5475 Prue Road #1, San Antonio, Texas 78240.
This all started back in October 1986 at the Speegleville,. Texas gas engine show where I was watching Darwin 'Monk' Ivicic start his big engine, and wondering what it would be like to own one of these big machines. I was attending the show with my friend, Reagan Smith, who would later help me get the Reid up and home to San Antonio, Texas. Monk had a display set up with his engine, showing pictures he had taken of their Reid, asking 'what if?' with a For Sale sign on it. I picked up a card, not really knowing if I would ever be able to afford the Reid. From that show in October, up until January 1987, I thought about the engine. Finally, I decided to write to Monk and inquire about buying the Reid. To my surprise, Monk didn't have the engine at his house. It was in Longview, Texas, about 370 miles from San Antonio. My wife, Renate, and I were going to take a little vacation one weekend and go to the First Monday Trade Days in Canton, Texas, so we scheduled a little 100 mile detour to see if we could find the Reid in Longview. Monk said the engine was about six miles out Highway 300 on the left, in an old tin barn next to a butane tank. He was right on the mark with the directions, because we had no trouble finding it, surprising us both. I wondered why no one else had found it before now. I took a few pictures and then headed back to San Antonio. This old engine was just what I had been searching for. The original machine, still in the field, in almost new condition with very little missing.
On another weekend my wife and I drove by Monk's house in Holland, Texas to see his engines and to get serious about working out some sort of deal on the Reid. After settling on the price, we agreed that the engine would transfer ownership when I got it up and off of the property and onto Highway 300. Until then, if anyone should come around asking questions, I was 'working' for him. He had contacted the oil leasing company in Oklahoma and had the necessary papers, but they were in his name. I didn't tell Renate that her 'egg money' was gone, but she knows me and wasn't too thrilled with the idea of owning the Reid. Something about two kids in college and things being a little tight. But, after about a month or so it blew over. I guess she didn't really understand what kind of effect this rusty old iron stuff had on an old Operating Engineer like myself. Also, to our surprise this engine was four miles from Judson, Texas. We didn't even know this town existed until we took a wrong turn while searching for the Reid. The 'town' has one cemetery, one house, one garage, and one church. The church had a sign in the front stating that Judson had been established in 1883. We, like typical tourists, took pictures of ourselves in front of it for the memory book I intended to keep on this engine's recovery.
The next month I talked our friends Mr. and Mrs. Reagan Smith into going to the First Monday's Trade Days and to drive over to Longview to see my engine. The gauger who had managed the oil field told Monk he had helped install the Reid back in 1929 or 1930, he wasn't sure, and that they had never run the engine. The oil field shut down during the Depression and when it reopened, they used electric motors to pump the oil. Electric motors were cheaper and ran the wells more efficiently. There were two wells near the Reid that were still operating, both drilled to a depth of 3500 feet.
The old tin barn had protected the engine over the years, but two pieces of tin had blown off of the roof directly above the crank case several years earlier. When I pulled the crank case drain plug about fifty-five gallons of water flowed out. The cover had a very small rust hole in the top- but I'm getting ahead of my story.
After a couple of weeks of convincing Renate what a good addition this engine would make to our collection (which only consisted of a 1? Monitor and a 2 HP Eclipse vertical), and that we needed the horizontal engine to round things out, she reluctantly resigned herself to the idea. We started the necessary planning to get this baby home.
Several years earlier I had built a three axle trailer out of 6 x 6 I-beams, which I thought would hold the weight of the Reid. Monk thought the engine was about 8,000 pounds and I guessed about 7,500. But, would you believe the Reid was 10,300 pounds, not to mention the extra 500 pounds of railroad cross ties, eight feet long each, which we used to set the engine on so that the 69' flywheels would be load-free during the ride. On top of this, I didn't have enough truck to pull this kind of weight around, so through friends I found somebody who knew somebody also who could do the job for me. His name was Mr. Mitch Mitchell from Ingram, Texas. He and his wife run a mobile home moving company and Mitch was familiar with the area. He had even worked in the oil fields years ago. Without his skill and knowledge, we probably would have never gotten the Reid up and away as quickly as we did.
