Portland 2003

The Spotlight was on Engines at the year's Biggest Show

20 HP Stickney

Thirteen-year-old Markus Inman puts himself to the task of starting the 20 HP Stickney belonging to his grandfather, Charlie Inman.

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How many engines are too many? I don't think there's anybody in the old iron collective who can answer that question, at least not honestly. The more you look around, the more you learn. The more you learn, the more engines you want. There are so many different styles, so many engines with different solutions to the same mechanical problem that it's impossible to say 'when.'

This basic fact creates an even bigger problem whenever you go to a show, because you're bound to trip across at least one engine you've either never seen, never heard of or just have to have, for whatever reason. This problem is made even worse when the engine show in question happens to be the annual gas-engine extravaganza that is Portland. Aug. 20-24 witnessed the Tri-State Gas Engine & Tractor Association's 38th Annual Anniversary Reunion, and like most of the 37 shows that came before, it was a knockout event.


With something in the neighborhood of 2,000 engines showing up at Portland every year, it's pretty much impossible to imagine you'll have seen every engine that's displayed at the show. Engines on display range from the ultra rare to the most common, and between those two ends of the engine spectrum almost anything is possible.

Take, for example, the Joyner double-acting tandem that John Davidson, Bristol, Wis., had on display. Built about 1920, the Joyner is a marvel of engineering prowess, addressing mechanical issues most of us have likely never even pondered. With two pistons running in-line, and firing on both ends, the Joyner operates as a four-cylinder engine with a common connecting rod, and it was unquestionably the most unique engine at this year's show.

Paul Jackson gets his 6 HP 1913 IHC tank-cooled Famous ready to run. Paul bought the engine from its original owners 40 years ago. Sitting on non-original trucks, the engine is otherwise very original, down to the battery box, cooling screen and air shield.

Gary Shonk's 1-1/2 HP Royal, serial no. 1257. Very little is known about the engine's builder, Smith & Sons Mfg. Co., Kansas City, Mo., and this is one of the only known surviving examples from the company.

Carl Stewart brought a trailer full of engines this year, including this very nice 1-1/4 HP Galloway, which Carl says will be his last restoration. Carl does all his work in his back yard, and the level of restoration on his engines is nothing short of fantastic. The 4 HP screen-cooled Jacobson sideshaft pictured on page 1 also belongs to Carl.

The engine runs, and it's a fascinating beast to watch in action; and that's before you notice the 'trombone-slide' cooling pipe that feeds water to cool the connecting rod and pistons. The pipe is fixed to the connecting rod and moves back and forth with every stroke of the engine, passing through a packing gland and casing affixed to the right side of the engine. Not only that, the Joyner has two water pumps; one to supply cooling water to the connecting rod and pistons, and a second to supply cooling water to the cylinder jackets.

Then there was the engine you couldn't miss if you tried, Charlie Inman's 20 HP Stickney. Charlie's Stickney was a moose of a machine, it's proportions almost a caricature of a smaller 3 HP Stickney. Charlie, who brought the engine all the way from Havre, Mont., isn't sure when the Stickney was made, but he knows that it was sold in 1916. Charlie got the engine running this past March, and he's still reeling at the response from engine fans witnessing this engine (it's the only one known) run.

The Stickney always had a crowd around it, many of them lining up just to watch Charlie's grandson, 13-year-old Markus Inman, get it started. With a finesse that belied his age, Markus would rock the Stickney back on compression and fire it, to the obvious delight of everyone watching. By the end of the show, Markus was a legend in his own right. Charlie's Stickney has an amazing story behind it, and we'll devote a feature to it in the near future.

Another young participant was 18-year-old Doug Mixter, Pittsburgh, Pa., who proudly showed his 15 HP hopper-cooled, sideshaft Witte, the only known example (although there are reports of another somewhere in the Midwest).

Robert Harman's 1/4-scale hot tube Bessemer, which he put together this year from rough castings, is modeled on a 10 HP engine. Robert chose to leave it unpainted, or in its 'working clothes.'

Sid Heckman's very rare 5 HP 1910 Rumsey made by G.B. Rumsey Machine Co., Friendship, N. Y. Note the two spark plugs, a fail-safe in case a plug fouled during service.

Doug bought the Witte at the show, so he doesn't have much history on it, but the very fact that he's worked to get to the point of having such an incredible piece of gas engine history speaks volumes for his interest and ability. Showing serial no. 5388, the Witte was built before 1911, but an exact date isn't known.

Doug, a full-time machinist, also had part of his 500-strong collection of oilers on hand, and the variety and rarity of his collection is stunning. He started collecting oilers before engines, mostly because he couldn't afford engines when he was 10. Doug's dad, Budd Mixter, says Doug has probably sold a few thousand to get the collection he has. 'I sell the junk ones so I can get the good ones,' Doug says.

Tractors and Others

Portland is more than engines, of course, and the tractor crowd was out in full force. Cockshutt tractors were this year's feature, and models on display ranged from the perfectly preserved to the perfectly restored.

There were the usual tractor oddities, as well, like the tiny prototype Crosley tractor, complete with mower, cultivator, plow and planter, owned by Paul and Shirley Gorrell, Burlington, Iowa. And Bill Stegman, Breedsville, Mich., showed off his father's circa 1935 Parrett Model 6, one of a few left.

But for us, this show is mostly about engines, and what a show it was. The variety and quality of engines on display at Portland never disappoints, and this year was no exception.

Richard Backus is editor of Gas Engine Magazine. Contact him at: 1503 S.W. 42nd. St., Topeka, KS 66609-1265, or via e-mail at: rbackus@ogdenpubs.com