Where Have All The Springfields Gone?

Springfield at the Brison farm.

Springfield at the Brison farm.

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Route 1, Box 459-A Sugar Grove, North Carolina 28679

The story about how I became the owner of a Springfield #2820 goes back several years. In November of 1983 I received word from long-time friend Meredith Brison that the Springfield was for sale. I called immediately and discussed the financial arrangements, and was granted time to sell several engines from my collection.

Spring 1984 rolled around and my brother, nephew, and I headed north for Ohio. We stopped off at Lexington, Kentucky, and delivered a 1 HP Famous to Norman Parrish. After arriving at the Brison farm we talked to Meredith and his wife. Now it was time to go and look over my purchase. There it was, sitting on the barn floor chained to a tractor lift and ready to be loaded. Rust had really played havoc on the exterior of this engine. The cast and machine surfaces were very rough to say the least. All major parts were intact including the cast brass builders plate which reads: 'The Springfield Gas Engine Company, Springfield Ohio USA #2820, HP 1 Type A.'

To look at this engine was discouraging on one hand because of the sad state of repair, but on the other hand where was I ever going to find another Springfield? My brother was not encouraging at this point and felt I might be making a mistake. Then my thoughts jumped back to the late 1960s when I had seen this engine for the first time. Dad and I were on a trip through Ohio and stopped in to visit the Brisons. Meredith gave us a tour of his engine collection. Among the line-up of engines in the garage was the Springfield. The 25' flywheels and 4x5 bore and stroke fooled me into thinking that this engine had to be at least 3 HP but to my surprise the builders plate read 1 HP.

This was the first real Springfield I had ever seen. As a boy I would marvel at the pre-1900 internal combustion engines contained on the pages of Gardner Hiscox' 1898 book entitled Gas Gasolene and Oil Engines. On page 160 is shown a Type A Springfield. My first seventeen years of life, growing up near Hilliard, Ohio, had made me partial to Ohio-built engines. To own a Springfield became a top priority on engine finds.

Meredith did not want to part with his engine at this time, so I just kept asking over the next dozen or more years. During this time I asked a number of collectors and dealers about Springfield engines. Very few knew anything about them and it became obvious to me that Springfield engines were very scarce.

I purchased the Springfield that spring day, and we brought it to our home in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Our son, aged 4, helped me to disassemble it. The piston was not stuck, natural gas engines do not have the acid problems encountered with gasoline engines. The inclined sideshaft had been removed by Meredith to keep from breaking anything on the cross shaft. The cross shaft was seized from the many years of rusting away.

After checking the crankshaft journals, the left side was discovered to be badly pitted. The journals were cleaned with emery paper, oiled and placed back in the main bearings to check for true-ness. The left flywheel wobbled and the crank was out .050. After removing the flywheels, the crankshaft was sent out to be repaired.

By this time, I was getting pretty fired up because there seemed to be plenty of time to get the engine finished for our home show, The High Country Crank-Up. The crankshaft was returned and looked like a new one. After putting the flywheels on, I set the assembly back into the main bearings, turned them to check again for trueness. I just about had a cow! The flywheel on the left side still wobbled, and the dial indicator showed the shaft to be true. After a bit of head scratching I removed the left flywheel and inspected for cracks. Since I was not able to see any cracks, something else has to be tried. The flywheel was put in the hot sun for several hours. Then I brushed gasoline over the entire surface. The hot sun caused the gasoline to quickly evaporate except where it had seeped into the very tiny cracks. Repairing the two spokes that were broken at the hub was not successful, but the heat from welding did take most of the warp out.

The flywheels on this engine extend below the base. At some point back in time the flywheel had taken a lick that resulted in bending the crankshaft and warping the flywheel. The rim was built up and the damaged flywheel was used for a pattern to cast the new one at the former Johnson City Foundry. Machine work on the flywheels was accomplished at Tweetsie R.R., Blowing Rock, North Carolina. Triplette & Coffey Machine Shop polished the round connecting rod and made the new wrist pin.

