National Cathedral Engine Running!

Unidentified Engine

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In the December 2000 GEM, on page 35, there was a request from the National Cathedral for help getting their engine running which they used to pull an 1860 carousel. I called Patricia Cate, the contact in the article, and exchanged several e-mails with her and Bill Patterson, facilities services operations manager, and with several 'engine minded' friends. From the e-mails and attached photos, it was obvious that the engine was not nearly as old as they thought, but was a flat head Wisconsin V-4, our guess of '50s vintage.

On December 11, 2000, we went up and checked out the engine. The model plate was missing, but it was in good condition. The forwarded e-mail below is a recap of what we found, did, and recommended. John Donley, Tony Hawker, and I were from the Dale City/-Woodbridge, Virginia area. Jim Gray and Clem Clements, members of the local A Model Club, were from the Burke Lake area. All of us got a piece of the action and were very satisfied to leave the engine in good running order.

I have included pictures of the engine perhaps someone can identify the model for us which would help in acquiring the parts to convert it to electric start.

Forwarded message from Harold H. Howard ( to on Mon, 11 Dec 2000. Subject: V-4 Wisconsin Recap

Patricia, Bill,We all had fun getting the Wisconsin running today. As we had hoped it only took a few minor adjustments to put the engine in good running order. Wanted to recap what we did for you, how we left the engine, and Tony's work on the starter.

General condition of the Engine.

1. The engine is in very good condition. All the cylinders have good compression and overall it shows very little wear. There is nothing wrong with the fuel pump or carburetor, and the magneto is putting out a good spark.


What made it hard to start and run rough on the last run.

1. The primary reason it was hard to start was because the fuel pump had been allowed to become empty of fuel and it could not pump fuel to the carburetor. No fuel to the carb/no run.

2. The secondary reason for hard starting and the primary reason for rough running was that the sparkplugs were gapped too close (around .020' rather than .030'), and this had caused one plug to 'bridge' carbon across the gap and short out. That cylinder then did not have any spark/was not firing, so the engine was running on only three cylinders, rather than all four.

3. A secondary reason for rough running, at low speed, was the carburetor low speed mixture/jet was out of adjustment, so the mixture of air and fuel was not right for best combustion at low speed.

Correction of problems.

1. By putting gentle air pressure on the fuel tank, we forced fuel up the line and filled the fuel pump. Once the pump was full of fuel, it would pump and fill the carburetor, as you witnessed when the engine ran (and it ran nice and smooth).

The fuel pump has a one way valve which prevents the fuel from running back into the tank (at least for a long time), so once it is full of fuel, it will restart normally day in and out.

2. We regapped the sparkplugs to 0.030 of an inch, and adjusted the carburetor low speed mixture.

Recommendations to keep the engine in good starting condition.

1. The key is to keep the fuel pump, lines, and carburetor full of good fuel. However, you cannot let it sit for six months this way, as the fuel will get old and gum up the parts/not work.

2. RUN THE ENGINE FOR FIVE MINUTES (until up to normal operating temperature) ONCE EVERY TWO WEEKS. This will keep the pump and carb full of good fuel.

3. ADD FUEL STABILIZER TO THE FUEL IN THE TANK. Go to an auto parts store or Walmart and ask for a fuel stabilizer. Stabil is the usual brandinstructions are on the can. This will keep the fuel from aging.

4. Change spark plugs once each year.

5. Continue to change oil as you have been.

Electric Starter

1. Tony is looking for the parts necessary to add an electric starter. It will take some time to find them, especially since we do not have the actual engine model number.

2. The starter is not a necessity, but it will make it more convenient to restart the engine when it is hot. If the pump is dry of fuel, like we found it today, don't expect the electric starter to make it start better. That pump has to work hard to raise fuel close to 24' from the tank to the pump, and dry it does not pump at all.

3. So you won't be surprised, the starter will add more routine maintenance to the engine. The battery to power it will have to have its charge maintained. The best way is to have a trickle charge going into the battery all the time (charger will need to be plugged into 110/120 V outlet.) At least the battery should be charged every time the engine is started on the bi-weekly basis mentioned above. It shortens the life of a lead acid battery to not keep it fully charged.

4. Also, you will need to find a place to put a battery box/container on the cart.

Hope this helps put things into perspective.