26 Mott Place, Rockaway Borough, NJ 07866
This story started at the North Jersey Antique Engine and Machinery Club's 5th annual show held in July, 1984. Our show has been held at the Sussex County Farm and Horse Show Grounds in Frankford Township, New Jersey, on its own, and a second smaller demonstration is given at the Farm Show itself usually held in August.
I was talking to one of my fellow exhibitors, George Haun of Hones-dale, Pennsylvania, about all the usual engine show stuff, when he happened to mention that he knew where a Fairbanks Morse Home Light Plant was located and for sale. I wasn't really interested as I already owned an old 25 volt generator belted up to a 1920 IHC type M 1 HP kerosene burner, that was used in a service station in New York. However, I told him that I would keep him in mind in case anyone else in the club would be interested. He also mentioned that he was looking for a small hit and miss engine in good running condition. I didn't have anything for sale at the time, so I told him that I would keep my eyes open on both items for him.
About 2 weeks after the show I was contacted by an elderly gentleman who said he had a Stover CT-2 hit and miss engine for sale. He had bought it in Texas used, in 1942, and had rebuilt it for use on a well drilling rig. The Stover had been put in storage in the late '40s when the man moved to New Jersey, and had not been used since. A new spark plug, Wico EK Hi-Tension leadout tower, fresh fuel and a governor adjustment soon had it popping along.
In early August George called to ask a couple of questions about an engine he had bought. He also inquired about the FBM power plant, was anybody interested? I told him that I didn't know of anyone at the time but that I had the CT-2 for sale. We talked for a while and George suggested that maybe we could work out a trade. The next local show in our area that we both would be attending was the fall 'Jacktown Show' held at the Jacktown Community Center in Bangor, Pennsylvania. This fine show has been held twice a year, in July and October, for more than 13 years. It is put on by The Blue Mountain Antique Gas and Steam Engine Association, a fine group of old iron buffs.
I brought the Stover, George brought the Fairbanks-Morse, and I think we both went home happy with our 'new' possessions!
The light plant was in fair shape, the visible damage being a cracked head, a piston stuck halfway down the bore (about 45 years by George's guess), and the cooling condenser base as well as the piston drip oiler were broken. Surprisingly the sheet-metal shroud for the flywheel fan and condenser was relatively intact, being only slightly rusted and bent up with a few loose joints for good measure. It looked like the unit had been dropped but external damage was light considering its weight.
The amazing thing to me was that there were relatively few missing parts; these being the oiler body, generator pulley, the ignition coil box base (although the coil and the retaining pins were still in the tin box), and the air intake tube that goes in between the carburetor and the base of the unit.
When I got it home I found the following information on it: The Unit is a Fairbanks-Morse 3 Home Light Plant. It is equipped with a F.M. 3 HP 'Z' type A open crank Special Electric Kerosene Engine, Serial #638211, flat belted to a F.M. 3 Home Light Plant Battery Charging Generator, 1.5 KW Serial #X42760. Both pieces are mounted on a large cast iron base made by F.M., casting #FM-lZA-3, which houses the fuel tank and the carb water injection reservoir.
The first thing I did when I got home was to copy the serial numbers down and take the unit off of my truck. I put a nylon strap around the hopper and a 4x4 across the flywheel rims, in between the spokes to lift it up and set it on a roll around cart. (A note of caution here, DO NOT pick up your engines directly by the flywheels. I saw a man break both his flywheels and bend the crank on a 7 HP Hercules trying to pick it up this way. See diagram 1.) I then put the unit in the garage and got ready to begin restoration. Pictures 1 and 2 show what I started with. As you can see, the spiders and mice had found a home. By the engine serial number I have dated this unit to early to mid 1925.
The first order of business was to strip the unit in order to see what parts were needed. I started with the engine first as it seemed to need the most work. First off and most obviously needed was the head. Split in 7 places, 2 pieces busted clean out and gone, exhaust valve head rusted off the stem, both stems frozen tight in the guides, seats pitted ' deep forget it! It was definitely beyond salvage. Ed Deis of Orwell, Ohio, couldn't locate a head from a F-M Special Electric, so he sent me one from a regular F-M 'Z' gas engine which fit, but lowered the compression a little bit. The external dimensions are the same but the Special Electric head extends into the cylinder approximately ' and has a raised exhaust valve seat. The 'regular' head is machined flat. (See diagram 2.) I do not think the difference will hurt the engine's performance any.
