A Reclaimed Schmidt Gas Engine

Air cooled model

Air cooled model

Content Tools

11239 Allegheny Road, Forestville, New York 14062

In Western New York, along the shore of Lake Erie, lie the remains of dairy farms that date from the 1800's and early 1900's. A big labor saver arrived on the scene, when gas engines replaced hand pumps for watering animals, for spraying, and all those other farm chores. One farm put an engine in a shed and belted it to a line shaft that ran into the barn where a pump was located. This arrangement worked for many years, until more modern methods came along. The engine finally was pulled to the side of the farmer's house and there it sat.

Forty years later, I was on my way in to town, when I noticed said engine next to the house, but now within a small patch of saplings. It was late autumn and the leaves had fallen, making it visible. Asking Mr. Sommer, son of the original owner, if I could look at it, I was led to the saplings and told the opening history. Still sticking from the end of the barn is the wooden pulley and line shaft. The engine had fallen on hard times. Mr. Sommer put oil on the various parts every year and the piston and flywheels were free, but this was an upright air cooled model and the cooling fins had disintegrated, and the cylinder broken in half. He was about ready to haul this iron to the junkpile. The nameplate read: Schmidt's Chilled Cylinder, 3 HP, Type H, Serial #4125. We struck a deal and I came back to load it the next day.

Checking in American Gasoline Engines, I found that here was quite a peculiar engine and wondered if there was any way to restore such a mess. The cylinder was sent out west to a foundry that does repairs, but it came back marked as too far gone. The next spring at the Chautauqua County Antique Equipment Gas Up, it was suggested that I see Ray Enser, a dab hand at welding. If the fins were ground off, possibly he could weld the cylinder back together. This was done and my cousin, Jerry Hartloff, made eleven new fins of steel on a machine that follows a template, cuts with acetylene, and turns out exact copies. Mr. Enser then took over and after a while unveiled his work. He made a form to tightly slide the cylinder over. The fins also had to slide on before welding, as the top and bottom are wider than the actual cylinder wall. Ray claims that this project was probably his most difficult. The result was amazing.

The gas tank, fan and shroud had long since rusted off. Mr. William Smith of California, who had written a Schmidt article in GEM, sent a bit of original fan for measurement. Our local tinsmith, John Hershberger, made a new tank of stainless steel and supplied material for the fan. After valve and ignition work, painting, and cart building, the Schmidt was finally ready to start. On the second turn of the flywheel, away it went and ran quite smoothly to boot. Its first show was at the Chautauqua County Antique Equipment Show this August where many photos and videos were taken. This project seemed hopeless when first started a year and a half ago but the results are far beyond what I could have expected.