The 2002 Tri-State Gas Engine and Tractor Show in Portland, Ind., has come and gone, but the memories of this year's show will stay bright for a long time because of my son, Lincoln, and his quest for his first flywheel engine.
I have been involved with stationary engines for the last six years or so, and Lincoln, who is 9 years old, has also developed quite a love of old iron. He has spent many an hour with me grinding off rust or scraping away grease. A few years ago at Christmas his grandfather, a committed 'rustaholic,' gave him a 1954 Briggs & Stratton 5S that was in need of a lot of TLC. Lincoln took it apart, cleaned it up, put it back together and got it running again. From that point on, he was hooked!
Lincoln didn't go with me to the 2000 Portland show, but he decided he needed a Maytag and sent me some of his allowance money to buy one. A lot of work (and a lot of learning on his part) resulted in a nicely restored 1929 Maytag 92. With the help of his grandfather we built a nice four-wheeled cart for each engine so they would 'look cool.'
Ever since he finished his Maytag, he has wanted to get his own hit-and-miss stationary engine. I told him that he needed to be able to start my 1 -3/4 HP Economy S by himself before he could get one, and much to his pleasure he succeeded in doing just that earlier this year. From that point on his plan was to buy an engine at this year's Portland show. Lincoln, it should be known, is 'squeaky tight' with his money, and he has saved pretty much every penny of allowance, Christmas and birthday money he has ever received. That diligence resulted in a nice stockpile of money that was enough to finance his quest for a new engine. So he went up to Portland this year with one goal in mind - to buy an engine!
Early on our first full day, with his money burning a hole in his pocket, we were out in the vendor area in search of the perfect engine - I'm pretty sure he looked at just about every engine out there. Finally, late in the afternoon we ran across a 1-3/4 HP Nelson Bros. TA4 that was badged as 'The MacLeod Engine' from MacLeod's Farm Supplies, Winnipeg-Saskatoon. The good news was the size was right, it was a hit-and-miss, it was complete, had a lot of original paint and pin striping, and the price was within reach. The bad news was it had zero compression, worn governor and cam gears and the Wiko EK looked like it had seen better days. Lincoln decided this was the engine he wanted, but I convinced him he should think about it awhile.
The next morning we were out looking at the engine again, and I told him we should make a deal with the seller and buy the engine. A final price was agreed upon, and from that point on the seller couldn't have handled the deal any better than he did. He had Lincoln count out the money into his hand, asked him how much change he needed back, and then said, 'Now, you are buying this with your own money, right?' To which Lincoln replied, 'yes.' He then handed Lincoln a $20 bill back and said, 'Here, this is for the restoration.' Needless to say, Lincoln was on cloud nine!
We are ATIS Stationary Engine List members, and when we got the engine back to the ATIS display area Dave Rotigel said to Lincoln, 'Okay, let's get it running.' I'll admit that with the engine's total lack of compression and sad-looking magneto I was more than a little skeptical.
We started out by pouring a lot of oil in the oiler hole and onto the dry rings and putting the Wiko EK from my Economy on it. With a squeeze bottle of gas, a rag shoved into the mixer (to soak up the gas and feed it to the engine) and a great pull-apart Champion spark plug that Dave gave to Lincoln, we were able to get it to fire a few times. A big smile came across Lincoln's face when he realized the MacLeod might actually spring to life. At this point we poured more oil down the oiler hole so it could soak over the piston rings and, hopefully, increase the engine's compression.
While letting it soak, Lincoln took the magneto apart and started cleaning it up. Much to our surprise, it looked to be in pretty good shape after all. We took the magneto over to Larry Thomas, who set the points and gave the magnets a charge. When we tested it, it gave a nice blue spark, so back on the engine it went. With the 'gas tank on a rag' trick shoved in the mixer and a few spins of the flywheels it sprang to life for the first time in who knows how many years! With a little refinement in our technique we were able to get it running on the governor for several minutes. The look on Lincoln's face was priceless!
Thanks to a lot of people at the show, especially the ATIS list members and Dave Rotigel, Portland 2002 will always be a very special memory.
Contact engine enthusiast Mike Tucker at: 502 Davistown Road, Midway, KY 40347, or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org