Circa-1920 5 hp Julien Engine

A Canadian-built Julien engine possesses similarities to a Waterloo and ties to the U.S.

julien 5 hp

Julien 5 hp engine.

Photo by Christian Williams

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Circa-1920 5 hp Julien

Manufacturer: LaCie Chs. A. Julien, Ltee., Pont Rouge, Quebec, Canada
Year: Circa 1920
Serial no.: NA
Horsepower: 5 hp (est.)
Bore & stroke: 5-1/2in x 10-1/4in
Weight: NA
Flywheel: 33-1/2in dia. x 3in face
Ignition: Igniter and magneto ignition
Governing: Hit-and-miss

Engine collector Travis Benner, Blue Grass, Iowa, has a knack for finding interesting engines, a point proven by the circa-1920 5 hp Julien he purchased some 10 years ago in Canada. “It came from Bob King’s estate up in Canada. He passed away, and a friend of his was looking to help his widow settle the estate, and took care of some of the engines. He’d always kept this engine back because of the original paint on it. He really thought this was the one he wanted to keep,” Travis says of the Julien.

According to Travis, Bob found the engine in its original installation, mounted inside a metal building that had kept water and snow off the engine. This, and the fact that the engine was covered in a hard cake of dried oil and grease, helped preserve the original paint. “It took many careful applications of mineral oil and Marvel Mystery Oil with paper towels and rags to ease the old layers of grime away,” Travis says. “What is left shows multiple colors that blend together to create almost a shadow or 3-D effect on the flywheel spokes. Someone really took time to dress up this engine before it left the factory,” Travis says in obvious admiration. “I have always felt that early artists who had difficulty selling art on their own may have found their way to companies including engine manufacturers. The detail and skill preserved in the original paint of several engine companies showcase the skill of these unknown artisans.”

When Bob found the engine there was a hole cut in the side of the building so belting could be run outside, but it is unknown what sort of implement or implements it might have run.

The Waterloo connection

Not a great deal is known about manufacturer LaCie Chs. A. Julien, Ltee., Pont Rouge, Quebec, Canada, or how many engines they built. The company’s roots apparently go back to the late 1870s when Charles A. Julien and a business partner acquired furniture maker Bussieres and Beaudry Co., Ltd., in Pont Rouge. By the turn of the century the company was prospering, having turned to manufacturing threshers designed after a Julien patent.

According to information posted on engine historian Denis Rouleau’s Julien engine registry in 1910 Julien started selling badged engines manufactured by Waterloo Gasoline Engine Co., Waterloo, Iowa. This arrangement apparently lasted until about 1915-1917, when Julien engines began to be built at the Pont Rouge factory. Unfortunately, the Julien concern’s good fortunes didn’t last, and in 1928 the company went bankrupt.

Although there are differences between Julien-built and Waterloo-built engines, they are materially identical. “Julien engines certainly have a striking resemblance to Waterloo engines,” Travis agrees, “but there are differences. Some of the smaller pieces include details to the castings that are not seen on the matching Waterloo engines and of course the water hopper is something special. That skirting on the water hopper was one of the signature things they did. On the big Juliens they didn’t skirt the water hopper, but I have seen them where they’ve painted a skirting on the big ones.

“The typical Julien engine has a maple leaf with two beavers cast into the front part of the hopper cover. They also usually have a shield cast into the back and ‘Julien’ cast on both sides in raised letters. This particular engine has the maple leaf and beavers on the front, but the top sides are blank and the back has a raised ribbon casting with the name Julien carefully painted across in multiple colors.”

Comparison with other surviving Julien engines suggests Travis’ was built around 1920, although it’s hard to be precise as there’s no build plate anywhere on the engine, or even any indication it ever had one. “Often on the side of the water hopper there’d be a tag, but there are no holes that I can find where there used to be one. On some Juliens I understand they would actually tag the skid, but it didn’t have a skid with it that was original to it, so that might have been what happened. I don’t know for certain, but that’s my guess,” Travis says, adding, “I looked very carefully for a serial number. I understand the serial number would usually be on the end of the crankshaft, but I can’t find it on either side. I’ve had the clutch pulley off and checked everything on both sides, so either it’s been ground off for some reason or it’s never been stamped.”

There are other differences to Waterloo-built engines, Travis says. “The rocker arm was specific to Julien, and the end of the pushrod for adjustment for the exhaust rocker is also a little different style. Even the blocks that hold the push rod in place, the stepping, is unique to Julien and doesn’t match the Waterloo engines, which look similar. There are some differences in castings and in the fine detail work to make it a Julien. This one is typical of the early Juliens where it has no studs but bolts to hold the igniter into the cylinder wall. Most  of them were like that, which was different from what a lot of the American builders did.

“Another striking difference between Julien engines and a typical Waterloo engine is the clutch pulley. Julien used a long, single arm that coasts and hangs down as the engine is running. You simply grasp this weighted arm and push it in to cause the clutch to grip the belt, and you pull it back out to release the wood shoe mechanism. This is the correct Julien clutch pulley.”

Mechanically, the Julien is very similar to a Waterloo. “The engine is hit-and-miss governing and has a set of flyball governor weights that operate off of the cam gear in front of the crankshaft, very similar to the Waterloo-style engines,” Travis says. “Spark is delivered via a Webster mag. As a side note, it’s interesting to note that some Canadian engine manufactures had an aluminum band instead of the typical brass name band found in the states across the top of the magnets.”

Getting it running

When Travis got the engine it was in several pieces, as Bob had apparently started disassembly. That might have disappointed some collectors, but Travis considers it something of a blessing. “If you have never assembled an engine you have missed out on really getting to know the details of each piece that make up the complete puzzle,” Travis says. “Thankfully, these engines are fairly simple and everything was there. I had a set of axles and some reclaimed wood from an old corn crib, so a respectable cart was made to make the engine easier to take to shows. I also had to add the cast oil pan that came with this engine prior to bolting the engine to its new cart rails. The cast pan nestles into the open space below the connecting rod and crank throw and would effectively catch any drips or slobber from the running of the engine. I haven’t seen this cast piece yet on other Julien engines or under Waterloo engines, but I keep looking. It would be impossible to fit the pan in place unless it is positioned before the engine is lowered onto the skids or rails.

“Bob had basically honed the cylinder and had done a little work, but hadn’t finished it,” Travis notes, “so I put it all together and made the cart for it. Other than reassembly and adjusting, it was in running condition, and I was able to get the original fuel tank and system to make it look right. It’s got the original crank guard. Everything else on the engine is original as far as I know, except for the greasers on the main bearings.”

Since getting the Julien back together and running, Travis has shown it at numerous shows, including the annual Old Threshers Reunion in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, where we caught up with him. “I’ve taken it around to a few shows. I really appreciate the original paint,” Travis says.