Backus: The Sequel

Or You Want Engines? Here Are Engines!



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Starting Party

3 Edna Terrace, New Hartford, NY 13413,

I was preparing to go and visit Wayne Grenning to help him with his latest model project, a 1/3 scale model of his 5 HP electric lighting Otto, when he mentioned that Stiles Bradley was going to start the 14 HP Backus he had recovered earlier on in the summer, and was I interested in going? Indeed, I was! The time was set for Sunday, October 31, 12:00 noon, at Stiles' place in Pavilion, NY. I arrived to find many die-hard engine folks in attendance, including the wrecking crew (see Nov 1999 GEM, page 14). Stiles has what I consider one of the best private engine collections in the Northeast.

Stiles and Craig Prucha had been hard at work getting the engine in operating condition. The flat valve seats were ground, and new rings were needed to replace the worn originals. The engine was also given a general cleaning up to get the river silt off it and to clean up the gears and head. Not much else was needed, since the engine was in very good mechanical shape to begin with. As soon as Sunday noon arrived, Stiles and Craig prepared the Backus for starting. The pump was primed, the mixer was pumped up, wiring, cooling etc. was all in order. The engine was soon oiled and ready to go. Stiles and Craig grabbed hold of the flywheels, and the Backus soon barked to life after 50 years idle.* Photo 1 shows the moment of starting.

Upon seeing the Backus out in the sun, some interesting features became noticeable. The pendulum governor is mounted on a tube, which moves back and forth with the motion of an eccentric on the cam gear. This also operates the ignition circuit breaker, fuel pump, and fuel valve on the mixer, when it's engaged by the governor. The exhaust valve pushrod goes through the tube and is operated by a normal cam, which is also on the cam gear. This keeps the exhaust and governor action timed properly. Photo 2 shows the details. Also of note is a cylinder patch riveted on by an old tyme blacksmith. The engine ran until the battery died.

Attention was then turned to some of the other engines in the shed.

*This isn't entirely true: The engine was briefly started the day before for some admirers who couldn't attend the official starting.


Stiles' beautifully restored 15 HP Bovaird and Seyfang single-valve oil field engine was then prepared for starting. This hot tube ignition engine came from an abandoned oil lease in Pennsylvania. Stiles and Craig soon had this engine running (photo 3). Next, a beautifully original 4 HP Callahan was pulled out and started. Photo 4 shows this engine. For those unfamiliar with the Callahan design, the vertical flyball governor, which can barely be seen between the flywheels, actually disengages the entire sideshaft such that the exhaust valve is held open on the idle cycles. When the engine needs to fire, the sideshaft engages and the engine fires. The 4 HP is the smallest size Callahan made. Stiles has three other Callahans, one of which can be seen at the Coolspring Power Museum in Coolspring, Pennsylvania.

A 5 HP Springfield A was next to be started, as seen in photo 5. This is one of 3 Springfield 'A' engines that Stiles owns, including the 1 HP engine at the Coolspring Power Museum. He also has two Springfield type 'B' engines, one of which was also started (Photo 6). A sideshaft on the 'off side of the engine opens the exhaust valve. This is ported through the water jacket and to the back of the cylinder, where it meets the auxiliary exhaust port. A crank on the end of the sideshaft moves a slide which has a pendulum governor attached. The pick blade of the governor, when engaged, pushed another slide along the bottom of the head. This opens the gas inlet on the intake stroke, and trips the ignitor when it is pulled back by the first slide. A barn fresh 25 HP Foos Electric Lighting engine is seen in Photo 7. This engine was originally used to power a grain elevator. Note the extra heavy crowned flywheels. Other engines in the collection include a future project, an engine made by A. Seybert and Bros., of Bradys Bend, Pennsylvania. Photo 8 shows this unique oil field engine, which has such features as a chunk of oil well casing for a water jacket, hot tube ignition, single flywheel (not shown), and an unusual valve mechanism. One of my favorites, aside from the Springfields and Callahans, is this small Lambert engine (Photo 9). I wouldn't kick this engine out of my collection to make room for a Maytag!

...and more engines!

Craig Prucha lives just around the corner and up the road from Stiles, so we all went there to marvel at his fine collection. He has a very well equipped shop, some of which is powered by a 5 HP Economy engine. His latest project is the Swan engine in Photo 10. This engine worked the oil fields of Ohio many years ago. Photo 11 shows the engine at the Coolspring Power Museum grounds before Craig bought it. This unusual engine features hot tube and jump spark ignition (the mag hasn't been installed; 'real engines don't have magnetos'), crosshead design, powered intake and throttling flyball governor. The Swan can be idled down to less than 60 r.p.m. Craig's 40 HP Olin was also started (Photo 12), and showed its ability to heave empty Adult Beverage containers high in the air. This engine ran a fruit dryer in Sanborn, NY, from 1901 until 1917, when the dryer burned down. The foundation for the dryer, which was the largest in the state at the time, can still be seen by the mill in Sanborn. The engine is equipped with both hot tube ignition and an ignitor, which is not installed. Note the governor inside the cam gear. The engine has 6 ft. crowned flywheels, which weigh around 2200 lbs each. The engine itself weighs about 9,000 lbs, and has a 12?' bore, and 20' stroke.

At that point, I had to mosey back to take the kids trick-or-treating. Thus concluded a most interesting tour of the Pavilion Engine Collections.