7308 Ladybug Austin, Texas 78744
I was at an engine show in Hillsboro, Texas when Mr. Jamison came by and told me about an old drag line with a large one cylinder engine. It was owned by a Mr. Joe B. Fortson of Corsicana, Texas. After talking to Mr. Fortson, I got discouraged because he wanted too much money for it. Later, I was talking to my good friend Jim Withers about it and he encouraged me to go have a look at it anyway. As you might guess, I was hooked after I saw it! It was a 90 HP Charter with 7'4' eight spoke flywheels. In a week or two, I was able to get Mr. Fortson to come off his price a bit and made the purchase.
Now came the job of getting it home. The engine was both the powerplant for the dragline and the counterbalance for its seventy-foot boom. We were fortunate in that a big pecan tree growing through the opening in the bucket, or shovel, was also supporting the boom. Otherwise, the whole thing would have toppled over when the engine was removed.
Since the Charter had a short base, we had to jack it up 21 inches to slide 20 inch I-beams under it. I guess I should go back and tell about our help. We had two welders, Jody Thomas and Hugh Ferguson, Hugh's son William and Jody's father Sammy and one fellow from Mexico. All good help, I might add. After 10 hours of hard work and some fifteen ton railroad jacks, we got it loaded on a truck which was about the same level of the platform in the dragline.
After that long day, it was my job to drive home 150 miles to Austin with the engine. Early the next morning, I got up and took it to my good friend Melvin Kropt's shop where he had a dock to unload it on for rebuilding.
We called on Jim Withers again to cast and machine some missing parts. He did a beautiful job, as usual. The credit for getting it running goes to Melvin. When he pressed the intake valve out of the cage, the valve guide and part of the cage came out with it. He completely remachined a new valve guide, the busted part of the cage, and put it all back together.
The bore and stroke is 17'x24'. We were lucky the piston was stopped where we could use come-alongs tied from the flywheels down to the I-beam frame. After moving the piston about four or five inches, we tied around the front of the cylinder and pulled it forward again. It doesn't take long to tell about it, but it took five or six hours to get the piston loosened up.
Melvin used a neighbor's forklift to remove the piston and cylinder (he could probably write a page or two about that part). With some adjustments on the linkage and a few other things, we belted Melvin's Fordson tractor to the pulley and it started the first time. The second time we tried it, it ran real good. We were using two men to start it until the second show I took it to. There, I climbed the flywheel and started it by myself. It can be started easily by one person most of the time.
I think this is the largest 'hit and miss' engine that is running in the U.S.A. I'd like to hear from anyone who knows of a larger one.