York Road, Leicester, N.Y.
I have a collection of old farm type engines and two drag saws that I restored and each of them was in terrible condition when I got them. The challenge presented in attempting to make a hopeless looking piece of junk run and look similar to what it did when it was new gives me a greater feeling of satisfaction then securing one which is 'just like new'. Recently I secured an engine which presents not only a challenge but a down-right discouraging situation. This engine has such an interesting background that I feel I must attempt to restore it to the best of my ability and I hope that some one of GEM's readers can help me with information, a picture or knowledge of one like it which I can visit and see.
One of my hobbies is amateur radio and with its use I have been able to talk to many people on the 'air', make many new friends, and meet many interesting people. When one first meets a new friend on the 'air' it is customary to break the ice by talking about the equipment each has, where they live, their name and etc., but after this first contact other topics are presented in order that each may get better acquainted. One amateur radio operator I met in this manner lives in Wanakena, N.Y. and I found that he has been a guide in the Adirondack Mountains and has lived in this area most of his life. We talked about fishing, hunting and canoeing and then I started talking about 'Old Engines' and in the course of the conversation he told me he knew of an old one cylinder marine engine which was buried in the Oswegatchie River still in the original boat and had been there for some 52 years. The old engine sounded interesting to me but I passed over it quickly for it was apparent that it would be nothing but rust and dirt by this time. As time went on I talked to my friend, Herbert Keith, many times and we quickly became very good friends. In later talks we discussed this old engine and Herb told me some of its history and then wrote a letter telling me all about it.
My friend, Herb, told me that in 1909 or 1910 the Rich Lumber Company cut and sawed up the trees found in the forest around Wanakena and the Oswegatchie River and at that time had a master mechanic working for them who, along with other duties, built boats for the officials of the company to use on the river. This gentleman's son, who is now in his seventies, lives and works in Black River, N.Y. at this date and is himself a master mechanic. The Oswegatchie River as it forms and runs into Cranberry Lake is really rather small as rivers go, is narrow, crooked, contains many rocks and shallow rapids, but, especially at that time, contained some mighty fine trout. Since it was quite a job to paddle up-stream to where the good fishing was the officials of the company asked this Master Mechanic if he would or could build a power boat for use on this river. Since he was a true craftsman he said he would try. At first it was thought the engine, which this story is concerned with, was purchased at that time new from the manufacturer, but it has been ascertained that the engine was used when it was installed in this boat. We can find no history of it back further than this date however, it was made by the Truscott Boat Mfg. Co., St. Joseph, Michigan and has a serial number of 2065. The mechanic had the problem of designing the boat so it could operate in shallow water, over rocks, and through shallow fast rapids so he built it with a tunnel in the bottom for the propeller to operate in. This tunnel was covered with iron straps so the propeller was protected at all times. It appears that any useful rudder he devised would easily be torn off the boat so he decided to steer the boat with pike poles. The boat was heavy and the river very crooked so it was a hard job to steer it up and down the river and it wasn't long until the men who did the work on the boat named it the 'Beast' and the name was painted on her bows. Penny postcards were made up of this boat and sold as souvenirs. It wasn't used very long and was left tied up at the landing on the river called Inlet until it finally sank. When the lumber company finished their lumbering and moved out the whole thing was left right there in the river in the year 1912. For a number of years when the water was low in the late summer one could see the round top of the engine sticking up out of the water. In the 1930's when my friend Herb Keith and a fellow guide and his friend, Wilford Morrison, were guiding on the river they discussed that someday they were going to get that engine out of the river.
When I talked to Herb about engine restoration and we discussed this particular engine in the fall of 1964 he became interested in recovering it so he, along with two friends of his, went looking for the engine and what was left of the boat. They found the engine, lassoed the cylinder with a rope and tried to pull it up into the boat but found they couldn't move it at all. The next day they all went back with ropes, chains, block and tackle, and a 'come-a-long' determined to get it out. They used a large white pine tree on shore for an anchor point and with the equipment began to pull. Soon this engine which had laid underwater, in this boat, since 1912, came ashore. When the engine came up out of the water enough oil came out of it so the oil showed on the water and . the men could smell old oil as well.
The men took the engine back to Wanakena, made a bed for it and began to look it over. The flywheel would turn over and the engine looked, generally, like an engine though the push-rod and steel parts were pretty well gone. Some of the ignitor was eaten away and the mixing valve was missing. When the next spring, 1965, arrived my friend gave me the engine and 1 brought it to my home. I wrote to the engine company in St. Joseph but of course my letter was returned so then I wrote to the Chamber of Commerce of that city and they were kind enough to answer my letter but told me they could be of no help for the company had been out of business so long they had no information about it. Mr. Bob Hux-table of Lansing, Michigan told me that the company went out of business in 1920
I set the engine up on the bench, started to work on it, only to set it back on the floor many times, for it seemed to be a hopeless case. This spring I got more courage and really began, in earnest, to work on it and now feel hopeful as far as the basic engine is concerned. The cylinder and crankcase castings are good as is the head and flywheel. I have ground the crankshaft and its connecting rod throw and made new main bearing bushings. The connecting rod is in good shape but will have to make a new wrist pin for the piston. The piston is good and quite shiny and has two rings each three fourths of an inch wide. Yes, three quarters of an inch wide. The water pump which is a piston type can be repaired and the cylinder can be honed. The mixing valve and ignitor present problems. The moving part of the ignitor is gone completely and I don't even know what it looked like.
I am hoping that some kind engine fan can help me and any help would be greatly appreciated. I feel the history of this engine creates enough interest so it deserves to be brought back to life, if at all possible.