Our First Year

Dieselectric Plant

Courtesy of Charles and Joanne Bryan, Box 262, Springfield, South Dakota 57062.

Charles and Joanne Bryan

Content Tools

Springfield, South Dakota 57062

The calendar says that 365 days have passed since we began our collecting. Collecting what? Well, what else other than gas and diesel engines. A year ago Springfield was planning their Centennial and we started in earnest to prepare engines for a display during the celebration to be held on Jul 2, 3, and 4, 1970. The whole family numbering six, got involved in locating, cleaning, painting and least of all running the lot.

We began it all with a Fairbanks-Morse 'Z', which we mounted to an open-geared pump jack for a parade float. During the course of summer celebrations, it was displayed at several neighboring towns and it won a first at Tabor Czech Days.

The Centennial display consisted of 15 engines, part of which were furnished and displayed by Don Hoover of Webb, Iowa. Louis Musilek of Springfield furnished a 1? hp. John Deere, two small feed grinders and a corn shelter; and Laurel Iverson, also of Springfield, furnished a 1? hp. Cushman, all of which were operated during the display.

Since this time, we have obtained enough engines to make a sizeable display of our own, but we are grateful for the help we needed at Centennial time to make our display more interesting, more complete, and more appropriate.

Some of the engines displayed included: Witte 1? hp. logsaw, Ottawa 4 hp. logsaw, 1928 Briggs & Stratton, 1? hp. John Deere, 3 hp. Associated, 6 hp. Fairbanks, 1? hp. Fuller & Johnson, 1? hp. International. And lastly, our favorite engine, a 6 hp. Witte Dieselectric light plant which was hooked up to lights. All engines displayed were running and their 'putt-putt' drew much attention and much reminiscing from the crowd.

This name Dieselectric was not only a showpiece, but also served this past winter as a useful standby when Nebraska and Southern South Dakota were hit by a severe icestorm, which took the power out for some 26 hours. After finding out the severity of the storm we decided to put the Dieselectric to something more than a hobby and hooked it up to the house. It appeared that the Bryan household was the only house in town with electric power. This plant was to keep 19 of us plus our neighbors home comfortable throughout the duration of the power failure. At midnight of the first day the plant had been run 12 hours, non-stop, without missing a stroke. This was the first opportunity to put the unit to a test and it came through with flying colors. The Bryan's have struck their blow for useful hobbies!

Charles has had an interest in engines for as long as he can remember as he started training as 'Dad's helper' when he had to work on the old hit-and-miss, or the car. It seemed that he was always working on some type of engine so the experiences were varied and the knowledge gained a life-long asset. As a boy he helped pump water to some 500 head of cattle during the dry 30's with a Fairbanks model 'Z' pump jack identical to the unit previously mentioned. (Our Fairbanks seems much easier to run now than it did in the 30's, to say the least.) After working on the ranch, U.S. Army, and attended trade school, Charles went on to obtain a Master's Degree in Industrial Education. Employment was obtained at Niles Township Community High School in Skokie, Illinois, where he taught automotive classes for two years. He is now department head of the Diesel and Power Controls Technology Department at Southern State College at Springfield, South Dakota, and teaches hydraulics as his main subject. This biography is an attempt to explain his interest, and therefore our interest, in diesel and gas engines.

Posing with a 'Dies electric Plant' is Charles Bryan of Springfield. The display was one of many at the Centennial Pageant. Bryan, incidentally, is at home with this type of training as he teaches diesel technology at Southern State College. (We thank The Springfield Times for use of the picture -- Anna Mae.

This spring will find us rejuvenating the engines collected during the fall and the winter and we hope to be able to have a mobile display to take to shows.

As an outgrowth of our engine hobby, our son Brad, has started a sparkplug collection and our youngest daughter, Corinn, has started a collection of insulators. The other two girls, Brenda and Christine, 'go along' with the whole affair as helpers, but haven't gotten very involved.

As in most hobbies, there are drawbacks to collecting old engines. Time and space seem to be ours; time to hunt, time to restore, time to enjoy. And living in town limits our space for storage and therefore, it is hard to show or work on them.

We have many engines we would like to collect, but we do feel that our first year has been rewarding as well as fun.

Our Witte Dieselectric as it sat at the back door during the March ice storm. As you can see, we had a temporary cooling system on the engine but we had no problems during the twelve hours of operation.