I Saw The light!


Content Tools

505 24th Street NW Minot, North Dakota 58703

It must have been five or six years ago while I was at a local threshing show that a man was 'checking out' some of my restored engines I had on display. He commented on the nice paint jobs and how good they ran. We talked about all the work that is involved in getting some of these old engines in running order. He was attracted to a small air cooled engine of Fairbanks Morse design and indicated that he had something similar with a generator mounted on it. He told me that if I was interested in it I could come and get it.

I guess I am a sucker for something free. It didn't take me long to get to his farm a few days after the show. We went looking for the generator unit and found it in a cluttered old work shop. Although the unit appeared to be complete, it had been neglected over the years. It had been exposed to a lot of moisture, and the electrical components were corroded and in sad shape. I was somewhat discouraged as I felt the relay coils were ruined and that it would be almost impossible to find replacements.

Of course I accepted the unit in good faith and promised the farmer I would make every effort to get the unit restored.

Once the unit was in my shop I did some further investigating. I was very concerned about the moisture damage, but I was also anxious to find out the condition of the little engine. With very little work, my friend Joe Hambeck and I had the engine running. It ran fine but there was no output from the generator. At least now I knew the engine was in good shape. At this point, I had other old engine projects that had priority and I put the generator unit back in the corner out of the way.

Two years later, while at a flea market, I found an original manual for the unit I have. I couldn't believe it, and for $2.00 I took the book home with me. Now, at this point I was beginning to see the light. I was excited now that I had a wiring diagram and a parts breakdown to follow. I read the book from cover to cover and made a plan of attack on the old generator unit.

I began by identifying all of the visible components before beginning disassembly. I marked wires and identified them in the wiring diagram to help me in reassembly. Some of the rusty bolts and screws broke off and had to be drilled and tapped. The relays were taken apart as much as possible, cleaned and tested with 12 volts. I was surprised to find out that they were still working. They were recapped and reinstalled on the relay board. The generator was removed, inspected and cleaned. The windings were in good shape. They were well protected and were not affected by the moisture. The generator housing was sanded and painted and reassembled. New brushes were found at the local Onan dealer. Brush springs were more difficult to find, and I finally used some diesel starter springs that I modified a little. I replaced two condensers that the wires had broken off of, and the generator was back in good shape. Many more hours were involved in getting all of the electrical system back where it belonged. I checked and double checked everything. Some fresh paint, a few new nuts and bolts, and it was beginning to look pretty good. Although the unit is designed to be installed in a basement or a building, I elected to make it somewhat portable. I made some nice skids and mounted a gas tank on one end and a battery on the other. This makes it more convenient to take to the shows.

Well, when the moment came to test my mechanical and electrical abilities, I was truly rewarded. That is when 'I Saw The Light.' A little adjustment to the speed control was all that was needed and we were producing a thousand watts of power. That is a lot of light bulbs!

I have taken this unit to many of the local shows and everybody enjoys it. I can't say I have seen another one of these restored before. I have a few items I take along to 'plug in.' I have an antique oscillating fan, a set of old Christmas lights to light up my engine display, and an old electric lawn trimmer. Folks at the shows get a kick out of this display. I get a lot of good comments and that is what keeps me going.

I will add some information for other GEM readers who might have one of these units out back in the shed. The data plate on the unit identifies it as a Win power Electric Plant. AC volts 115, KVA 1., Watts 1000, P.F. 1.0, Amps 8.7. Cycles 60, Phase 1, DC volts 15,Amps 10,Watts 150, RPM 1800,12 volt battery used. On the very bottom of the data plate is Win power Mfg. Co., Newton, Iowa. Further investigation has located nothing more about this company. Maytag and One Minute Mfg. were located in Newton, but nothing is mentioned of Win power. The owners manual isn't very helpful, as it advises the owner to contact the dealer from whom you purchased the equipment or it refers you to the company that is listed on the data plate. Other engines of this design, that I own, have data plates with Fairbanks-Morse and Company on them. One has Fairbanks-Morse with its trademark and then Manufactured for FM and Company, Chicago, Illinois by O. W. Onan and Sons, Minneapolis, Minnesota.' At this point I am wondering if Win power really manufactured anything. I am estimating that the unit was made around 1944.

The 115 volt current comes directly off the brushes. The vast majority of the electrical components are 12 volt and control the starting and battery charging. There are provisions for a remote starting system. The 60 cycles are determined by engine speed. The manual states that 50 cycle power, that is common in some parts of the world, can be obtained by slowing the engine to 1500 rpm. I have enclosed a copy of the wiring diagrams for the 500 and 100 watt units. I have seen inquiries about this unit in GEM, and since I do have an original manual I will provide copies from the manual to anyone who is interested. Simply send your inquiry to the address at the beginning of this article. Send an SASE please.