A Marine Engine For My Collection

Old marine engines

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12403 E. 34th Avenue Tacoma, Washington 98446

My wife Janet and I went to the Early Day Gas Engine &. Tractor Show at Grass Valley, California, in 1993. While we were there we saw a couple of old marine engines that I really liked. They were vertical four-cycle open crank type with lots of brass and parts moving. I told my wife I would like to find one of them for my collection. We have been restoring engines and machinery for several years. Well, this winter I found one close to my home that was for sale. I bought it and started working on it right away.

It is a 6 HP Hicks that was built in San Francisco, California, about 1910. The man I got it from told me he bought it from an old boat yard in South Bend, Washington, several years ago. I had met the man who owns the boat yard as he is also a collector of old outboard motors. I made a trip down to South Bend to ask him if he remembered the engine and he said he did. They took it out of a fishing boat that fished in the ocean out of South Bend, Washington. South Bend is about five miles up the Willapa River. They put a four-cylinder electric start engine in the boat. He did not remember the name of the boat or the exact year the engine was changed. The engine had been cooled with fresh water. The fresh water was pumped through some piping that ran along the boat keel. They call it a 'Keel Cooler.' The engine was in running shape when it was taken out. It hasn't any bad rust in the water jacket. Most of the boat engines that were used in the ocean are soon destroyed by rust in the water jacket after they are taken out. It had some parts on it that were not right. The intake valve push rod and clevis were 'homemade' out of steel. I used the exhaust clevis as a pattern to send to the foundry.

Two of three main bearing oil covers were gone. I used the one I had as a pattern and had three new ones cast. I ground the valves and checked the rings and they were still good so I did not change them. I took a couple of shims out of the main bearings and stripped off the old paint and grease and started putting it back together.

I built the base for it so I could put the cooling tank in the base below the engine. I had a nice brass gas tank in my shop for a couple of years waiting for a boat engine to put it on. It was a lot of fun putting it back together, putting on all the finishing touches and paint on it. Getting it started was a two day exhausting job because I did not know how to adjust all the levers and stuff. There is a cross-shaft at the rear of the engine with the cam lobes on it. There is a high and low lobe that operates the exhaust valve. There is an eccentric lever on the rocker arm and, when it is adjusted for starting, the low lobe on the cam works as a compression release so you can pull it through the compression cycle. There is also an eccentric lever on the intake rocker arm. This one controls the amount the intake valve opens and still another eccentric lever on the ignitor push rod to control the spark advance. It has a Schebler carburetor on it which has a needle valve and an air control valve to also adjust. I found out through trial and error that you have to leave the throttle control wide open and control the engine speed only with the opening of the intake valve. I now can start the engine easily and it runs very well. By adjusting everything just right it will run steadily below 100 rpm. The engine hasn't any starting crank or holes for bar starting on the outside of the flywheel.

In talking about the Hicks engine with the old gentleman at the boat yard, he told me this engine was 'stomp started.' I asked him what he meant by 'stomp start'; he told me that the engine was always mounted real low in the boat. The floor of the boat next to the engine was about one-third of the way up from the lowest part of the flywheel. The operator stood alongside the engine and put his foot on the flywheel rim and stomped his foot down to the floor and that way he had both hands free to adjust everything. The man at the boat yard is very interesting to talk to and knows a lot about old boats and motors. I should have gone to the boat yard and talked to him before I tried to start it. I know I would have saved myself a lot of work. I am looking forward to showing it this summer at the shows we go to here in Washington and Oregon. The before picture shows the engine before I unloaded it at my place. The three little people in the picture are some of our grandchildren, Karley, Kraig and Kiersten. They go to a few engine shows with us and are real interested in all the old machines. Maybe they are the next generation of collectors. If anyone has information on this engine or the company that made it I would sure like to talk to you!