The cross shaft and inclined sideshaft were rusted so badly that both had to be repaired. Cams and gears are held in place by tapered pins. The small bevel gear on the top end of the inclined sideshaft was missing several teeth. Crescent Machine cut a new one to replace the damaged one. The exhaust, intake, and fuel poppet valves were all in excellent shape. The igniter top electrode stem was bent nearly 90 degrees but with heat and a lot of patience it was straightened. The insulator on this igniter is porcelain coated. I sent the two mating igniter parts to Cherokee Porcelain for reworking.

The cylinder in this engine has top and bottom plates that can be removed for cleaning the cooling chamber. Upon removal of these plates it was discovered that out of twelve threaded holes five were cracked. After veeing, welding, and regrinding true on a surface grinder, it was back good as new.

Fall 1984 had rolled around and things were taking shape. Norm Anderson advertised two different Springfield reprints. My wife sent for them and gave them to me for Christmas. On one page there is a picture of a 4 HP Springfield on trucks. After some sketching and scaling down I decided to use a set of trucks that came from Randy Franklin's place. Since our engine was originally natural gas, there was a need for a place to put a propane cylinder. Mack Hodges made the oak box for this. The box also serves as a seat and place to house the coil and battery.

The original color was maroon. To get the shade I wanted from Rust-Oleum, red, black, and blue were mixed. The yellow pin striping is my own design.

During the winter of 1985 I started the process of reassembling the Springfield on the restored trucks. My family is very supportive of my engine projects. Without the help of my wife, daughter and son, I would not enjoy this labor of love so much.

June had arrived and the East Tennessee Crank-Up was approaching very quickly. We didn't get finished in time so we planned ahead to July and the Southeast Threshers at Denton, North Carolina. I had promised the family a trip to Virginia and the 4th of July was only a week away. Saturday evening and the Springfield hit a lick and then some more. It had been well over 70 years since this engine had been running. My family, dad and brother were well pleased. Bill Tripplette came over after church and we started it again.

My family and I made the trip to Virginia and visited the beautiful home of President Thomas Jefferson, Natural Bridge, Cyrus McCormick's farm, and the transportation museum at Roanoke. We then went to our first public showing of the Springfield at the Denton Farm Park.

We have shown our engine in the following states: North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Minnesota, and at the Tri-State Show at Portland, Indiana, 1985-1993.

I am truly thankful to God for the talents He has given to me. We are so very blessed to live in the United States of America. If we as a nation do not turn back to God, we will lose our great land and freedom.

My ancestral roots stretch back to Germany. For over 200 years the Scholl family has been involved with machinery. Our daughter Kristina and son Jody are also part of that heritage by learning the art of engine preservation.

There are some 30 Springfield engines known to exist today, ranging from 1 to 20 HP. They are scattered across the length and breadth of our beloved USA. They were manufactured for a few short years at the turn of the century and ranged in horsepower from 1 to 50. We have to date found very little information about this company. If anyone out there in engine land can add any history about the Springfield Gas Engine Company, 1892-1907, please share with us.

Our Springfield #2820 was manufactured around 1902. These engines use cams to actuate the exhaust and intake valves. There is a third poppet valve in the mixer. This valve is actuated by a sliding spool cam, controlled by the belt driven governor. When the third valve is closed no fuel can be supplied to the intake valve, thus controlling the speed of the engine. These engines coast against compression and are very smooth running.

In January of 1991 my employer for over 14 years, Vermont American-Boone Division, announced it would close its doors. This left my family and me with some tough decisions to make. All debts were paid off by selling part of our collection. The Lord helped us through this trying ordeal. Had it not been for the encouragement of family, church family, and close friend Gary F. White, the Springfield would have gone the way of the auction block.

Today I am self-employed and feel truly blessed to be owner-operator of Scholl Engine Shop.