IN THE FIELD

Working the Forge

Working the Forge.

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Mt. Pleasant, Iowa 52641.

Early this summer, I had occasion to visit the machine shop of Roland Magel in New London, Iowa. I was there to observe the ways in which he set up the line shafts in his shop. Expecting to see the usual collection of machinery powered by a large electric motor, I was pleasantly surprised to find I was mistaken.

Sitting proudly near the wall sat a 5 HP 'The Field' gas engine. Manufactured by the Field-Brundage Company located in Jackson, Michigan, the engine supplied the power for Roland's line shafts. The old flywheeler was well cared for, ran exceptionally well with its 5' bore and 7' stroke, and was obviously Magel's prize possession.

'The Field' was originally purchased in 1912 by his father, Charles Magel. It supplied the power source for a feed grinder, emery wheel, wood lathe, and washing machine used on their farm near Augusta, Iowa.

In 1941, Roland moved to New London. Because his building space did not permit its set-up and operation, the engine was placed in storage. 1960 found Magel constructing a new and larger machine shop. The power source was obvious. 'The Field' gas engine was taken out of retirement, thoroughly worked over, and placed into service.

I asked Magel if I could see the engine in operation. With the flair of a parent about to have his child perform, he fired the engine. It was a flawless performance.

The exhaust is sent outside via a pipe and the drive pulley is activated with a hand clutch. The leather drive belt is 5? wide and came from the line shafts in an old button factory which once flourished in Burlington, Iowa. The 5 HP engine easily supplies an abundant amount of power for his machinery. Even with the gas shortage and gas prices soaring, it is still an economical running unit.

Magel is no new arrival in the world of mechanics. He has been in the repair business for 57 years. He is equally adept at a hand fired forge as he is operating a metal lathe, drill press, or welder. As a young man, Roland operated an 18 HP Altman-Taylor steam engine. This was an occupation inherited from his father who owned and operated a Leader steam engine with the early threshing crews.

As 'The Field' popped along in the background, I realized how fitting it was in Magel's shop. Both represent a part of our heritage, that unfortunately, is fast disappearing. Even so, they made a great team.