Oshkosh and Wiscona Pep Engines

Many of the best-known engines came from Wisconsin. So did many of the least known, including the Oshkosh and Wiscona Pep.

Pep Engines

Allen Hasselbusch’s 1911 4 hp Oshkosh features the Oshkosh name in cast-in, raised lettering on his water hopper.

Photo by Bill Vossler

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Oshkosh 4 hp

Manufacturer: Oshkosh Mfg. Co., Oshkosh, WI
Year: Circa 1911
Serial Number: NA
Horsepower: 4 hp (est.)
Bore & Stroke: 4-1/2in x 6in
Weight: NA
Flywheel: 19in dia. x 3-1/2in face
Ignition: Spark plug with battery and coil
Governing: Hit-and-miss

Allen Hasselbusch of Clarence, Minnesota, has a couple of gas engines among his 141-strong collection of engines that are not often seen at shows, including a 1911 4 hp Oshkosh, and a 1915 1-1/2 hp Wiscona Pep.

Allen came to engine collecting through the used International Harvester M engine that his grandfather bought and hooked up to the farm windmill. “My granddad bought it from an Allis-Chalmers dealer in Clarence about 1937. The A-C dealer had traded it in on something. It was just used to run the water pump. I remember as a little kid I would go out to the windmill and start the engine up and pump water. I still have that engine,” Allen says.

In 1988 a neighbor at an auction said he had a bunch of engines he wanted to sell. “I bought a 6 hp United, 1 hp Rock Island, and 2-1/2 hp Sandwich from him, and started from there. I like engines in general, so I’ve got all different kinds of them,” he says.

Nevertheless, Allen has a method of deciding the next engine he should buy. “Mt. Pleasant (Midwest Old Threshers Reunion) has a featured engine every year, and I try to get that engine. Sometimes it takes a lot of searching. One year I couldn‘t find a New Holland for sale, so I bought a model, but a couple of months later found a real one. That happened with their Stickney feature, too, because they don’t come up for sale very often, so I bought a 1/3-scale. I thought that would do, but two months before the show started, one came up for sale in Minnesota, and I bought it, so I’ve got the little and the big one there, too. I’ve found every one since I started in 1988.” Others included New Way, of which he has an upright and a horizontal.

1911 4 hp Oshkosh

Before he spotted the Oshkosh engine at the Le Sueur, Minnesota, Swap Meet three years ago, Allen says he didn’t know much about the engine. “This one was in bad shape, with everything loose on it. I had to put in new governor springs and get a gas tank for it. I took the dimensions of the tank and sent it to Victor Hartzel in Ohio, and he made me the tank. I just measured what would fit up in there, because the tank was completely gone. It probably doesn’t look like the original, but it works,” Allen says.

“I had quite a time getting the governor to work just right, but through trial and error I finally got it fixed trying different spring tension. You know when it’s right on a hit-and-miss because it fires once and coasts for a while, but if the spring isn’t right, it might fire a couple of times before it latches out.”

Allen worked on the engine and got it running before painting it, choosing what looked like a correct red color “When I got it, the engine was rusty, with no paint on it. I’d seen others with that color on the internet, but since you don’t see a lot of them, it’s hard to know,” he says.

“For its size, the Oshkosh is a very heavy engine,” Allen says, “very solidly and strongly built. It seems like a good machine. Back then, so many different companies were trying to make engines, and some made it, and some like the Oshkosh, didn’t.”

People like to look at it, Allen says. “People have never seen one before. It’s got ‘Oshkosh’ embossed on the water hopper, which is kind of unusual, and makes it look pretty nice.” The flywheels are 19 inches in diameter with a 3-1/2-inch face. “They’re wide flywheels,” Allen says. Bore and stroke are 4-3/4 x 6 inches and it has spark plug ignition. “It doesn’t have a tag on it,” Allen notes, “so I’m guessing it’s about a 4 hp engine” based on its bore and stroke.

The truck it’s on was made by Thomas Truck & Caster Co., of Keokuk, Iowa, but it probably isn’t original to the Oshkosh. Oshkosh engines are rare. According to C.H. Wendel in American Gasoline Engines Since 1872, they were made for only two years, in 1911 and 1912 by the Oshkosh Mfg. Co. of Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

Oshkosh background

Oshkosh Mfg. Co. was apparently established in 1911. In Volume 47 of the Lumber Manufacturer and Dealer that year, under the headline “An Old Concern Under a New Name,” it was announced that “The Oshkosh Manufacturing Co. … are successors to the Oshkosh Logging Tool Co, the A. Banford Logging Tool Co and the Oshkosh Tool Mfg Co. This change of name, however, carries with it no change whatever in the company’s line …” No more detail is available.

In American Gasoline Engines Since 1872, C.H. Wendel says, “In the case of Oshkosh engines, it would appear that their activity began about 1911 and ended within a year or two. Research of the Patent Office Gazette has thus far yielded no clues regarding the company, and advertising in various trade magazines is virtually nonexistent. Oshkosh engines were extremely heavy, and built in sizes up to about 6 horsepower. Very few are known to exist, so those remaining can be considered to be extremely rare.”

The St. Louis Lumberman of the same year said the change in name had confused people. “When (a lumberman’s representative) … called on the Oshkosh Manufacturing Co. at that place, his attention was drawn to the fact that a good deal of their correspondence indicates confusion as to the corporate name.” The article continues: “Besides their large line of logging tools and lumbermen’s time saving specialties, they turn out a variety of tools and devices for contractors, railroads, telephone, and telegraph companies which are in almost universal use.” There is no mention of gasoline engines.