Next off was the hopper-reservoir top and condenser, along with all the tin shrouding around the condenser, fan, and flywheel. I straightened out all of the dents in the sheet metal and had to braze a few loose tack welds, but basically the tinwork was in good shape.
A light wire brushing and a coat of Krylon spray primer and it was ready to paint. I also had to braze the base of the condenser as an original replacement was not available. What a pain in the neck it was trying to keep the soldered honeycomb cooling section cool enough to stop the lead based solder from melting, and yet heating the cast iron base orange hot to make the brazing rod flow properly into the joints. (And watch out for crystallization too!) I ended up putting the core into a large bucket of water and heating a large area of the base to make my repair and letting the iron cool slowly. This worked out well as the solder only melted out in one place that was easily fixed during the cool-down. It must have been some job just to have soldered the cooling core on when this piece was made. After this was done, most of the small parts nuts, bolts, linkages, the pushrod and rocker, etc. were cleaned, primed and readied for painting too. I then went to work on the block assembly.
Spiders and mice took their toll as well as the elements, but it seems like everything liked the engine hopper. On the Special Electric F-M the reservoir fill is in the center of the hopper cover. It is about 1' in diameter and extends approximately 4' deep into the reservoir. If the water level is kept up as the engine is running, the tube acts as a plug to the steam forcing it to go up through the condenser. A 3/16' pin goes through the diameter of the tube, about a third of the way down, to keep small objects from getting into the reservoir. Did it stop the mice? No way! The hopper and reservoir were filled to the brim with mouse junk: nuts, seeds, hair, dirt, and something else. Besides all of that I even found a 2 foot long snake skin in there! What a mess. It took about 2 hours with a coat hanger, a vacuum cleaner (an old one of course), and high pressure air to remove all of the garbage. At this time I gave the inside of the hopper and reservoir 2 coats of Krylon Primer to prevent rust. I also replaced the 4 reservoir hold down bolts as well as the piston oiler feed pipe as they were all about rusted through. At this time I cut all of the needed engine gaskets too.
The only 'real' problem I encountered in the engine restoration was the removal of the stuck piston. I used the same method as described in my article about the IHC 'M' restorations, described in the GEM Vol. 19, No. 5 (September/October 1984 issue) 'A Tale of Two Engines'. I will briefly describe the operation for those of you who missed that issue.
I soaked the piston and cylinder for two days with my 'bust it loose a mixture of: 1 cup gasoline, 1 cup kerosene, 1 pint can Liquid Wrench, and 1 cup type F automatic transmission fluid. (CAUTION: use only in a well vented area, away from any open flame or sparks.) I then cleaned out the cylinder and honed it out with a medium stone. I noted a few deep pits in the bore, but they are above the top of the ring travel and should pose no problem. The connecting rod cap and the babbitted rod bearings were removed and a 2' diameter piece of type K copper tubing made a snug fit over the rod journal on the crankshaft. I then used an 8' piece of ' copper tubing on the upper rod cap bolt to hold the connecting rod in alignment with the crankpin. A 2 foot long 4x4 placed in the bore above the piston and given a few healthy whacks with a sledge hammer soon had the piston moving a bit. I sprayed some more 'stuff' on the head of the piston and gave the crank a spin, which put the piston about 1' further up the bore. Back and forth this went for 2 or 3 hours until the piston was finally out. The damage to the cylinder was not as bad as I had expected, considering the water damage to the head. However the piston rings, being badly rusted and broken, were beyond salvage and a new set was needed.
I made many inquiries as to who had a ring set for this particular engine and after one misadventure, which I will detail later, I finally had to order a new set specially made by Joe Sykes of North Tonawanda, New York, which worked out very well. The F-M Special Electric's ring specs are not the same as the 'regular' F-M 'Z' gas engine's, therefore the special order.
