In September of 1988, I was traveling through South Dakota and stopped to visit Mount Rushmore. During my visit, I met a man from Texas. We struck up a conversation and I told him I was planning to visit relatives in Iowa and Missouri, and was going to attend some old engine shows during my stay. He told me he had an old engine at home but couldn't remember the brand name. I had a model Olds engine in my truck, which I ran for him. I gave him my business card and we went our separate ways.
About a month later, I received a letter from him stating he wanted to sell the engine, but did not know how to advertise it. He said it was a Stickney Jr. I checked around with some other gas engine guys and C.H. Wendel's American Gas Engines Since 1872 and found out this engine is extremely rare. I wrote back telling him I was interested, so we reached an agreement. He disassembled the whole thing and built crates for all the parts in order to ship it.
There was no gas tank on the original pictures he sent, which I thought was odd. As soon as the pallet arrived my project was under way! I cleaned the parts and started to assemble the engine, but when I looked at the bore it looked as though it had just been honed. No gas tank and a fresh bore … hmmm. This engine had never been run! The seller later told me it was purchased to pump water in a silver mine and the mine turned out to be worthless, so the engine was never used.
I assembled the whole thing and decided it was bigger than I wanted to haul around in the back of my pickup, so I pushed it over into a corner of my shop and let it collect dust for a while.
Two years ago, my friend John Neitzel suggested we build a cart and take this engine to our local shows. So that is just what we did. I extended a front axle out of a riding lawn mower and built tie rods for it. I had found wheels with solid rubber tires earlier, so we had everything we needed to complete the cart. John welded the whole thing together and mounted the engine on the cart. We needed a gas tank and I had a scrap piece of heavy-wall aluminum tubing, so I asked another friend, Bill Betts, to weld the ends up to complete the cylindrical tank.
Once the engine was mounted on the cart, John and yet another friend, Bob Tracy, tried to get the engine started. They could get it to pop, but that's about it. I wrote a letter to the Coolspring Power Museum and hit the jackpot - they had recently reworked the main valve on their engine, so John Wilcox, a director, said the exhaust check was probably stuck. This check slides up to allow the burned gas to exit through the muffler. My friend John removed the valve, freed up the exhaust check and put it all back together. The engine was still being a nuisance, but it was time for the 2003 Antique Farm Engine and Tractor Assn. Show in Shelton, Wash., so we decided we would take it to the show as a static display.
The first morning, John tinkered with it and finally got it running. We ran it for about 90 minutes, and again on Sunday for another 90 minutes. I plumbed in PVC pipe for cooling, and while the water got hot, it didn't run all day when I showed it, so it should be sufficient.
I have only been able to locate three other Stickney Jr. engines in western Washington. An engine as rare as this is quite a find and to find one with a fresh bore just puts the icing on the cake! This goes to show you that some of the best things in life happen at the most unexpected times.
Contact engine enthusiast Mike Moyers at: 37301 28th Ave. S., Unit 31, Federal Way, WA 98003.