First Cummins-Made Engines: Tributes to Men and Early Beginnings

Water hopper

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Rural Route 1, Box 67, A Flat Rock, Indiana, 47234

Close-up views of Mr. Welliver's 6 HP Cummins Engine in operation. The horizontal piston works between the flywheels. Mr. Welliver added the emblem and name plate.

'I started playing with gasoline engines in 1913. In 1920-22, they cut all the frills off of them to get the price down. Anything they could leave off, they did, to get the price down,' Jake Maley of Austin, Indiana, lamented. About this time Cummins Engine Company of Columbus, Indiana, began manufacturing diesel engines.

'I went to work at Cummins in 1933, until 1944, and worked with fellows who built this (his) engine.' In 1935, Jake Maley began his search for an early Cummins Engine Company Diesel Engine. He finally managed to purchase his 3 HP model in 1978.

This 3 HP engine plus the 6 HP engine owned by Ken K. Welliver of Rural Route 1, Seymour, Indiana, and the 1 HP engine purchased by Lotus W. Alexander of Columbus, Indiana, comprise three of only four such models known to exist in Indiana.

Ken Welliver's 1919 6 HP engine represents the first engines made by Clessie L. Cummins. The only one of these three motors to be built and sold by Cummins as a Cummins engine, it has the words 'Cummins Oil Engine, Cummins Engine Company, Columbus, Indiana, U.S.A.' cast in the metal on top of the water hopper or tank. The Cummins Engine Company had been incorporated on February 3, 1919. Mr. Welliver owns number 77 of the more than one hundred made that year in the Cerealine building, and then shipped to distant points from the near-by Pennsylvania Railroad Station.

Mr. Welliver, a Cummins Engine Company employee in the 1940's, read 'inGas Engine Magazine about a fellow who had an engine and wanted information on how to restore it. The man lived in Parkersburg, West Virginia, and had found the engine laying along a creek where it had been since 1938. He had bought it from the fellow who put it there. The engine had been used in the oil fields of West Virginia, and had several parts missing. I traded a three-horse Fairbanks for this engine.

The words 'Cummins Oil Engine, Cummins Engine Company, Columbus, Indiana, U.S.A.' cast in the metal on top of the water hopper.

'I made the rocker levers, the linkage to operate the oil pump and the fuel pump, plus the push rods. In addition, I bored and machined the connecting rod bearings,' Mr. Welliver commented. 'In 1979, I suspect I put in close to 300 hours restoring it.' He bought the oiler from Ray Smock, of Columbus, who worked as a machinist in the company when Cummins built this engine. Located on the back of the engine, the oiler forces oil onto the horizontal piston while the engine operates.

'This has a Hvid injector. On the intake stroke of the piston, it draws the fuel into the pre-combustion chamber in the injector.' Mr. Welliver continued, 'then on the compression stroke, at a point before the piston reached top dead center, the low flash point particles in the fuel fire by expanding or exploding which forces the low grade fuels into the cylinder. As the piston continues on the compression stroke (moving forward as a horizontal piston), at a certain point, the heat ignites the low grade fuel and drives the piston into the power stroke.'

Clessie Cummins, seeking a way to break into the engine business and keep his men working when World War I ended, had first seen a description of the new development called the Hvid engine in October, 1918. To begin making Hvid engines, Clessie L. Cummins signed a leasing agreement, in early January, 1919, with the Hvid agent who represented this Netherlands company in the United States. Using these manufacturing rights and financial backing from W.G. Irwin and other friends in Columbus, he planned to build the new engines in his shop.

'The Hvid engine represented an attempt to eliminate the injection of fuel by high pressure or an air-fuel mixture, a principle found in most diesel engines of that day,' Clessie L. Cummins wrote inMy Days With the Diesel. Late in April, 1919, his company completed its first engine, a 6-horsepower unit using a single horizontal piston with a 5' bore and 7' stroke which turned at 600 revolutions per minute and was cooled by water from the hopper.

Mr. Ken K. Welliver recalled, 'the advertisement gimmick used to sell the diesel or compression-fired engines was that it operated on 1/3 less fuel, consequently, the cost was much less than for gasoline or spark-fired engines. They were made to operate on kerosene and that also cost less than gasoline.' Mr. Welliver can remember when 1 in the price of an item made a big difference in a person's decision to buy. 'But the diesel had two disadvantages-it was hard to start in the winter, and the operating speed was hard to control.

'It's a miraculous machine for that age,' Ken Welliver concluded. 'I operated mine six hours a day for the. week of the Jackson County fair and it used about 4 gallons of fuel on a slow idle.'

With the stock holders remaining loyal in 1919-20, the Cummins Engine Company began work on smaller engines, for which the dealers of the 6-horsepower engine had found a demand. By April, 1920, the 1 and 3-horsepower models had been designed. Mr. Lotus W. Alexander of Columbus owns the 1-horsepower engine with a 3' bore and a 4' stroke. By mid 1920, the company began producing the 3-horsepower engine with the 37/8' bore and 5' stroke. Sears marketed these models as Thermoil Engines.

Clessie L. Cummins wrote in My Days With the Diesel: 'The Sears, Roebuck catalogue offered our engines on sixty days' free trial. If an engine was returned, the catalogue further stated, the purchaser would receive full refund, plus freight charges. The guarantee, as announced by Sears, covered any defect in material and workmanship for the life of the engine.' Cummins Engine Company lost several hundred thousand dollars before ending that association. Many had 'taken advantage of' the offer and used the engines free of charge.

