Twin engines of 800 HP

Twin engines of 800 HP

George G. Scott

Content Tools

15023 Pepperwood, Omaha, Nebraska 68154

Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back.' So read the motto of that mail-order giant, Montgomery Ward & Co. , after the turn of the century. It must not have been an idle saying, as they're still in business today. Some early information I have on the company from that same era states that their employment reached as high as 3,500 people. Their building, located at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Madison Street in Chicago, was powered by twin engines of 800 HP just to serve their own lighting and electrical needs.

We tend to take for granted the tremendous impact these huge catalog houses had on American rural life during the first half of this century. Their catalogs both educated the public as to the ever changing cornucopia of merchandise available, and provided a convenient outlet for purchasing. Even the most spectacular Grand Openings of new stores today pale in comparison to the thrill of receiving the new 'wish book' in the farm mailbox. The scope of merchandise sold was boundless- hardware, soft goods, toys, houses, even gas engines. Sears sold gas engines, the best known being the 'Economy', manufactured by Hercules. Ward, likewise, sold many Sattleys through their outlets.

According to Wendel's Encyclopedia of American Gas Engines, Ward offered the Newark Engine line prior to the Sattleys, and even before that, an engine called the 'Always Ready'. This Always Ready was manufactured by the Burtt Mfg. Co. of Kalamazoo, Michigan. It's the same as their 'Kalamazoo' engine, and was built in 2 HP and 5 HP sizes. Since I haven't been able to find any reference to either of these engines in back issues of GEM that I looked through, I presume neither company sold very many by either name. Maybe Montgomery Ward discovered too little 'satisfaction' and too much 'your money back', and found a different source.

In any event, I'm pleased to say that I now have one of the 2 HP Always Ready models. Harold Green located this engine near his home in Avoca, Iowa, and passed on to my family the opportunity to buy it as a surprise for me, Christmas last. It came in original condition, and seemed to be missing only the push rod for the exhaust valve. Given the years of neglect it had suffered, we considered it in pretty good shape.

The engine has a cylinder barrel bolted to the crankcase, with openings in the top for individual intake and exhaust valve assemblies to set in. The valves are then clamped down with a single stud bolt. It's a hit and miss engine, with the governor and cam mechanism mounted outside the crankcase. Cooling is by percolation through an external water tank. Gas is gravity fed through an Essex carburetor, with regulation of both air and gas. Another feature is heavy counterweights bolted onto the crankshaft inside the enclosed crankcase.

This is an upright engine, with the only apparent lubrication being accomplished with a drip oiler on one side of the cylinder wall. This must have been intended to oil the cylinder, as well as provide enough 'splash' to lubricate the rod bearing and the wrist pin. To help channel the oil to the wrist pin in the piston, it looks like the manufacturer rotated the I-beam shaped rod 90 degrees from normal, such that the plane of the web lines up with the wrist pin. I don't believe this system provided adequate lubrication, and was a serious design flaw with the engine.

When we tore down the engine, we found that the wrist pin bearing had, predictably, gone out. The enterprising owner had taken care of the problem, however. He simply poured in a little more babbitt, and soldered up the wrist pin tight to the rod. That probably looked okay to him, since he threw away the set screw and let the pin turn freely in the piston. Roger Mohling at Beatrice, Nebraska got us out of that one; he bored the rod and the piston, then made a new pin. Roger also helped with the valves, and found us new rings. We also found the main bearings were shot, and Tom Page, our auctioneer friend in Council Bluffs, helped my son pour new ones.

Without the help and advice of our friends who work on this old iron, we'd probably never get these engines going again. Thanks to many of them, this 'Always Ready' is now 'almost ready'. We really do plan to have it running when next summer's show season hits. And I guess I should clear up another point: I'm satisfied, and don't want my money back!