National Engine Found in Dieppe

The engine as found

The engine as found. Reg Ward at right, the author at left.

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RR 2, (Dobson's Corner) Salisbury, New Brunswick, Canada EOA 3E0

On June 19, 1992 a friend of mine, Reg Ward, invited me to take a short trip to look at some old engines and other machinery. Our first stop was to be in Dieppe, near Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada, only a few blocks from Reg's home.

Reg has bought and sold many old engines in the past 30 years, so I readily accepted his invitation, although I doubted the existence of an interesting engine so close to home. I was quite sure there would not be one for sale. Most of the old engines in this area have gone to scrap yards or collectors long ago.

To my surprise, the engine in Dieppe was an 8 HP National built in the Province of Quebec. Except for a missing magneto, a broken magneto bracket and a broken throttle rod, the engine was complete and to add to the interest, not to mention challenge, the water hopper was filled with mud, which once supported flowers to brighten the backyard where the engine sat.

The owner was not at home, but on a second visit a few days later a deal was made. He said that the engine had been bought new by his grandfather, probably in the early 1920s.

A few weeks later a town crew installing water pipes beneath a nearby street agreed to use their machine to lift the engine if I could move it to the edge of the street. An hour's work with a come-along, planks and rollers moved the engine about 50 feet, and in minutes the engine was on the back of my 1968 three-quarter ton International.

At home, the come-a-long and a steel pipe lifting arch unloaded the engine, which I dismantled over the next few days. The piston was stuck, as were the valves. Fortunately the cylinder was bolted to the frame, so when it was removed, I was able to stand it on end and pour in rust remover.

To my surprise, all bolts and nuts were removed without twisting off, although one cylinder head stud broke during assembly, prompting me to replace all four. Even the ignitor, built to fit snugly into the side of the cylinder, came out without major problems.

The National engine powering the hay press at the 1993 Harvest Day at the Agricultural Museum in Sussex, N.B. The press is owned by the Museum. The lady at the bottom right is my wife Peg, who held the intake valve and was surprised by the exhaust.

After driving out and repairing the valves, polishing bearing surfaces, cleaning the gasoline tank which forms the base, building a throttle valve, shaft and lever, cleaning the carburetor, building a magneto bracket, cleaning the mud from the water hopper and water jacket, and doing all the other little time consuming chores necessary to return the engine to operating condition, I turned my attention to the stuck piston which had been soaking for a few weeks.

A supper table discussion with three of my sons led the oldest one (20 at the time), to assure me he would remove the piston that evening. It's great to have the confidence of youth and inexperience, I thought. However, I said to go ahead, but be sure nothing is broken-After supper he and his brothers went to the garage, placed two heavy planks across the grease pit, and placed the cylinder flanges on the planks. I watched to be sure my valuable parts were not broken by eagerness and enthusiasm. My son then put a hardwood block from the firewood pile in the cylinder on top of the piston and hit it a whack with the sledge hammer. 'I think it moved,' shouted my youngest son, who was watching the bottom. A few more swings of the sledge and the piston and connecting rod was in the hands of the youngest son. I have used this method before, but never has it worked so well.

The piston was in excellent condition and the rings were loose and seemed as good as new. In fact, the whole engine shows little signs of wear, leading me to believe that the engine was used very little before the magneto bracket broke and never ran after, as there is no evidence that any other type of ignition was ever used.

A week or two, later the engine was ready to start, using a battery and low tension coil, since the magneto I had was dead. I belted my 6 HP Gilson with a clutch pulley to the National, but every time the National came up on compression the belt would slip. My sons were all away working, so I asked my wife to hold the intake valve open until the engine was turning up to the speed of the Gilson. I expected then that she could release the valve and I would begin adjusting fuel mixtures, checking spark and doing whatever I could to coax a pop or two from the engine. To the surprise of us both, the engine fired immediately when she released the valve and continued to run well. The shock for my wife was even greater, because she was standing a foot or so from the exhaust opening and caught the first few blasts at about knee height. Needless to say, she asks many more questions now before she agrees to help.

The installation of the proper Webster Tri-Polar Oscillator, which I found for sale at a local engine show in August of 1993, completed the restoration of the National to original condition.

In September of 1992 and again in September of 1993, the engine powered a hay press at the New Brunswick Agriculture Museum Harvest Day in Sussex, New Brunswick.