Midwest Old Threshers, 1887 Threshers Road, Mt. Pleasant, Iowa 52641
After 21 years, a father-son duo saw their complete set of one-cylinder Novo upright Model S gas engines fully restored and operating for the first time last summer at the Old Threshers Reunion in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa.
Louis Tuller of Mt. Pleasant and his son Barry Tuller, now of Humboldt, Tennessee, collected the set of nine engines from 1976 to 1989. The first Novo to become a part of the Tullers collection was a 2 HP that they found in an Old Threshers Reunion swap tent. Next they discovered a rare 1 HP Novo Jr., under a workbench of a man living only a few blocks from the Old Threshers grounds. Those two finds were enough to prompt the Tullers to round out the complete line. Through swap meets, sales, and word-of-mouth, they built the collection from Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska and Kansas. The line was completed with the 10 HP in 1988 from St. Louis and the 8 HP in 1989 from Pratt, Kansas.
Novo Model S gas engines range from the single-cylinder 1 HP Jr., 1.5 HP, 2 HP, 3 HP, 4 HP, 6 HP, 8 HP, and 10 HP, to the two-cylinder 12 HP and 15 HP.
Louis Tuller, who is a member of the Old Threshers Board of Directors, said he and Barry began the restoration work in 1989. They tore the engines completely apart and set about rebuilding them. The Tullers put their mechanical abilities to the test and, using Louis' shop, made all of the engine parts that were missing. 'That's the way it is with any old engine,' explained Louis. 'There just usually aren't any parts available. You can look at swap meets, but finding is difficult.'
Figuring out how to make the missing Novo parts wasn't as challenging a process as it is for rare engines, Tuller said. A restorer working on a rarity might need to check the public library archives in the city where the engine was manufactured to locate photographs of the engine. The photos can be enlarged and then copied to become a blueprint for the work ahead, Tuller explained. But since there is a series of Novo engines, the Tullers had ready examples as patterns.
During the restoration, the Tullers took apart each engine and ground down all of the castings. The end result? Engines that are more highly refined than the originals. 'Now these engines look better than they did when they came off the line,' Louis said. 'When they are first made, the castings are rough. They didn't take the time to smooth them out like we did. We grind them all down and then put primer coats on them. Then we hang all the pieces in the paint room so they can dry individually. It just depends on how far you want to go.'
Particularly challenging for Tuller in the project was the 10 HP. He put in close to 1,000 hours restoring that engine alone. A crack running from the top of the water hopper to the bottom demanded extensive work. Tuller built a furnace over the hopper to weld it back together, 'I remember spending about four hours one hot July day in the shop out back welding that back together,' Louis said.
The last engine they tackled was the 15 HP, which is on loan from Cool-spring, Pennsylvania. Louis admits it was restored in a 'rush job' during the summer in order to be done in time for the Reunion. Their plan is to have it running in 1998.
The Tuller's hard work was worth while when the entire restored Novo line was unveiled for the first time at the 1997 Old Threshers Reunion. All of the engines (with the exception of the 15 HP) ran simultaneously for the first time for about four hours on Sunday of the Labor Day weekend show. But the Tullers weren't holding their breath for the feat to happen. Ironically, a problem cropped up with an engine that had initially taken right off the same day that Louis bought it. But when it was fired up with the rest of the engines in a test run on Friday afternoon, the 3 HP quit after only 15 minutes.
'I didn't think it would run, but I went home and looked for something in the shop that I thought might work,' Louis said. 'I had a feeling if it ran, the rest of them would.'
On Sunday the Tullers started the engines again, beginning with the 10 HP, working their way down the gleaming line of green machines. 'I told Barry, 'I'll start 'em, you keep 'em running,'' Louis said.
When the father and son got the engines going, they not only generated power, but a lot of interest at Old Threshers as well. The people attending the show could see and hear the engines running and word quickly spread through the grounds. 'There was quite a bit of excitement,' Louis noted.
The next time the collection will likely make an appearance will be at the 1998 Southeast Iowa Antique Gas Engine Show in Burlington, which will be featuring the Novo engine.
History of the Novo Engine
In 1890, the Novo engine was developed by Cady & North, owners of a small machine shop in North Lansing, Michigan. They were succeeded by Cady & Hildreth who manufactured picket saw mills.
They in turn were succeeded by Hildreth & Sons, who manufactured two-cylinder marine engines and farm pumps. The name was changed in 1901 to Hildreth Motor & Pump Company.
In 1906 the name was changed to Hildreth Manufacturing Company. The company moved to its present location, which had been occupied by the Schultz Stave Mill.
Two-cycle marine engines and pumps were made until 1908, when the first Type S engine2-2 HP, vertical, four-cycle, hopper-cooledwas designed and marketed to meet the growing demand for an engine for the farmer and cement mixing. The following year other engine sizes were added to bring the range offered from the small junior to 10 HP in single cylinder while 12 & 15 HP were offered in the twin-cylinder models.
By 1911, the Novo Engine Company became the new name, the name 'Novo' having been adopted from the Latin word novus meaning new.
By 1914, the Novo Engine Company was selling engines and many machines, such as hoists, saw rigs, pressure pumps, diaphragm pumps, centrifugal and deep well pumps, crop spraying outfits and air compressors.
The Type S engine was produced until 1928, with over 100,000 engines manufactured. The Type S was all but discontinued in 1921 when the Novo multi-cylinder engines were introduced.
The company is in existence today as a division of American Marsh Pump Inc., Novo Engine Division, Lansing, Michigan.