Reagan, my son Ken and I had never been involved in a project as big as this before, so we spent a lot of time trying to develop emergency plans in case things didn't go as intended. One word of advice. Never, ever go after one of these monsters with just four people. It's a lot more work than you think. Believe me. Monk said he had spent four days trying to get an engine home like that, and that maybe the memory of the ordeal had a lot to do with his decision to sell this one.
Mitch and his wife picked up my trailer on Wednesday night and returned to Ingram. He was to meet us at a coffee shop in Longview at 7:00 a.m. Saturday morning to get this job going. Sure enough that morning he, his wife, and his 454 Chevy one-ton were sitting outside the door of the coffee shop waiting to go to work. He worked all day with us although the deal was just to haul it home. The extra hands definitely helped. I think Mrs. Mitchell enjoyed watching us work and also kept an eye on Mitch so he wouldn't overwork himself.
This just happened to be the week end that the last cold front was to come roaring down from the Panhandle. The day was a sunny, mild 80 degrees, but the news forecast from Dallas was sleet and snow heading our way. Later on that day it clouded up and looked like it was going to get miserable. The gauger stopped by to see what we were up to but I couldn't convince him to grab a sledge hammer or wrench. They didn't mix with his young 74 years, or something like that. He said he had jumped up and down on the flywheels on the Reid every year to keep it loosened up, and had poured oil down one of the inspection plates on top of the cylinder to keep it free, but over the last several years it was getting harder to turn over.
On the trip up a month before, I had poured some oil into the cylinder and sprayed a can of WD-40 on the base bolts to soak them a while. To start, we removed the pinion bearing cap to expose the thrust ring. Then we all climbed aboard the flywheels to roll it over, but no luck. A little chain and Chevy power freed up the engine so we could begin removing the crank case pinion shaft and pulley (18 inch face by 24 inches). Problem number two was how to get the 1,000 pounds of shaft out far enough to get it to the ground. We only had one inch of clearance from the flywheel to the hub base bolts and could not clear the side of the cement support column. Luckily, I had brought an old flaming wrench which worked fine as we sort-of jacked up the shaft and let it bounce its way out the door. The pallet under the shaft ended up as kindling, but no other damage was done. Except for two, all of the 1? inch base bolts were easily removed. The bolts were not even run down all the way to the base of the engine, one step short of grouting the engine. The fuel line was not hooked up, and neither was the water line. The water pump had a double full face red rubber gasket sealing off the suction side. The exhaust pipe was missing, so was the air cleaner, but that was all.
Hobos had lived in this barn for many years judging by the three feet of trash around the Reid. We had brought a small A-frame, but decided not to risk it. We opted instead to use ten-ton jacks to pick up the engine. We would block up the Reid every two or three inches of lift. We jacked under the two six inch flywheel shafts and under the cylinder base at the front. We were able to lift it about six inches by the noon lunch break. The floor in front of the Reid (six inch concrete gave way while jacking and we had to reblock more than we expected.
The next couple of hours were spent removing the grout under the engine in order to slide two ?' x 2' x 8' plywood boards, each with four 1' pipes to roll on as we moved the engine out of the barn and onto the trailer. Mitch had to block up the rear wheels of the truck to get the bed of the trailer low enough to match up with the Reid as it came off of its pedestal foundation. This ended up bending the rear axle, which wasn't noticed until we got the engine home so no harm was done. The wall and ceiling rafters of the barn were giving way as we pulled out the Reid, and everybody thought the old barn would collapse since it was leaning about fifteen degrees out. The gauger had told us not to worry about the building because the guy down the street was coming to get the lumber and. tin when we had finished. The flywheels on the Reid were about two inches short of clearing the door, but the barn didn't collapse and we were lucky all through the job.
