Getting A Gas Engine


The finished engine

The finished engine.

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R R #3, Box 397, Nashville, Indiana 47448 as told to her by her father, Ray W. Rodgers.

I obtained my first gas engine in 1966. It is a Novo diaphragm pump and it had lived a rough life after it had been laid aside, but that is another story.

The Novo did start me on gas engines and made me want an old engine my grandfather used to tell about when I was a boy, and he showed me about where the engine was. Later on, I saw the engine in a wooded area, down in a pit. The engine was all intact, the best I can remember. This area is also a good place to mushroom hunt.

Well, after getting the Novo I went back to the old engine in the Spring, while hunting mushrooms, but the engine was a terrible sight. Someone had taken a hacksaw and cut off one of the flywheels and took it with them. The rod cap was gone and the rest of the engine was covered with the remains of the blacksmith shop and years of fallen leaves, in a basement pit about seven feet deep. The engine ran a line shaft through the blacksmith's shop and was attached to a three cylinder pump for the orchard spray pipe that ran through the orchard to carry the spray up the hillsides, as they were very steep. My grandfather worked for the orchard owner a little while. However, the orchard did not last long. Now I am told the last time the engine was used was in 1933, and when it did run you could hear it firing all over the county. It had an exhaust pipe that ran out the top of the blacksmith shop.

Well I got a little off track. Getting back to the engine: When I saw it that spring day in 1967, I was sick. I picked up the funnel water filler off the water hopper, the valve push rod and the ignition setup. They had been taken off also and thrown down. I looked the push rod over and did not feel I wanted it so I dropped it around the pit and carried the funnel home for a keepsake.

Now maybe I had better tell you more about where this engine is or was. The engine sat on the edge of property that a church camp owns, but you could not get to it without walking three quarters of a mile after driving about a mile and a half into the campground. It sat on the backside of the pond with a concrete dam, about 16 inches wide at the top and 125 feet long. The dam was in bad shape. It was all down hill from the place where the engine was, in a heavily wooded area. You could drive to the pit.

Anyway, I gave up on the idea of getting the engine, for it looked too difficult and I did not even think it could be taken out if it had been in good shape. Then one day in the spring of 1983, a man named Bob Richards came to the house to have my wife help him with his tax papers. My wife is the township trustee. I have known Bob for most of my life. When I was in school he was the bus driver. He and I were talking about old engines and tractors when he asked me if I knew about the old orchard engine. I said I did and I wanted it but that someone had cut off one flywheel and took it.

He looked at me, let out a little laugh, and said, 'I have the flywheel.' You can imagine my surprise when Bob said he was using it as a weight for the graded blade on his tractor. I asked Bob how he got the flywheel out of the hollow. He said he didn't. Bob used to work at the church camp and some young boys and girls at the campground went down and sawed off the flywheel and rolled it back up the hill and left it in the campground yard. And that is where Bob found it. He said I could have it with the piece of crankshaft if I would give him some kind of weight for the grader blade. I traded with him and found the flywheel to be in very good shape. I asked him about the rest of the engine, and Bob said he would talk to the camp manager (who I also knew) about crossing the campground with the engine. I was told I could have it and could drive as far as the edge of the woods but I could not cut any trees. So, with a ? mile wooded hill to climb and a dam to cross, it did not look good for me and the engine. But I had to have another look at the engine.

That same spring, my son Frank, 18 years old, nephew Brian, 13 years old at the time, and I set out to look over the engine. For some reason I took a 10 inch crescent wrench, a screwdriver, and a large pair of pliers. We went into the camp, parked and found the path down the hill, across the dam, and up the bank a few feet to the old pit where the engine lay. It was covered over a little more than my last trip. I began to clean the trash from across the engine and the next thing I knew, I had the motor uncovered and the bolts out. None of the bolts broke. This was accomplished with the few tools I had taken along with me. The water hopper and piston with the rod was in one unit, the remaining flywheel and crank in another unit, and the sub-base in one unit. The carburetor was missing and I could not find the rod cap and the push rod I had dropped some years before. With the help of the two boys and a board, we took all of the parts out of the basement pit and laid them on the bank. Well now what to do? We knew we needed more help, so we left the engine and went home.

That night at work, I told my good friend and co-worker, Bill Spriggs, who is a gas engine man also, about the problem I had and how the boys and I had taken the engine apart that day. Bill said, ' We will carry the engine out.'

The next day Bill, Frank, Brian and I made the trip to where the engine lay. Bill could not believe his eyes when he saw the size of the engine. Still he said, 'We will manage to get the parts back up the long hill.' We took a 2' pipe about ten feet long and chained the water hopper to the pipe, and across the dam we went, two in front and two in back. But the real tricky part came at the other side of the dam, all of us could not make the turn off the dam to start up the hill. So, Frank and Brian worked their way around and left Bill and me to pack the hopper and piston. The load was too much for the pipe without the help of the two boys and it bent down under the weight. We started up the hill in the right direction when we had to stop. It was too much for us to handle alone. Bill said, 'I have three nephews that I can get to help us.'

For the next few days I worried that someone would be out hunting in that area and push the hopper off into the pond, after all the work we had done to get it out.

In a few days Bill and his nephews Mark, Rob and Andy Spriggs, along with Frank, his friend Jeff Leech, and I brought out all the parts. Bill and I rolled out the flywheel and the crank with the aid of a chain for a pull string.

Now I had this engine figured to be approximately a 7 horsepower, but did not know the make for the tag was missing. Once I got the parts home I began to clean the mud off them. Very plainly, on the side of the engine's hopper was 'Foos Jr.'

With the engine home and all apart, I looked it over carefully. There were no cracks or broken bolts. However, the crankshaft was cut off at the main, the rod cap missing, a stuck piston, no carburetor and the push rod gone.

Now began the time consuming work of restoring this engine back to proper working order. With a lot of luck and help from a few friends, this is what was done: Bill had picked up, at the pit where the engine was, a few rod caps and a main cap off the 3 cylinder spray pump that had also been taken apart. He said that maybe we could re-work a cap to fit the engine. Well, luck number one: one of the caps was the engine rod cap. Luck number two: using heat and a hydraulic jack, the piston was free and had a good set of rings. Now for the cut off crank shaft. I convinced a machinist at work to help me. He did not believe what I wanted done would work but he would do it. Kirt, the machinist, did not understand what the engine looked like or just how slow the Foos Jr. would turn. How could an engine run without an oil pump or a splash system?

Well anyway, he turned the flywheel part of the crank down to 1 3/16' diameter and back 2?'. We bored the main crank shaft 1 3/16' x 2?' and beveled both halves. I pressed the shaft back together and welded it. Kirt turned the shaft back down to original size, this put the splice right under the wide main bearing cap. I made a push rod and timing assembly, added a Ford tractor carburetor, made a gas tank and a wagon.

The wagon started with four steel wheels and spindle. The rest was made from cherry lumber sawed on Bill's grandfather's late 1800 sawmill.

The Foos Jr. runs great and people cannot believe that we carried this engine out or even tried to re-work it.

This engine was not the only thing made to last in that time period. There is a large two story barn standing in good shape next to the pond where the engine was.

All I can say is, 'Don't give up on any engine no matter where it is, or the shape it is in.'