An 'N'-ticing Old Engine

A 5 HP Model N puts the icing on the cake for a Kentucky Fairbanks-Morse collector


The starting side of the engine showing the air pump and valve.

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This is the story of my 1905 Fairbanks-Morse 5 HP Model N. The old engine was built in May of 1905, as it has '5-5-05' stamped on the end of the crankshaft. The late Harold Ottaway of Wichita, Kan., brought it out of Canada in the late 1940s. It went from there to the John Hall collection in Cape Girardeau, Mo., in the early 1960s.

I first saw the engine in 1998 when my son-in-law and I were at John's place for a visit and buying trip. To visit John's place was like stepping into a large museum of days gone by. At that time, John wouldn't even talk about selling the engine. We visited and talked several times with the same results - no sale! Eventually, my patience paid off. In 2002 I was able to buy the N for my already extensive Fairbanks collection, as John decided to downsize his operation. Acquiring this engine was like adding the 'crown jewel' to my collection.

The engine was pretty well all there, even the air start pump. The cylinder had a freeze crack that had been repaired very poorly, so I removed it and repaired it to suit myself. Surprisingly enough, it wasn't stuck, just snug. The 5-inch cylinder bore and piston are of stock configuration. The piston is 7 inches long and uses five 1/2-inch-wide rings, which I replaced with reproductions from Dave Reed of Otto Gas Engine Works, Elkton, Md. I then cleaned the rod and piston and reinserted it into the cylinder. I welded up a broken governor weight by myself, as I routinely did welding in my trade. The exhaust valve was the biggest problem to confront me: It took many hours of soaking and heat application to 'defrost' it.

I used DuPont Centari acrylic enamel, no. 74713A, in addition to the Ultra hardener kit, to paint the engine. I also re-plumbed all the fuel system lines and built the skids for it to rest on. I built these from wood I obtained from my good friend Ted Cantrell of Pioneer Wood Products, Palmersville, Tenn. The Cantrells are also avid collectors and restorers of engines, tractors, cars and steam engines. I had help fabricating the cooling tank from my neighbor, Bob Kuta, who is a sheet metal worker by trade. We had no dimensions to follow, so we just came up with a size we felt looked right with the engine. This is the second cooling tank Bob and I have worked on together, the other being for a 3 HP tank-cooled FMZ.

Once all said and done, the engine started right up, and to this day runs very well. Since its completion, it has made the show circuit in Kentucky, Illinois, Tennessee and Indiana, including the 2003 Tri-State Gas Engine Show in Portland, Ind.

Prior to my ownership, this engine had not been run before it was acquired by Harold Ottaway in the 1940s. It is a great feeling of accomplishment to start it up and know it is probably just as capable of performing its job now as it was back then.

There are several Gas Engine Magazine advertisers and suppliers I would like to thank for their help and advice on this project: Keith Billet, York, Pa. - for the beautiful reproduction air start valve. A great piece of work, Keith! Dan Crist, Quinter, Kan. - all hot tube castings and burner castings with prints. Lee Pedersen, New York - pot muffler castings. All friends, neighbors and fellow collectors from all over. Your help is greatly appreciated!

Contact engine enthusiast Richard L. Brown at: 175 Sonnet Lane, Gilbertsville, KY 42044; (270) 362-4496;