything I can think of, so if anyone wants anything I tell them just to go and get it. I take spare oil, batteries, coils, oilers, fuel, tools, everything!'
The following article is reprinted with permission from the March 1985 issue of Stationary Engine, an English publication which each month profiles an individual collector.
Twenty five years ago hardly anyone showed enthusiasm for disused, rusty old stationary engines, so when Verne Kindschi began collecting and restoring engines he did it behind closed doors in case the neighbours thought he was crazy! Nobody else, as far as he knew, collected old engines, it surely was the strangest of hobbies. A quarter of a century later Verne has 85 to 90 engines (he hasn't bothered to count them) and a further two hundred or so have passed through his hands in exchange dealshe prefers to swop rather than buy.
But what actually inspired Verne to buy his first engine? It all began when his father bought a farm. Across the road was a small farm owned by 'an old maid who still milked by hand', and as she farmed alone she was unable to manage all the work. A deal was struck in which Verne's father worked her corn and oats etc. on a 50/50 share. However she wanted all the hay for herself, and it was one day when Verne and his father were bailing this hay that engine number one was found. It was a hot day and the working pair wanderer into the shade of a barn to eat their lunch. In the barn sat an International 1 'M' type which had long retired from its duties. It reminded Verne of a similar engine which, when he was only 5 or 6 years of age some twenty years previous, he was given the job of filling the reservoir of the carburetor every five minutes while his father busied himself putting oats in the granary.
It should be pointed out that the biggest trouble experienced with the International 'M' type was premature corrosion of the fuel pump casting. So seeing the 1 'M' type in the barn all those years later prompted Verne to ask this father if it was the same engine as used on their own farm when he was a lad. Apparently it wasn't, they had used a 3 HP 'M' type, but even so it was enough to persuade Verne to try to acquire the engine, for reasons unknown at the time, he just wanted it.
The old maid who owned the farm wasn't so slow, she wanted 25 dollars for the engine which was far too much for those days. But Verne was undetterred, he paid the money, took the enigne home where it stayed untouched for over two years. Finally he stripped and rebuilt the engine, painted it and ran it a few times, and then...'What do you do when you've finished and engine, you look around and buy yourself another.'
Next came a Fuller &. Johnson type ND, a fairly late model, this was followed by an older type 'N' of 4 HP. This was about the time the local show started (21 years ago), and Verne took the three engines, he has attended the that local show every year since. The first year NINE engines completed the stationary engine line-up, last year the number was four hundred! At that time of the first show a number of enthusiasts decided to form a club, but the admission fee was 50 dollars-clubs were exclusive in those days! As Verne had only recently been married he decided he could not afford this extravagance, he had other priorities, so he spent the money buying more engines! He did in fact join some five years later when admission was around twenty dollars. He now belongs to four organisations but is only active in the Badger Gas Engine Club as the others are too far away. He attends about eight events a year and tries to visit one long distance event-around 500 miles away, although he has visited Kentucky some 880 miles away. Being a farmer he is only able to attend one day events.
His favourite engine? 'If somebody told me I had to get rid of all my engines except one, I'd keep the 20 HP Fuller &. Johnson, and if I could keep two the other would be my Vi scale model of a 3 Hp F & J.' Other favourites are, the Badger side-shaft engines, also his highly prized Lauson & Lawton. He likes engines that are 'mechanically different' hence the preference for side-shaft engines. Another favourite is the Stickney... 'it's so different that it's ridiculous, I love it.'
Verne s son Brian is very good with engines and shares the collection, although he has some of his own as well, but as for daughter Susan.. .'She wouldn't care if she didn't see another engine ever again.' Pearly, Verne's wife, always goes to the rallies as she enjoys meeting people and finds the enthusiasts very interesting; she also runs the bookstall at the local show.
Like the majority of enthusiasts Verne has missed the odd chance of acquiring an engine 'at the right time', for instance and uncle telephoned to tell him to come and take away on old 9 HP Fuller &t Johnson. At that time Verne was new to engine collecting and thought the F & J was far too big to bother with. Within five years the engine had been through three owners with the price rising each time. Guess who was the forth owner? Right, and for the costly sum of 150 dollars! (that being some years ago.)
Long term readers of this magazine will be aware that Verne Kindschi is the leading authority on Fuller & Johnson engines and, for a number of years, has been compiling information to write to a book on the history of the firm. His initial interest in Fuller &. Johnson engines came about by accident. He had acquired several engines of this make and one day someone happened to mention that a man who lived in Madison had the F & J records. So Verne went to see this man, and sure enough the records were stored in a basement which was also the coal cellar. The man was able to date the engines and tell who had originally bought them. Verne found this very interesting and went away more than delighted.
About a year later Verne wanted a few more engines dates so once again made the trip to Madison, but this time he was unlucky, the man was in hospital and in a bad way. About a month later Verne went to Madison again, and just in time, as the man was about to throw the F & J records away as he was too weak and ill to climb the cellar steps. Verne was offered the records and readily accepted with the idea of passing them on to a museum or engine club. However after considerable thought he decided it would be best to keep the records himself and set up an engine registry and service to F &. J owners. He felt that a club or museum would not offer this kind of service, and the records could become lost or fall into the wrong hands. Now he charges 50 cents to provide the date and history of the 1st engine, with 25 cents for additional one. This covers postage stamps and envelopes, because enthusiasts often forget to enclose a stamped addressed envelope-costly when handling several enquiries per day. Since the registry began, some 2000 to 3000 engines, have been recorded which each number being kept on a separate card. Verne also offers, decals, books, cloth badges and engine name plates, all in answer to many requests. A complete service for the Fuller & Johnson owner.
One of Verne's highlights was his trip to England and the Stationary Engine Magazine Rally at Longleat. He was a most welcome visitor in this country and we all hope he will plan a return trip in the not too distant future. His first article appeared in this magazine way back in issue 15.
Verne Kindschi is indeed a keen enthusiast and the type of person that makes the stationary engine movement what it is today. He is always prepared to help anyone who requires assistance, for instance at the Longleat Rally he was approached by Dutch enthusiast Anthonie Boer who was seeking a Wico EK magneto for his Novo. Within a few weeks Anthonie had received a magneto which Verne had sent from the USA, few people would part with such a sought after item so readily.