An article in American Builder said that the company was advertising their “low-charging (concrete) mixers” using Fuller & Johnson engines, as well as “the announcement by the Oshkosh Manufacturing Co. of the company’s new service plan … a chain of service stations throughout the United States for the benefit of its patrons. These service stations carry a complete line of repair parts for all Oshkosh machines and maintain fully equipped shops for either repairing or completely rebuilding Oshkosh machinery. An engine and machinery expert is in charge of each repair shop.”

By 1912, however, Oshkosh was out of business and all activity ceased.

Wiscona Pep

A year ago, Allen picked another fairly rare engine at the Le Sueur Swap Meet, a 1915 1-1/2 hp Wiscona Pep. Aside from needing to be cleaned and having a new truck put under it, the Pep didn’t need much work. “I had to charge the mag, but that’s about all I had to do on that one,” Allen says.

An unusual aspect of the Wiscona Pep is its dual fuel tanks, one on each side of the water hopper. “With the water hopper between the two gas tanks, it’s a really different looking engine. The hopper was cast to fit those two tanks. That’s not common. It’s one of the reasons I bought, I like the looks of it.”

As a kerosene-burning engine that started on gasoline, it needed two tanks, with one tank holding gasoline for starting. Once it got warm, it was switched to the second tank to run on kerosene. “Back then kerosene was cheap. Now it costs more than gasoline, so I run gasoline in it.”

It has a crankshaft cover with a little door that opens so the operator can examine the connecting rods and turn the grease around them. A part of a decal remains on the engine, appears to be mostly original. “I don’t know any of its history,” Allen says, “but because it has over half of the original paint on it, I kept it that way. I like the original look of the engine if it can be kept.”

The Pep’s flywheels are 16-1/2 inches in diameter, with a 1-3/4 inch face. Bore and stroke are 3 1/4 x 4-1/2 inches. It’s throttle-governed, with ignition via a Webster magneto.

Termaat & Monahan Co.

Termaat & Monahan Co., of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, began producing gasoline engines in 1895, aimed mainly toward the marine market. As C.H. Wendel writes, “The precise entry of T & M into the farm engine business remains unknown. Possibly it occurred as early as 1910 – if it did, the company delayed their advertising campaign through contemporary trade journals for another two years. The company’s preponderance with marine engine design, coupled with what appears to have been a half-hearted advertising campaign for the stationary models certainly gives credence to the theory that for T & M, farm engines were a necessary aside rather than a main line item.”

In 1917, the company went into receivership, after which it was renamed Termaat-Monahan Mfg. Co., although Wendel writes in Volume 2 of American Gasoline Engines Since 1872, “Their only product appears to have been the 1-1/2 hp Wiscona Pep.”

However, an ad in the May 15, 1919, issue of the combined Farm Implement News, The Truck & Tractor Review, shows that 1-1/2 and 3 hp engines were still available, under the motto, “Will You Let This Wiscona Pep Motor Sell Itself to You?”

An article in that same issue sheds some light on the engine: “The Termaat-Monahan Mfg. Co., Oshkosh, Wis., is now offering a new stationary engine called the ‘Wiscona Pep Motor’ and made in 1-1/2 and 3 hp sizes. It operates on either gasoline or kerosene, and has a special design of the cylinder head in which the exhaust passage and air inlet are arranged in such a way for burning kerosene that the air does not have to be heated before entering the carburetor. This design was chosen by the manufacturers in order to derive full power from the kerosene and effect an economy in fuel through a thoroughly gasified mixture. A frost proof cylinder drain cock is a feature that will appeal particularly to the farmer, because a farm engine is often left outside in cold weather where there is danger of bursting the water Jacket. On the Wiscona Pep Motor the drain cock shuts off the water within the engine jacket so that no water remains outside where it may freeze. A discharge pipe provides for carrying the water away from the engine foundation when draining the water system. Ignition is provided by a Webster oscillating magneto, making batteries unnecessary. All equipment used is standard. The general design provides for group sub-assemblies that greatly simplify the repair and overhauling of the engine. The cylinder head group carries all the gas handling and regulating devices. The cam gear group contains the operating parts; the governor forms a group with one of the flywheels and the magneto also is of well-known unitary construction. This permits removal of any group of parts without disturbing other parts of the motor. The manufacturers will sell the new motor only through dealers, and a liberal resale proposition are now being offered.”

Wendel notes that the Wiscona Pep may have been sold as late as 1920, but reports that little else is known.

Running engines

When it comes to getting his engines running, Allen notes that he’s lucky he has a neighbor who is really good with making any parts he might need. “He’s really good at welding cast and manufacturing things. He’s made springs for me, using piano wire to make different springs. If I’ve got something made of cast iron that needs to be welded, he’ll weld that, and make bushings when they’re real sloppy and make them fit tighter. He also has a magneto charger so he can charge magnetos.”

Allen also collects old cars and tractors, and says what he enjoys most about collecting engines is the challenge of getting them running. “Sometimes it’s the challenge of finding the right parts to put one together.” He also enjoys looking at all the different types of engines. “You also get to meet a lot of different people and make a lot of friends at shows, so it’s just a lot of fun,” Allen says.


Contact engine enthusiast Bill Vossler at Box 372, 400 Caroline Ln., Rockville, MN 56369; bvossler@juno.com