Raised three miles north-west of Clifford, Bartholomew County, Indiana, Mr. Jake Maley, of Austin, worked at the Cummins Engine Company from 1933-44. 'I worked in Plant 1 when only 105 men worked in the whole place. Clessie Cummins went up and down the aisles just like everyone else.'

Mr. Jake Maley guiding the wagon which carries his 3 HP Cummins Engine as the winch and cable pull the wagon onto the bed of his pick-up truck, at the show's close.

He began his search for a Cummins Engine in 1935 and located his model in Ohio in 1965. For the next twelve plus years, he kept in contact with the owner who decided to sell him the 3-horsepower engine in January, 1978. 'When I called him, he said, 'I just wrote you a letter saying I would sell it.' I responded, save your 15. I'll be over in the morning.'

'I had never run one of them. I had seen that one of mine run, but I had never run one of the Cummins engines.' Mr. Maley continued, 'after buying it, I just added fuel and started it.' The man I bought it off of got it from the original owner, but I never asked him for what it was used. It was used on a farm, so I suppose it was used for buzzing wood and pumping water, etc.

'Deloss Cummins, a brother of Clessie who now lives in Alabama, wrote the instruction books for these engines. All the Hvid engines had the horizontal piston.' Mr. Maley recalled, 'the company built some vertical piston engines shortly thereafter.

'I've never had the head off the Cummins, but I have had the fly wheel off and the piston out.' Mr. Maley, a tool and die maker by trade, has used many of his skills in restoring other engines. 'I would say my engine burns less than a drop of fuel per firing stroke. I read in a book that there are 93 or 94,000 drops in a gallon. It runs 450 revolutions per minute and it fires every other revolution. The engine was designed to run faster, but I put a weaker spring in the governor so it runs only about 450 revolutions per minute.'

Mr. Lous W. Alexander of Columbus, Indiana, with his 1 HP Cummins Engine. These views show the silk screen decals which he made and the generator with light bulb which the engine operates.

Mr. Lotus W. Alexander, of Columbus, had been looking for a Cummins engine for about eight years. 'Then I heard of one at Kansas City, Missouri. We drove over on our vacation, but it went for too much money. Then the next year (1979), I heard of one in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, but I didn't get that one either. It went for too much money. Ken Welliver saw this one at the 1980 Portland (Indiana) Engine Show. He called me. I was already planning to go. The man didn't want to sell. In a matter of six hours, I told him it had been built in Columbus and I wanted to take it back with me. He kept putting me off, then he came to my booth and said he'd sell. He had found it 32 miles south of Marathon, N.Y.

'It's a 1 horsepower Thermoil engine built for Sears and Roebuck by the Cummins Engine Company between 1920-22,' Mr. Alexander noted. 'My only restoration was tearing it down and cleaning it. It didn't run. What it really needed was a good cleaning. I had it started within about a week.

'Then I completely tore it down and washed out all the oil, etc., Mr. Alexander added. 'I restored the original parts that were there, but I now plan to re-ring it. I mounted it on an old express wagon and painted it. I silk screened my own decals. They are exactly like the originals.

'This was a farm engine; they found it in a barn.' Mr. Alexander has 'a feeling the guy ran it until it quit, then he put it in the barn- because it was in excellent condition. It was not pitted, there was no water on the pistons, etc.'

Mr. Alexander worked 14 years for Reeves and acquired a Reeves engine first. 'I got interested in it (Cummins) because it was a local engine. Cummins built his first engines to run at 600 rpm not 500 rpm as did the Hercules engines then made in Evansville. He had to order many components, including oil cups, grease fittings and possibly the timing gears, from outside suppliers.

'Even though the Sears sixty-days-free-trial offer cost Cummins Engine Company several hundred thousand dollars, these three engines put Cummins on a production system, and thus the Cummins Engines of today have evolved,' Mr. Alexander observed.

'It uses about one pint of fuel per six-hour day,' Mr. Alexander speculated. 'The tank only holds about one quart. Of course, I am loading this some with the generator. They have come out with these new kerosene stoves, smokeless, so it is coming back to the place we can get fuel now.

'The biggest problem is they are too heavy for their horsepower,' Mr. Alexander stated. An early Sears, Roebuck Co. catalogue listed shipping weights as 365 pounds for the 1 horsepower engine and 660 pounds for the 3 horsepower model as 'shipped from factory in Southern Indiana.' The catalogue said the 1 horsepower engine used 6/10 gallon on load while the 3 horsepower engine used one gallon. On a full load, the 1 horsepower engine consumed a gallon and the 3 horsepower engine utilized two and one-fourth gallons for an eight-hour run.

Ken K. Welliver, Jake Maley, and Lotus W. Alexander own and exhibit Cummins-made engines which not only led to the incorporation of the company and its entry into the engine business but also to the organization of a manufacturing system. The company made improvements in their production and assembly operations while manufacturing Thermoil engines for Sears. Further advancements in the technical design, construction, and development of their various diesel engine models have helped the Cummins Engine Company, Inc. in Columbus, Indiana, to supply over fifty per cent of the diesel engine market, today. photo identifications:

112D/5A and 7-7A Mr. Ken K. Welliver of Rural Route 1, Seymour, Indiana, with his 1919 6 horsepower Cummins Engine.