I have a special point to make at this time for my fellow 'old iron friends' please be extra sure of your parts wants and needs before you place your order. Make sure of the make, model, and size first. I made a mistake when I first ordered the ring set from Forest Glidewell of Greenville, Ohio. When the set arrived (and it was a beautiful NOS eccentric set at that), I tried to put them on my piston only to find that I had goofed in reading my micrometer and the rings I had ordered were too wide to fit in the grooves in my piston. Mr. Glidewell was most gracious in taking the set back, and again I thank him for his time and effort in trying to locate a set for me. As it turned out, he did not have the set I needed. On other occasions I have not been so lucky. Many dealers ship only 1 way you wanted it, you got it no backsies! And I can see their point, especially on special orders. After all it wasn't their mistake. I could have, and you can save a lot of time and money if you get it right the first time around.
While I was waiting for the rings to arrive, I went to work on the carburetor. It had been sitting for about 2 weeks in a can of my 'stuff' to loosen all of the stuck parts. The carb body is made of cast iron, and the choke and throttle shafts and plates are made of brass. Although the brass was in good shape, the shafts were stuck. It took a lot of time trying to free them up without preening the shaft ends tight into the bores. About 6 hours of patient tapping with a tiny plastic screwdriver handle and a small ball-peen hammer had them loose. The 3 adjustment needles are made of steel, set in brass pickup and jet assemblies. These too were stuck tight, but with another thorough soaking and a lot of soft taps with a light hammer soon had them free also. After all this work the carb was cleaned with a degreaser and readied for painting. A trip to Anchor Hardware in Denville, New Jersey, supplied me with all the springs I needed, both for the carb and the generator which I will discuss later.
At this time I should say that the die cast zinc cam mount and governor were original and in excellent condition. The timer for the Special Electric's ignition still had its original red paint on it! These I just removed, cleaned, and set aside, to be remounted in their original condition.
In selecting the paint I looked at and talked to several people who had restored F-M engines and machinery. The one I liked the best was done by Jeff Holz, of May wood , New Jersey, a fellow North Jersey club member. He uses a mixture of the following paints: Dupont Dulux Green #92001 (3 qts.) and Dupont Dulux Crystal Black #93-005 (1 qt.) All 4 quarts are mixed together and make a deep gloss green color that nearly matched some of the grease hidden paint on the unit. This paint seems to retain its color well even with exhaust heat and appears to resist nicks and scratches pretty well too. Your local auto parts store should be able to locate these paints, if they don't already have them in stock. Everything was brush painted twice over and then the engine was re-assembled. At this time I ordered the tin fuel and injection water tanks as the originals were rusted to pieces. Charlie Homart of Sparta, New Jersey, made up the tanks for me.
I made a new base for the ignition coil box from an old ADT fire alarm circuit board. The tin box itself was in good shape with its original copper knife switch still attached, but the coil itself needed some work. Some cleaning and a new side panel made from a cabbage crate soon had it in good order. The Special Electric uses a coil like a Ford buzz coil for spark.
Re-assembling the engine wasn't hard; I think that waiting for the ordered parts to arrive was worse. Anyways, after the engine was put back together, I remounted the engine on the base and got ready to start it up. I made a few timing and mixture adjustments, filled the starting reservoir on the carb, wired a battery to the coil and gave it a try. After 3 or 4 turns it fired sending a big blue smoke cloud to the roof of my garage. It ran pretty well after readjusting the fuel mixture, but it had a nasty wrist pin knock. I let it run until the fuel reservoir was empty, (the main fuel tank had not arrived yet) and had to pull the rod and piston out again to replace the wrist pin bushing. I should have listened to Jeff, who has restored a few F-Ms himself, as he told me that F-M engines were prone to wearing out the bushings and I should replace it as a matter of course. I checked the bushing by trying to feel the play in the rod while it was out of the engine and feeling virtually none I used it. I still didn't feel any play after I had run the engine, but I sure could hear it! Anyway, I called Eastern Bearing of Morris-town, New Jersey, and asked if they had a bushing the size I needed. I was told that they had one listed on their computer at their Elizabeth, New Jersey, store and they would send it COD through UPS if I wanted it. I said OK and figured there's another week shot. Boy, was I surprised when I found it waiting for me when I got home from work the next day! These guys don't mess around! The piston was reinstalled and a few more adjustments had the engine finished on January 15th, 1985.