Would you believe only a two-ton chain hoist put this much weight on the trailer? Our biggest risk was that we had no backup. The four cross ties we had nailed together worked fine as a base to keep stress off of the flywheels while loading and traveling. But these ties weighed an extra 500 pounds on an already overloaded trailer. At just about dark we had the Reid up and on the trailer and we were ready to head back to the motel for some much needed rest.
The weather had started getting worse as the cold front hit town. We decided to get as early a start as possible Sunday morning. It dropped to 40 degrees that night and the first fifteen miles out of Longview sleet was hitting Mitch's windshield. Luckily, he stayed ahead of the worst part of the storm all the way back to San Antonio. Mitch dropped the Reid off at my house around 5:00 p.m.
It took two more trips to Longview to get the rest of the pieces, including the clutch, which was sitting about ten feet behind the pinion shaft and pulley. My brother John went along on one of these trips but said it was definitely his last. Good help is such a job to find these days! The last time I drove by there, in August, even the foundations had been dug up and buried.
I had Mr. Earl Ihorn from Southwest Wheel and Brake Company build me a new set of wheels to support the weight of the Reid. I began restoring the engine in June 1987. After two days of sand blasting, the 57-plus years of dirt and rust came off. I started taking the engine apart to see how much damage the water had done to the inside. To my surprise the entire inside of the crank case had been coated with red lead paint to preserve the cast iron. The water had done very little damage. The piston rod and crank shaft were stopped in the 12 o'clock high position with only the crank weights in the water. After cleaning up the Reid, I gave it a coat of Rust-O-Leum gray primer and finished it in the original Machine Tool Gray color. The manzel lubricator was also full of water and sludge after the 57-plus years, but it was all there and ready to go again. In a separate compartment driven by a two inch side shaft were the magneto and governor, which remained watertight during the long sleep. The Wico mag, type OG, No. 34276, was like new. The Reid had patent numbers with dates of June 24, 1919, March 30, 1920, and September 29, 1925 stamped on the top nameplate along with the slogan 'Warranteed for all time.' The Stitt '778' sparkplug was still in the head.
July and August seemed to drag on as I made progress with the restoration. On August 20, 1987, Reagan came by and talked me into starting it up a week ahead of schedule. We did not have a cooling system hooked up yet, but I thought a couple of minutes warm-up was not too bad. I had hooked up a one inch air hose to the oil charging inlet port to help start rotation, since we could not move those huge flywheels against the compression stroke. This was a two cycle engine and we weren't too sure how to do it, anyway. After various experiments which produced a lot of loud bangs and backfires, we got the engine close to running by pouring some gasoline down the air intake instead of the hot tube ignitor port or sparkplug hole. I had run a butane line to the top fuel port above the four discs valves and then turned on the 1? air valve at 165 pounds of pressure to start rotation of the fly wheel. Suddenly, a loud bang blew up behind me. This turned out to be the air hose, but I hung on and had it running while everyone else was heading south in a big hurry.
It seemed to overspeed to about 375 RPM as we were experimenting with the right combinations of fuel to air mixtures, but the engine settled down to a good 115 RPM right away. Overspeed of these giant flywheels is something we all should try to avoid, or it could turn into an unhappy event. That is if you can catch up to them as they go down the road.
All during August I had been rushing to get it ready for the Speegleville show, but the passing away of my mother in late August threw all of my hard work and plans out. My brother John had brought her out to see what I was up to the morning we started the Reid up, and like all mothers she worried about me and this big old engine I was fooling around with. If this engine could wait 57-plus years to be 'born again', it could wait another few days until I got it right-the way it should be.
The good folks at Kendell County Fair called the other day and asked to see and hear my big engine run when it's ready to go on-the-road. I believe the general public should see and hear all these old rusty wheels run some day, and maybe they will inspire the younger ones to come on out and find one for themselves. I hope to see everybody at the Fredricksburg, Texas show next June, at the Hope, Arkansas show in August, and at the Speegleville show in October.