Retrieving The Woodpecker

Woodpecker

Content Tools

1399 Orange Street, Clearwater, Florida 34616

Lawrence E. Fuller, 1399 Orange Street, Clearwater, Florida 34616, rescued this Woodpecker from an old shed in Maine and restored it to original condition. Here it is in April 1990, ready for a show. Fuller's.

The beginning of this story goes back to about 1934. As a young boy growing up on a small farm in central Maine, I was eager to help my father start an old saw engine he had just acquired. I remember that the engine was considered to be quite old and that it did not run. We decided that there was no spark and that it needed something called a 'buzz coil.' A. new coil was obtained and, with some old fashioned telephone batteries given to us by a friend from the phone company, we soon got it started. We found this engine very useful for several years, sawing many cords of firewood.

I seem to recall that my father spent 'quite a bit' of money for this machine. I believe it was $15.00 that he spent for the engine, belt and crosscut saw table with 30' blade!

After several years the engine was stored in the tool shed for awhile when my dad decided to heat with oil and no longer needed wood.

In 1940, after the death of my mother, my father decided to build a hunting camp in a secluded area deep in the northern Maine woods. This area could only be reached by driving over an abandoned railway bed for over ten miles. After the camp was finished, he transported the old engine and saw to the camp, where he used it to saw wood to heat the camp.

Shortly after World War II, a large hydro-electric dam was built and changed the river that flowed by the camp into a huge lake. This left the camp and the engine on the far side of the lake, where it could only be reached by boat.

For many years my father enjoyed several months each year at his camp. I vividly remember many wonderful visits and hunting trips to this remote place.

The old engine was housed in a little shed my dad built out of poles and scraps of lumber carried in his small round bottom boat.

Years passed by and eventually, when Dad felt he was too old to make the trip to camp each year, he sold it to a man who was much younger than he.

After returning from the Army in World War II, I married my wife, Jean, and got real busy making a living and raising a family. We moved to Florida in 1956 and I completely forgot about the old engine. In fact, it never crossed my mind for over forty years.

My dad died at the age of ninety in 1967. Ironically, the younger man who bought the camp died the same year. The camp passed on to his son, who still owns it.

After spending my whole life in the automobile repair business, I retired in the spring of 1987. In February 1987 I went to the Zephyrhills Antique Auto Show and was amazed to see several old hit and miss engines running. I talked with Bill Sievers and asked about the Florida Flywheelers Club. He was very friendly and gave me an application blank, which I filled out and submitted for membership shortly after. After seeing these engines running, my memory took me back to the Maine woods. I wondered whatever happened to Father's old engine. I decided to try to find out.

After retiring we vacationed in Maine during the summer. We learned that in recent years a lumbering road had been built through the dense forest for nineteen miles to a point about three miles from the old camp. Several men, who also had camps in the area, had cut trees and made a so-called 'Jeep' road to a point about one quarter mile from the camp. A friend with a 4 wheel drive pickup asked if I would like to make the trip in to the old camp, and I jumped at the chance.

It was a thrill to follow the old trail through the woods to the camp. My father cut this trail nearly fifty years ago and it can still be followed.

To my amazement I found the camp intact, even though not used for many years. The little pole shed was still there and the 'old engine' was still there. It was dark and I had no flashlight but I could feel the flywheel and it was FREE. We took a flash picture and left. I found out that it had not been run since my father ran it back in the 40's. I also found myself determined to get this engine somehow, sometime.

I started negotiations with the owner by mail. This was with a man I did not know and had never met. For two years the results were negative but this year proved to be productive.

My wife and I went to Maine for a visit this year and we were determined to get results if at all possible. We drove to the man's house on Labor Day and found him friendly and hospitable. He had already decided that I should have the engine. He sold it to me at a very fair and reasonable price.

Two days later I, with my wife Jean, my niece Ann, and her husband Frank, left my brother's house at 5:00 a.m. for the backwoods location some 130 miles away. In my pickup I had tools, skids, chains, rope, cable pullers, etc. Frank brought his pickup hauling a small tractor, hoping we could use it.

After negotiating the several miles of logging roads, hardly fit for a tractor, my faithful little pickup finally brought us to a point at least one quarter mile from the engine. After following the old trail to the camp, we attached a chain and come-along to the engine and pulled it out into the daylight. We discovered that the engine was much larger than I remembered. After some forty-five years I could not remember much detail. I did not know what make it was, but discovered a bronze plate on the hopper identifying it as a Reliance Woodpecker made by Middletown Machine Company, Middletown, Ohio and sold by a machine company in New Hampshire. It was factory mounted on five inch channel iron skids five feet, six inches long. Removing some dirt and grease we found it had been painted dark green with yellow pinstripe on hopper and skids. The metal skids had been mounted on eight inch by three inch hardwood planks six feet long. After all these years the wooden skids were still sound.

We next decided that it would be impossible to use the tractor; too many rocks made the trail impossible for wheels. We realized that the only way we could succeed would be to disassemble the engine and carry it out piece by piece. The question: how would it come apart? We went to work on it and found it very easy to disassemble. Every nut and bolt came out very easily. There was very little rust and the engine was in very good shape. With much difficulty we carried, rolled, dragged and grunted until all the pieces were ready to load onto the pickup.

It took seven trips to get all the parts out. This, over a difficult trail one quarter mile long, over rocks and stumps and up a slope about 100 feet high where the truck was parked. Needless to say, we all had very tired bodies by the time it was all loaded. All four of us gave it all we had but without this total effort we could not have succeeded in only one day.

The drive back to my brother's house seemed like a snap after getting out of the woods and onto paved roads. We arrived home at 6:00 p.m. A long day of hard work, well done. We were tired and ready for bed but very happy to know that I finally had my father's old engine. Next-back to Florida.

After arriving home, many demands on my time kept me from doing any work for quite a while. Finally I found time to begin cleaning all the parts and stripped the old paint to the bare metal. Before removing the paint, I was able to make a pattern of the old pin striping so I could duplicate it later.

Final assembly was finished in mid-February and it started the second time I cranked it. I showed it at the Zolfo Springs Show this year and received many favorable comments.

This engine appears to have been built about 1908. All the working parts are of the type built in 1906 but the fuel tank, water hopper, and carburetor match those of the J Series built in 1910. It has a 5' bore and 7? stroke. I estimate it to be about a 4 HP, but it is not marked. All castings are very heavy, so to make it more mobile, we cut 18' off the original channel iron skids and fashioned axles with 8' iron wheels.

This engine starts easily and runs very well at the 400 r.p.m. governed speed. Some unique features are the extra large fuel tank, bronze carburetor with gravity feed and no float. The governor is built into the cam gear.

I'm extremely happy to have this engine running again. It brings back many memories every time I hear it run. After a long rest, this Woodpecker is 'pecking' again. I would like to hear from anyone who has a Woodpecker engine or who has any information about them. It appears that they are not very plentiful.