Clay vertical sideshaft engines

Brass Water Pump

Content Tools

6152 Sutter Loop West, Owensboro, Kentucky 42301

The Clay vertical sideshaft engine was built by the Clay Machine Company of Cleveland, Ohio. The tag reads 'Honest Clay', heavy duty engine, serial #3115.

This engine was used to power a small tugboat on Green River and Rough Creek, running from Livermore to Hartford, Kentucky, delivering supplies before and during the Depression when water travel was one of the best modes of transportation of goods for this area. After the Depression, roads got better as well as everything else. Trucks took over most of the cargo the tug once hauled and with it went the living the little tug had made for its owner.

As the towing slowly died away, the tug was run as a ferry coupling Ohio County to Livermore, Kentucky, the closest town, just a stones throw across the river or some 20 miles by land. As time went by some of the residents using the ferry moved away and others had begun to use the roads more frequently. With faster cars and larger trucks that could haul heavier loads than the ferry was capable of floating, it finally ceased operation completely. After it was tied and sat for a number of years without being used for much more than a good fishing spot for local residents.

With time slowly deteriorating the hull, the little tug finally sank to the bottom of the river. The owner, determined to salvage the sunken tug, did not get discouraged with everyone telling him it could not be done. So single-handed he raised it onto the bank where it was dismantled and the engine removed, thus ending several decades of river travel for the vanished tug, a familiar sight for the residents of Livermore, Kentucky.

After its removal from the tug, the engine was cleaned, oiled and stored in the garage of its owner. There it sat for an unknown number of years, during which time the loving owner passed away. I found out about it through a friend telling me of some gasoline engines he had seen sitting beside an old garage near his home. Upon finding this out, my wife went and checked to make sure they were still there-sure enough they were. After supper we went to check to see if they could be bought. I spoke to the elderly lady who lived there and she informed me that they had belonged to her late husband. Upon questioning her about the old engines, she told me that there was still a larger one in the garage and that I was welcome to look at it, but would have to talk to her son about purchasing them. As you may have guessed, the big engine turned out to be the Clay. After talking with her son, he told me that he did not want to sell them at that time, but for me to check back with him later. That started the long wait and several phone calls. A year later I bought the two engines sitting outside the garage, but he still would not part with the big Clay. Then with even more pursuit and yet another year passing, I finally acquired the side-shaft Clay engine, which I had dreamed of owning since first casting my eyes on it two years earlier.

The engine has a 24' diameter flywheel, 5?' thick. The crankshaft looks as if it was machined out, not forged like most. The rod lubricates by the splash system from oil in the lower half of the base. The mains are adjusted by the thickness of the gasket between the upper and lower halves of the crankcase and are lubricated by grease cups. The bore is 7?' and it has a 7' stroke. The carburetion is a 1? Schebler with an automatic intake valve. It has a side-shaft that rotates a raised lobe on top, which operates the exhaust valve. There is an eccentric on the shaft behind the flywheel which operates a solid brass piston-type water pump to circulate the cooling water through the engine. Also on the shaft is a timer which actuates a vibrator coil to fire the plugs of which it has two. There are three lubricators, two of which lubricate the piston and rings and the third one placed lower on the cylinder to lubricate the piston skirt. It is placed on the side that has all the thrust and friction on it when the engine is in use.

Since acquiring the engine on May 15, 1980, I have been in the process of building a sub-base for the engine to be mounted on. I've gotten it finished now and will be starting to restore the engine and fabricating a cooling system for it. So far, I've never heard of another Clay engine. If anyone out in engine land has one or can give me some information on this engine, please write and let me know. I would like very much to know what year it was built and maybe some day to get a manual on it.

Picture A shows a good shot of the exhaust lobe on the sideshaft as well as the timer and eccentric for the water pump. Note the brass name-plate under the intake pipe with one of the spark plugs right above it.

Picture B shows exhaust side of engine and has a good view of the three lubricators. The brass water pump can be seen behind the flywheel with the second spark plug just beneath the exhaust pipe. The engine has the name of manufacturer cast on the hand hole cover of the crankcase but cannot be read in the picture.

Picture C, the working side of the engine, shows the raised piston skirt travel just above the crankshaft and gives a good shot of how the main bearings can be adjusted by gasket thickness between upper and lower halfs of the crankcase. It shows the sub-base that I've built to mount the engine on, as it was mounted on the beams of the tug when in use with a marine gear set up connected directly to the crankshaft.

Picture D shows a comparison of size view with an 8 HP Hercules on wagon behind the Clay and a 6 HP McCormick Deering behind the Hercules. Also note the slots in the flywheel for the starting bar, which is square on one side and rounded on the other, so when the engine starts the flywheel will kick the bar away from it

Hopefully sometime in the near future the Clay engine will once again be running and admired by hundreds of people around the shows. And it knows that it will never have to work again-just sit and run and savor up the love its present owner has for it.