P.O. Box 6 Wilmington, Vermont 05363
As I was born on a farm in Tunbridge, Vermont in 1925, I should have grown up with one lung engines. By this time, these engines were perfected to the point of being a dependable source of power. Almost every New England farm had at least one, to be used for sawing wood, filling silo, threshing grain and pressing hay. Others were employed on farms to operate water pumps, cream separators, milling machines, butter churns, washing machines, electric light plants, and any other use where wheels had to be turned. Many larger engines were being used to turn the wheels of industry. After the disastrous flood of 1927 in New England, which washed out many mill dams, many mill operators purchased engines to power their mills, rather than rebuild the dams, that in many instances were dependent upon the amount of rainfall for power.
Unfortunately, my opportunity to gain experience with engines was severely restricted, as my father, although farm born and raised, had no interest in any form of power that did not burn hay for fuel and have the exhaust removed with a shovel. I did receive a lot of experience in the proper removal of his type of 'exhaust.'
My first experience with an engine was at my paternal grandfather's farm where I had been born. In 1929, we were living there again for a time while my father changed jobs. My grandfather had a 6 HP Jumbo engine that supplied power for sawing wood, tilling silo, and turning a grindstone. (See 'The Search For My Grandfather's Engine' on page 23 of the October 1994 issue of GEM.)
The farm buildings were all connected in the typical New England manner. The buildings enclosed the barnyard on three sides. The engine sat on a concrete pad, just outside of the woodshed, that was on the end of the house, where it could be belted to a cord wood saw inside the woodshed, and via a system of belts and a jack shaft to a grindstone that sat beside the engine. During this brief stay, I can remember the engine being used to saw wood. Being four years old at the time, I was confined to the house, but could see and hear the engine through the kitchen door.
In 1935, our family returned to the farm for a year, while my father was on another venture. My brother and I were old enough to assist in the farm work. The engine was used for sawing wood and to fill the silo, running a Blizzard ensilage cutter.
For a few months in early 1936, we lived with my maternal grandparents on a farm in Andover, New Hampshire. The water system consisted of a large pressure tank in the basement of the house, which was supplied from a well in a field in back of the house.
There was a windmill at the well; however, it had not been used in years. There was a house over the well that housed a pump and a 3 HP International Model 'M' engine with low tension magneto ignition.
There was a pressure gauge over the kitchen sink. When the pressure dropped, a trip was made to the well house to start the engine. The magneto was weak, so a hot shot battery was connected to the magneto. Also, the fuel pump did not work. A five gallon gas can with a spigot on the bottom was suspended over the engine. When the engine was run, the spigot was opened slightly, which allowed gasoline to run into the opening in the mixing valve. I assume that any surplus gasoline ran into the gas tank via the return line. I do not know how surplus gasoline, if any, was removed from the tank.
My grandfather said that this engine had also been used for sawing wood. It only pumped water while we were at the farm.
My grandmother passed away in 1936, and the farm was sold.
After I became interested in collecting old engines, we visited the farmstead about fifty years after our stay there. The buildings were in excellent condition, but where there had been fields in 1936, there were woods. Pine trees had been harvested for lumber around the old well site. We followed an old road that had passed through the farm yard, past the well, to a lake that abutted the farm property. The windmill tower was lying on the ground, covered with vines and brush. The well house was gone, but some boards covered the well. Under the boards were some electrical wiring and insulation. Obviously, the well was still supplying water to the house. I have no idea what became of the engine.
Getting back to the history of the old Jumbo engine. My grandfather passed away in 1940. The engine was purchased at auction by a neighbor, Phil Rogers. My father acquired the farm, and we returned there to live in 1942. My brother and I worked on a farm that summer where Phil was employed. The engine was set up to saw wood. We used it a couple of times that summer.
Phil found the engine impossible to start alone in the winter time, so he traded it for a 4 HP Woodpecker. Within a year, the person he traded with traded the engine for something in the next town north of Tunbridge. The last time that I saw the engine, it was on a wagon pulled by a team of horses, enroute to its next owner.
Phil Rogers changed his employment that year, and had no use for an engine. My father had purchased the saw rig at the estate auction. It was still set up in the woodshed. My brother borrowed this 4 HP Woodpecker engine. The engine was in a very worn out condition. It had practically no compression. There was a large piece broken out on top of the piston skirt.
