An Odd Ball Rare Engine

An Iowa man finds a rare engine dating from the 19th century, and assorted contributors share their own engine stories and photos.


Paul Gorrell with the odd ball rare engine found languishing in an Illinois barn.


Content Tools

Paul Gorrell of Burlington, Iowa now is the proud owner of a most unique and rare gas engine. The finding and acquisition of this "odd ball" is a story in itself that should better be written up by Paul. This "Master Workman" engine was installed in a barn in Illinois sometime prior to 1900, and oddly enough nineteen years before that it was put to use on a line shaft that was belted to a corn sheller, a feed grinder and an elevator. Evidently it was used very little after that as it hadn't turned a wheel for the last 28 years. Perhaps the set-up was too congested inasmuch as a six hp Olds engine was added that could be moved about to run a sheller or grinder in more convenient locations. Paul was also fortunate to be able to buy the Olds pictured next to the double cylinder. Maneuvering this "two lunger" from its mooring proved quite a task. The original owners were unchartered "rock hounds," having collected several tons and packed them into horse stalls and alleys. There must have been some odd stones as Paul was told two horse stalls of rocks were sold at $200 each. Paul was still stuck with moving a lot of rock, cutting down trees and removing the engine pulleys. Nevertheless a very rare specimen has come out of hibernation and it sure proved a big attraction at "Old Threshers Reunion" at Mt. Pleasant where this picture was taken. Although he has some restoring yet to do Paul had it running many times. Certainly he is to be complimented for bringing to light such an odd exhibit.

May I speak for a multitude of hobbyists in saying that you are truly filling in one of the missing links in the chain of the old machinery enthusiasts. Not that steam isn't wonderful stuff, (I'm nuts about it, too) but the early types of internal combustion are also steps in the world's mechanical progress.

Fuller and Johnson Engines

I have a nice collection of single cylinder "farm type engines" (about 35 different makes) including a few rare birds ranging in sizes from 1/2 HP to 20 HP. Also have a collection of books and manuals on various makes.

I'd like to tell you about two of them, my Fuller and Johnson units. The larger is 20 HP. Serial #14061. 280 R.P.M., hit and miss governor, make and break ignition. Starts by using dry battery with low tension coil then changing over to timed Elkhart magneto.

The smaller one is 1 HP, Serial #19384, 500 R.P.M., hit and miss governor, make and break ignition using dry battery. Perhaps some hobbyists will recognize the original battery box which was supplied with these Fuller and Johnson engines.—Thomas Graves 

Natural Gas Engine

I have an Eclipse natural gas engine. On a thick cast brass name plate on the other side of the engine is the following information; Eclipse built by Myrick Mch. Co. Olean, N.Y., No. 476, Rev. 450, H.P. 4

This engines does not have electric ignition, but uses a nickle steel tube which is screwed in to the top of the cylinder. Inside of the chimney on top of the cylinder, this tube—closed at the top—is about 1/2 inch dia. by 6 inches long. When the engine is running it is kept white hot by a Bunsen burner at the bottom. The chimney is lined with asbestos to prevent heat loss.

This type ignition was in common use before electric ignition was perfected and as crude as it may seem is still used a great deal. All that is needed is a supply of natural gas. A belt driven fan keeps the finned cylinder cool. The fan is in the sheet metal housing to the left of the cylinder and the round drive belt can be seen on the fly wheel.

It is a hit and miss engine. The governor is in the right flywheel, and when the speed becomes too great the collar just inside the flywheel hub forces the curved rod over until it catches the exhaust push rod and holds the valve open until the speed falls enough to allow the push rod once more to contact the cam.

The inlet valve is just above the exhaust valve and is opened by suction. The crank case is open on both sides above the main bearings and all excess oil drips to the bottom of the base out of reach of the crank where it can be drained by removing a pipe plug. This engine is 4 1/2 ft. high from base to top of the chimney, and as old as it is, it is in perfect condition.—George F. Kempher 

Root & Van Dervoort Engine

This is a picture of my Root & Van Dervoort engine that I restored during last winter. I exhibited it at two steam shows this summer, The Mason-Dixon Historical Society Round-up and The Maryland Steam Historical Society Show. This engine was manufactured by The Root & Van Dervoort Engineering Company, East Moline, Illinois. It was patented July 14, 1903 and May 3, 1904. The serial number is CL-14961 and is a 4 H.P. with 400 R.P.M. This engine was manufactured for the John Deere Plow Company, Baltimore, Maryland.

According to a brass plate that was on the old battery box, the engine was sold by Collins & Grossnickle, Frederick, Maryland.—Albert M. Cooper 

Restored Tractor

Morris Blomgren has restored a tractor and would like to know what size it is; he says no one in his part of the country seems to be sure.

He restored the cart of this engine by replacing all of the old wood with new oak lumber, which is finished natural. The wheels are painted black and the braces and other metal parts are red. He thinks this engine is a nice show piece and is very proud of it.