Crankin' Back

Built by the Nelson Bros., this 8 HP Monarch Features a most Unusual Crankshaft Configuration


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For the many people who have inquired about this Monarch engine, this is its story. The nameplate describes this engine as an 8 HP Monarch, manufactured by the Nelson Bros. Co. in Saginaw, Mich. for Wallace Corcoran & Co. in Portland, Ore.

The most significant difference in this engine from the 28 other engines I've owned is that the crankshaft cantilevers about 12 inches beyond the cylinder base, whereas they are typically mounted directly on top of the base. The flared shape of the water hopper and base also add to the interest of this engine. This 1,300-pound engine is throttle controlled, has 36-inch diameter flywheels and uses a Webster EK magneto for ignition.

Monarch Retrieval

In the early 1970s, my friends, Bud and Loretta Morrell of Elmira, Ore., with the help of Ernie Boyd of Elgin, Ore., discovered the engine with a tree growing between the flywheels on an isolated section of a ranch in eastern Oregon. The flywheels were buried in about a foot of dirt and were a little pitted. Remnants at the site indicated that it had powered a buzz saw.

The ranch owner was initially reluctant to sell, even though a companion engine had been stolen a few years earlier. However, Bud was determined, and after several visits, he was able to make the purchase.

Bud freed the engine from the ground, took it home and brought it back to life. The longest - and toughest - task was freeing the piston from the cylinder. This involved pounding, pressing and, finally, heating the cylinder from the inside. The Monarch has a 5-3/8-by-10-1/4-inch bore and stroke. The restoration also included cleaning, removing rust, painting, mounting the engine on skids, fabricating a brass/copper fuel tank mounted outside the base, and fabricating a muffler from two early gasoline service station bells that rang as cars drove up to the pump.

Acquiring the Monarch

I was invited to bid on the engine five years ago when Bud, still the owner, was ready to sell. He held a private, sealed bid auction between just me and a mutual friend of ours, and I was fortunate enough to have the winning bid.

As a civil engineer, I've always understood that cast iron is not as strong in tension as it is in compression. On this engine, the top half of the cantilevered portion of the cylinder is always in tension. The tension increases each time the engine fires. Knowing this, I've been unwilling to install the 19-1/2-by-8-1/2-inch wide pulley that came with the engine.

I was unable to find a serial number, even after stripping all the paint off. With the help of my wife, Jane, we chose to repaint the engine royal blue, black and gold.

Bud previously used a piece of twisted metal to connect the throttle rod to the butterfly shaft. It was not a snug connection so I replaced it with a piece of 3/8-inch bar stock, 1-1/2 inches long. That enables the butterfly to respond more directly to changes in the governor's weight movement. With this modification, Bud realized that I had made the engine run about 30 RPM slower.

The engine is easy to start. Standing on the left side of the engine, compression is released by depressing the intake valve with my left hand while pushing the flywheel with my right hand. Fuel enters the cylinder after a few revolutions, and when I hear the spark ignite the fuel, I let go of the intake valve as the flywheels gain momentum. Then, while not getting in a hurry, I walk to the rear of the engine and pull the flywheels as the crankshaft nears top dead center. In almost every case, the engine continues to run. This engine, without a doubt, is the prize of my collection. The shape and the name, Monarch, have a regal feel to them.

We exhibit the engine annually at the Great Oregon Steam-Up at Antique Powerland in Brooks, Ore., on the last weekend of July and the first weekend of August (two weekends). The engine is started in the morning and runs all day during the show. For me, the rhythmic beat of the engine is intoxicating, peaceful and very satisfying.

Several life-long engine enthusiasts have told me they've never seen an engine like this (with the crankshaft cantilevered beyond the base). I have seen manuals that include information on Monarch engines up to 7 HP, but not 8 HP. I would appreciate learning more about others' knowledge of and experiences with 8 HP Monarchs. I'm especially interested in knowing what years they were made. I feel fortunate to be the owner of this engine, and, more importantly, I feel blessed to have Bud and Loretta Morrell as friends.

Contact engine enthusiast Jim Brown at: 3410 Grant St., Eugene, OR 97405; (541) 345-2122;