20 HP Morton

Content Tools

Box 157, Floresuille, Texas 78114

Last February I received a notice from an auctioneer that there would be a large auction in Uvalde, Texas-about 150 miles from my place. A rancher that had moved there about ten years ago was selling out and moving to Oregon. He had lots of antique-like tractors, engines and equipment from a winery in California.

Well, the weather was bad, but I couldn't miss the auction, so my son and I put on the heaviest coats we could find and headed west. Regardless of the weather, there was a good crowd and bidding was very brisk. I bought a two cylinder Stover, an express wagon, a large vise and finally the big 20 HP Morton. Since we were in a pick-up, we could not haul what we had bought, so my son went back the next day with a gooseneck trailer and brought our junk home. Where the engine had been standing, people had tramped a trail around it while wondering what it was!

Taking it apart was like going on a treasure hunt. Wondering how it worked was something as this was a first for me. After taking it apart and putting it together, I found that all the parts were there and if I could get it to fire with a model T coil hook-up, it would be worthwhile to put new rings in it. Well, I got it to fire by turning it with a belt driven from a tractor.

I did get a few pops out of it so then I began the task of taking it apart so that I could put new rings in. Since I couldn't get the original size rings, I had to take it to a machine shop to cut down the pistons so I could put two rings in each groove.

After putting it together, we tried to run it with a small John Deere, but it couldn't pull it, so we used a larger John Deere. It turned but didn't start and instead, crashed and locked. The gears locked and broke out the bottom of the gear case and the casting that holds the shaft on to the cylinder housing. One of my sons called it a 'disaster'.

So I took it apart for the third time. I found that there were thirty-six broken teeth. I welded the gear housing myself but the gears looked like too much so I went to a gear and bearing house to see if I could get new gears. Well, the closest I could get were only 2 wide instead of 4 inches and the gears had spokes and were not solid and were only good for 12 HP. Then I would have to bore out the shaft size. So I went back to try to rebuild the old gears now since I had to take out these gears from the housing. I found that the ball bearings back of the gears were completely out which caused all the trouble. I had taken the cover plate on the opposite side off to see how the gears were and they seemed to be perfect, so I did not pull the shaft and gears off on the other side. But now, since I had to pull out the shafts, I found where my trouble had started! So I went to machine shops and got an estimate to rebuild the teeth. To rebuild the teeth would have cost around a thousand dollars each gear.

I didn't know what to do then, but I figured there was no turning around. So I talked to old timers who run steamers, and they said you could rebuild them yourself like they did years back.

By drilling holes and putting a line I of bolts in each tooth and then building it up and then cutting down to size, I finally rebuilt all the teeth and put the engine together for the FOURTH time. Each time you take it apart, you have to pull the flywheels and take out ninety bolts on the housing! After doing all this work, we were ready to make another try. It looked like it was turning pretty smooth. This time it crashed but didn't lock. My cast iron welding just wasn't good enough to hold the shaft and bearings to the engine. So after taking it apart FIVE times, I decided to leave the housing off from the gears and this way if a tooth wasn't welded right and broke in the case, at least it wouldn't cause other teeth to break. This time I only broke seven teeth. I re-did them.

Since my first welding was underneath the engine and very hard to get to and didn't hold, I decided to turn the engine upside down to do the welding and to weld a strap around the housing that holds the bearing which made it very strong. Then after having it together it looked like we had succeeded in making it hold together. So after running the gears open for awhile, it looked like it would hold. So I decided to put it together for the sixth time with the housing on and put all the bolts on again! Six times 90 bolts is 540 bolts that had to be taken out and replaced which makes 1080 bolts in just the housing!

Now, a little about the ignition as it is very unusual. I found that the low tension magneto ran a magnetic coil igniter made by Bosch. As I started to work on the engine I sent the magnetic coil igniter to a magneto shop to have it rewound. I knew it would take a while to get it back. I had been using a model T coil hookup to try to start it. This engine was very hard to time. I would start it with a belt and run it about an hour at a time. Then I finally got the magneto to work. I now have it so two men can crank it if all goes well. I have it mounted on a small tandem trailer so I can take it to shows.

This may be a long and twisted story, but this was the hardest problem I ever had as nobody ever heard of this engine. There was an article in an engine magazine 20 years ago that someone had a Morton engine in a San Diego museum. I wrote there but received no reply.

This engine was built in Fresno, California between 1907-17. If anybody in the U.S. knows anything about this engine, I would appreciate hearing from them.