English Ideal Gas Engine Turns Century Mark

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5 Minett Avenue Rushwick, Worcester, England WR2 5TQ.

I have been a subscriber to Gas Engine Magazine ever since 1975, and have got all copies neatly bound in identical binders in my office shelves here.

Somewhat over 10 years ago I sent GEM a photo of my extremely rare 1892 Worcester-built small gas engine, and it was published.

Now, early in 1992, it became 100 years old and is taken frequently to vintage tractor and oil engine meets, or rallies, as we call them. I thought that for the benefit of new readers this last decade I would send some more photos.

The plate on this prize says, 'Southall's Patent 'Ideal' Gas Engine.' This is the prototype No. 1, built in March 1892. The engine, probably a ? HP, runs well now converted from town gas to liquid butane. Note: the exhaust valve is halfway along the stroke of the piston and the air intake is vacuum operated in the center of the cylinder head.

I was given the tip-off by a friend in London, 125 miles from here, about the remains of a small gas engine lying in a Twickenham (London) scrap yard with a maker's plate on its side reading, 'Samuel South alls Patent Ideal Gas Engine.' There were never many of these engines built, and I have since ascertained, from the London Science Museum records, that mine was the prototype one of about a dozen built.

If you look at the photographs you will understand what I have had to make when I say that only the main casting and the flywheels were what I found! Over the years, with the help of friends, everything else has been made and it has been converted from 'town gas' to liquid propane gas and runs very well at rallies and agricultural shows I take it to.

Note exhaust valve, and my own make of hot tube ignition and single bearing for main shaft with overhung crank. All subsequent and larger engines of this type had only one flywheel.

Talking of agricultural shows, my ex-U. S. Air Force Strategic Air Command McCormick Model I-6 tractor of 1941 is a real eye puller too. Found abandoned on a farm that the U. S. Air Force had torn all the runways of their bomber station up, on where it had been used as a bomb trolley tractor, the farmer sold it to me. I say the McCormick Model I-6, but it is NOT really. It was new in 1940, has separate hand steering and a parking brake on each side of driver, operating hand brakes and single pedal foot brake operating hydraulic drum brakes. It has a very high fifth forward gear, has a spring front axle which lifts the radiator up at least eight inches. It has no pulley but has power take off, is all petrol and electric light and start. I have appealed in all tractor magazines here in Britain and in the U. S. for seven years now, but no one has come forward to say they have every seen one like mine! Of course, the fitting of a spring front axle necessitated the use of larger front wheels and tires, and that made the same necessary on the rear wheels.

As regards our Vintage Tractor and Stationary Engine Club, it all started in the 1950s. There was a Fordson tractor club over in the East Midlands quite some way from here. People were saying they would like to join the club but they had not got a Fordson but some other make of tractor. We here (six of us) were members of the Fordson Club but, because of the long distances to travel to the club meetings over in Leicestershire, we were thinking of starting a club of our own in Herefordshire.

We got together here with the East Midlands men and held a meeting here in our local Cradley village hall and combined forces to make the National Vintage Tractor Club. The Fordson members became group No. 1, and we became group No. 2. That was in 1969. Now there are 29 groups all over England, each with over 100 members in them.

Because of my obvious enthusiasm, having not long returned from Australia where I had been driving Twin City, McCormick, 1910 IH and other tractors such as Cletrac, Caterpillar, etc. for eight years, I was made National Executive Committee Secretary over the then 10 groups that had been formed so far. During my two year term of office I got 'AND ENGINE' put into the club's title because, although we had a club magazine, and still have (Vaporizing), the editor was tractor oriented and no mention was ever made in the magazine or at National meetings of oil engines! After a while I recommenced traveling the long distance to Executive Committee meetings on a Sunday once a month, but later gave it up because I was restoring my McCormick tractor and still at work, so Sunday was precious to me.

Yes, there are 29 groups, 3,400 members, in our club now, and it is a very popular club generally speaking, You can't please all the people all the time I know, but we get along okay.

If ever you do hear of anyone who has any details and has ever seen a U. S. Air Force McCormick I-6 Special Conversion (for U. S. Air Force) tractor with so many deletions and additions from the basic I-6, please let me know. As I said, I've been advertising all over the world, nearly, for seven years but have had no one say 'yes' so far. If I do, I'll write to him and say, 'Join the gang, Mate, that makes two of us!' It is unique, I am assured.