Gentle Giant Reborn

A battered barn find becomes a beauty

Golden Gate Gas Engine

The 1893 4 HP Golden Gate as found in the barn. Photo Credit: Dan Thompson

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I was talking to an old family friend whom I see occasionally and he said he had an old engine that he would like me to have, which had been stored in the back of a garage for more than 50 years. In exchange I would need to get a different engine running for him.

I, of course, wanted to see the engine that I was to acquire so we drove over to his barn. After moving some boards and miscellaneous junk from the barn door we stepped inside the barn and there it stood. I moved a few items that had been using the engine as a leaning post, knocked off a few spider webs and dusted it off. Cast into the side of the engine cylinder was the name “Golden Gate Gas Engine, San Francisco.” It was a beauty. I had never heard of the name, but it sure did have some potential. It was big and heavy so I realized I needed some equipment and a pickup to get it out of the barn. We arranged to meet about four months later. 

It took about two hours of digging and lifting with a tractor until we got it into the back of my pickup. This was the first time it had seen the sunlight in about 70 years. I decided to stop by a truck scale, and it weighed in at 1,000 pounds.

When I got it home the first thing I did was research. I talked to people on the Internet and phone, and searched for information. Then I began to clean the engine. After I washed everything I completely dismantled it as well. Next, I assessed the need for repairs. The engine water jacket had about a 6-inch hairline crack. One of the gears that runs the camshaft had some chipped teeth. The engine cylinder, however, was in excellent condition. In general, the engine was in good condition and was complete.

The engine has a 6-inch bore with an 8-inch stroke and flywheels 36-1/2 inches in diameter. Golden Gate Gas Engines advertise the engine horsepower according to weight. Since this one weighs 1,000 pounds that makes it a 4 HP.  Some of the unique features of this engine include sideshaft, overhead valves with roller rockers, a unique plunger-type carburetor, an igniter trip that runs through the center of the cylinder head, and a solid brass connecting rod.

Over the next few months I completed the necessary repairs. I started the work of building a cart that would not only support the weight but also show it off. Then I looked for a cooling tank. Using pictures from Gas Engine Magazine as a diagram, I ordered a sheet of galvanized tin and built the cooling tank. The engine was finally installed on the cart and bolted down. Last, I built a battery box and fuel tank stand. I wasn’t real sure of the mechanism that runs the plunger on the carburetor (that part was missing). After looking for hours at some pictures that I received from Buzz Stetler, Stockton, Calif., I asked if I could come down and look at his engines. He said sure, and my wife and I went for a weekend trip and looked them over. This helped me come up with my own design for the mechanism.

Then it was time to start it up. There it stood with fresh paint, all bearings shimmed, valves ground, gears measuring perfectly and the brass gleaming in the sunlight. I closed the knife switch, slipped the knob up on the oiler, turned the fuel valve on, stoked the fuel plunger rod a couple of times to prime the fuel system, turned the flywheel about a half of a turn and it took off. The engine was running just as perfect as it could. I had to play with the fuel adjustment a little, just to ease my anxiety, but as luck would have it, I ended up with it at about the same place as I had it set originally. I did have to change my belting to the pump that pumps the water into the cooling tank and also make some minor adjustments to a large Fairbanks typhoon pump that the engine operates to pump water.  

I hauled the engine to an engine show about 50 miles down the road and it started, ran just a couple of licks and died. After checking out the fuel system I found it plugged. I removed the tank, cleaned a fitting when I found it full of sand, then I discovered a pinhole in the fuel tank – oh, what luck. At about that time I looked up and saw my dad. He took the tank home to his place and fixed it. The engine ran the rest of the day, just as it should.

The second show was here in our hometown of Winnemucca, Nev. It ran two days and didn’t miss a lick. It always seems to have a few people looking it over and admiring it. I have it advertised as an 1893 but that could be a couple years off.

I would like to thank everyone who helped with this engine and would enjoy corresponding with anyone of similar interest.

Contact Dan Thompson, 6940 W. Rose Creek Road, Winnemucca, NV 89445 • 

Click here to watch a video of this engine on the GEM Engine Video Index on YouTube.