Gas Engine Blogs > Field Notes

Growing Up with an INGECO

INGECO 

This is a 2-1/2 hp Model AK throttling-governor with serial number 6285 gas or kerosene engine. The serial number dates the engine to having been built in 1913 by the International Gas Engine Company of Cudahy, Wisconsin, or INGECO. The company was taken over by Worthington Pump and Machinery at a later date.

The first owner of this engine was Albert Fullert, a farmer who lived on the canal road near Deansville, Wisconsin. Albert and Anna had five children, one of whom was named Harry, who will be involved in this story later. The engine was used on the farm for doing normal tasks such as grinding, sawing, pumping, etc. The engine dutifully did its work until the late 1930s, when it was given a rest after electricity came to the farm. It was then parked alongside a wooden fence for several years until it was called into action once more.

Now, enter Harry. Harry worked at the Deansville garage repairing automobiles, tractors and whatever needed to be fixed. Harry left the garage in order to fight in World War I. At the end of the war Harry was stationed in France, but did not come home as the other fellows had in the Deansville area. His friends and relatives thought that something had happened to him. It seems what had taken place, somehow his paperwork had gotten lost and the Army took its time before finding it and getting Harry on his way home.

Upon coming home, Harry bought the Deansville garage from Ed Strasburg and became his own businessman. Harry ran the business until 1946, when he retired and sold the garage and business to Frank Kleinschmidt, who then set up his nephew Martin Luther to run it.

The stipulation was that Harry was not to repair cars anywhere else in competition with Martin. Harry abided by that agreement, and then bought the old vacant farm implement and machinery building across the road from my dad’s tavern. This was part of a thriving creamery, icehouse and barn complex that were no longer in existence at the time. He remodeled part of the building to live in and also built a workshop for himself.

In his shop he repaired lawn mowers, small engines, built stuff and ground silo knives. Silo knives were heavy-duty knives that had to be razor sharp in order to effectively chop up corn stalks and aid in blowing them up the silo fillers’ pipes to fill the silo with silage for the cattle to eat over the winter months.

Harry had a great skill of sharpening those knives, which was learned from years of grinding them at the Deansville garage. Some of his old customers still wanted him to sharpen silo knives after he had moved, but Harry did not have a big enough electric motor that would handle the knives, so enter the INGECO!

My first remembrance of the INGECO was back in the 1940s, when Harry borrowed his brother Frank’s cattle truck (with me along) and went back to his dad’s farm and loaded up the engine. Harry hoped the engine was big enough to pull the large grinder that he had purchased. After tinkering, tuning and fixing, he mounted the engine on two old railroad bridge beams he had gotten. They were each about 6 feet long and 12 x 12 inches in girth. This worked great. I recall Harry grinding knives on some of those old, hot summer days, drenched in sweat with the INGECO hopper steaming from the heat, but running like a champ.

There is one more item regarding Harry. My dad was busy at the tavern a lot of the time, so Harry became like a second dad to me. He and his wife, Mary, had no children of their own, so I got to ride along with him many times when he executed some of the part-time jobs he was assigned to do by the Township of Medina. He was the health officer who posted red quarantine notices on the front door of any family that had measles, mumps, flu, etc. He was the gravel checker for the town when the gravel trucks would spread a new layer of gravel on a road to make sure it was of specified depth (that was before many roads were blacktop). He was a weed commissioner. He would have barrels of 2-4 D in his shop where the local farmers would come and fill their containers for spraying weeds on the farm. He also did snow plowing with the town’s old Caterpillar track-driven snow plow. Later, he drove the towns new Marmon-Herrington 4-wheel drive with a large V-shaped plow affixed to the front. Those were the days before power steering, so a lot of muscle was needed to turn the large steering wheel. It seems like it was 3-foot in diameter! Harry was a great story teller, too.

After finally getting relief from a large electric motor, the INGECO was hooked to a saw rig that Harry used to saw wood for the stove in his shop. Next, after sawing wood, the INGECO was parked for awhile. Eventually, the family contacted me to see if I was interested in buying it. So my brother-in-law, Ed Fruehe, and I went to look at it. The price was $100 per horsepower which made it a total of $250. I thought that was a little steep for me, so I bought the engine for $235 and Ed got the saw for $15.

Where is the INGECO today you ask? It is in my garage where I ogle it most every time I walked by. The only thing I did was put in a new gas tank and battery box. One other thing that is unique is that after pressure washing it the factory casting number in large yellow letters showed up on the front of the water hopper under the nameplate. I left the numbers there.

Do I still enjoy the engine? You bet! The engine is still unrestored. About once a year my son Randall comes from Michigan and we oil, grease, put in water and gas, clean the igniter and charge the battery. Away it goes. A little noise here and there, but it still runs like a charm. I still get a thrill watching and listening to it run. The only thing missing is the tin crank guard, which I understand is missing on a lot of old originals.

Don Janisch
Dousman, WI