Now for the second part of my project, the generator. I worked on the generator in between waiting time for parts to come in for the engine. In an actual working time sense it took nearly as long to fix up the generator as it took to rebuild the engine. The generator was in fair shape and basically just needed a good cleaning up, as it only took a few small but important parts to have it operating again.
The brushes were in good condition, but 3 of the 4 springs were missing and the 4th was rusted into 3 pieces. Using the 4th spring as a model I made 4 new springs from material I purchased from Anchor. In the past the armature shaft bearing mount plate screws must have been lost and the ones put in as replacements were too long. They nicked the armature just enough to make me have to retake all of the exposed windings. Boy were my fingers sore after that job. The commutator just needed a light sanding to be cleaned up. DO NOT use emery paper to clean up the face of any commutator. The emery grit badly scores the surface of the copper or brass, and imbeds in the soft metal. This leads to premature brush wear and excess carbon buildup, which in turn can cause arcing on the commutator. I have been told to lift the brushes off the commutator, and use a ladies' nail sanding board or a fine grade of sandpaper to clean an armature commutator, and then blow off with air to make sure there is no grit left. The reason sandpaper is used is that the abrasive material is not as hard or as sharp as emery and it won't imbed in the metal, unless you use too much pressure on it.
As with the engine, the mice worked over the generator too. The little buggers ate the insulation off most of the large wiring in the power control box. They also liked the field selector circuit board and its mounts, as they were chewed to pieces. They even ate the paper shell off of the fuse cartridge! (See picture 3.)
The spiders were no better. They went where no hand has been before or since! They got into the steel resistor windings on the regulator (I didn't find out until I first tried the generator out. When the windings got hot, it lit 'em up.), into the regulator points themselves (where I could only see them with a dentist's mirror), and more. The power selector switch was loaded as well as were the field winding cores and the armature windings. You name it, the spiders beat you to it. One even made a mess inside the ammeter don't ask me how it got there, as the meter appeared to be a sealed instrument. What a bear of a job it was getting that one out!
It took about 25 hours' work just to repair the 'critter' damage. After a good cleaning up and a couple of coats of the Dupont paint, it too was ready to mount on the main base. Some help from the following people had me on my way to getting the F-M show ready: Doug Kimble of Butler, New Jersey, made a couple of different size pulleys for me to try on the generator; the Roy Company of Branchville, New Jersey, made up the flat belt (thanks, Dick). A special 'thanks' must go to Mathew Lanterman for helping me with my generator woes, and especially Mr. Carlton Perry who was kind enough to lend me a copy of his original owner's manual for the F-M Home Light Plants 1 and 3 HP. The manual was a great help in getting the wiring sorted out.
I installed the new tanks after soldering on the original fittings, and with some help from Lee Pedersen's tank slush there were no leaks. After which I mounted the unit on a frame with wheels I built with salvaged parts, the F-M 3 Home Light Plant is ready to go 'on line'. (See picture 4).
I have a few questions for my fellow engine restorer friends to help me complete my restoration. Does anybody know where we can get 32 volt DC blubs? Does anyone have a copy of the F-M owner's manual for the early Home Light Plantsthe F-M book # is 2575-E, as I have not seen it advertised as a commercial reprint? Does anyone have the outside dimension of the F-M 3 Home Light Plant Generator Pulley, F-M part #2045, or do you have a spare I could obtain? Mr. Perry's manual doesn't give the OD and I had to estimate the pulley diameter. Does anyone else own a F-M Light Plant? I've only seen 2 others besides my own, a 3 HP unit, 1924, not running, and a 1 HP unit in original running condition, also 1924. At this time I would also like to thank Mr. Charles Wendel who helped me out in researching the history of the F-M Co. with his fine/ books and a personal note. See my want ads also.
If anyone needs help or assistance in their restoration projects please feel free to call or write and I'll try to help you out. If you call make it after 7 PM Eastern time. Thanks and good luck.