To start it, I learned that it was necessary to pour gasoline into the mixer, then turn the engine over so that contact was made with the buzz coil, then rock the flywheels back and forth until it fired, hopefully while it was just past dead center, in the right direction. If not, the process had to be started all over again. Once it started firing and turning in the right direction, it was necessary to give it an assist by grasping the flywheels at each compression stroke, and giving it a boost until it finally came up to speed. The governor was the hit or miss type, but the only time that it missed was when it misfired, which was often. When sawing large blocks of wood, it was necessary to feed slowly into the saw, then wait for the engine to return to speed again before making another cut.
We did saw our wood with it that winter. As I look back, with the experience that I have had since, I believe that a new spark plug and possibly some fine tuning on the timing might have improved the engine's performance.
We were offered the opportunity to purchase the engine, but declined. Phil sold it. I helped him load it onto a truck.
The next afternoon I received a telephone call from the new owner. The conversation went like this: 'Did you use that engine that Phil Rogers had?' 'Yes.' 'Well, how in H - do you start the G- D - thing?'
I gave a detailed explanation of how I had started it. As World War II was in full swing at this time, scrap metal prices were high. I believe this engine was probably contributed to the war effort as scrap iron.
Next, a 6 HP Simplicity engine that had been used to saw slab wood at a local sawmill was acquired. The engine had been inundated by flood water, and the Webster magneto damaged.
I removed the magneto, and took it to the LeFrancis & Chamberlain Auto Service Shop in Rutland, Vermont, for repair. This company was an auto parts supplier, and engine and electrical parts rebuilder. When I picked the magneto up after rebuilding, the bill was $18.00, with an admonition to 'Keep it out of the river.'
The person who was with me commented that that was an excessive price for a magneto. Maybe so. At that time, engines were selling for about $25.00 apiece.
I installed the magneto on the engine that was placed on the pad where the old Jumbo had been. This engine had no gas tank. The prior owner would place a piece of birch bark under the fuel mixer and light it to assist in starting in cold weather. One time this had ignited and exploded the gas tank. A piece of garden hose was. attached to the gas line, and inserted in a gas can when the engine was run. It worked.
While my father and I were sawing wood one day, the engine stopped firing, but continued to turn over with a loud clatter. The connecting rod had broken at the wrist pin and had driven the piston up into the cylinder, shearing off the contact points.
A neighbor had an identical Simplicity engine minus the magneto. We borrowed this and installed the magneto from the other engine. This engine supplied the farm power until I returned from the service in 1946. The disabled engine was sold for scrap iron.
Prior to entering the service in 1944, I worked on another farm briefly. Power on this farm was supplied by three horses, a 1923 Fordson tractor, and three gas engines. One engine, a 6 HP Jumbo identical to the one my grandfather had, was set up to run a drag saw rig. We used it a couple of times while I worked on this farm. One engine was part of a Delco 32 volt light plant that had not been used in years, and the third engine was either a 1 or 3 HP International Model M that was set up as an auxiliary power source for the milking machine vacuum pump.
There was one power outage while I worked there. As the farm owner was at home, he started the engine for the morning milking. I never really did acquire the knack of hand milking, so when the evening milking time came, I was determined to start this engine, although the other hired hand insisted that we could do the milking by hand.
I started to fuss with the engine. The exhaust was piped to the outside and could not be heard inside the barn. I was sure that I had made it fire at least once. The owner suddenly appeared and verified that it had fired. He offered some suggestions for the next procedure which got the engine running. Just then the power returned, so we did the milking the electrical way.
I was released from Uncle Sam's Army in May 1946, and took over the family farm. The borrowed 6 HP Simplicity engine was still in use. A neighbor had a 10' Papec ensilage cutter, but no engine. We made a swap for silo filling.
With the governor weights tightened down as far as practical, and the spark advanced as far as possible, this engine could run the ensilage cutter if one were careful feeding it.
I acquired a 1929 six cylinder Chevrolet engine that I made into a power unit that supplied the farm power until I purchased a John Deere MT tractor in 1951.
We returned the Simplicity engine to the owner, leaving the magneto on the engine as payment for the use of it.
After becoming interested in collecting old engines, I thought about this Simplicity. The owners had purchased a tractor, so probably had no use for it. With luck, it might still be where we had unloaded it that day long ago.
I visited these old neighbors and inquired about the fate of the engine. I was advised that the engine had been used to saw wood for heating their home and for their maple sugar operation. It had always started and run well.
It had been loaned to a friend, who in turn had loaned it to his brother, who had broken it up and sold it as scrap iron for beer money.
There is a place for people who do things like that. His was not dug soon enough!