Restoring a Bull's Eye

Side-Shaft Engine

Content Tools

 1, Box 459-A Sugar Grove, NC 28679

In 1968 I set out to find a side-shaft engine. At that time, my dad, brother, and I had a collection of engines consisting of 51 various makes and sizes.

I spent a lot of time and drove a lot of miles, but all the leads turned out to be dead ends. After several weeks passed, I set out again early one morning, still searching for that special engine. The stop at a country store turned out to be rewarding. A name was given to me of a guy that had a gasoline engine. As it turned out, he no longer had an engine but knew of a man that did. Then my '57 Chevy and I headed out to where this engine was located. After several stops to ask more directions, I ended up in a farm yard, near Neva, Tennessee.

At the door of this home, I was greeted by Mr. and Mrs. John Neatherly. We talked at length and I finally got around to their engine. Yes, they still had an old engine, and it was fine to take a look. It was better than I could have imaginedsitting in the weeds was a side-shaft engine. The cast brass builder's plate read 'Bull's Eye, 4 B.H.P. #3908 Type G.E.'

By this time, this 18 year old was really getting excited. The over-all appearance looked fairly good; the lubricator and ignitor trip arm were missing. Everything was stuck and the Accurate Magneto type R-V was badly damaged. Half-buried in the ground below the head was the remains of a muffler. Dirt and rust had built up on the inside along with the winter freezing. It could stand no more and broke into 3 pieces. The water hopper was nearly half full of acorns and leaves.

I bounced back to the Neatherly's home and was ready to ask the big question. They said they would agree to sell the Bull's Eye, if it was o.k. with their sons. I returned the following weekend and was delighted to find that they were going to sell me their engine.

My dad and I moved the Bull's Eye to the workshop of the museum we were operating, Frontier Village, Blowing Rock, North Carolina. After allowing some penetrating oil to soak several weeks, I began to disassemble the engine. The first reward came in getting that mess of leaves out of the hopper. Down next to the cylinder lay the ignitor trip arm. Years before the piston had stuck, someone turned the flywheels, not realizing that the pin was stuck in the trip arm; this twisted the pin out of the end of the side shaft. The hopper did make a secure place to keep the arm from getting lost.

After removing the head and then the intake valve assembly, I tackled the exhaust valve, which was stuck in the open position. I applied heat, brass, and hammer, then it started moving. All seemed fine until I saw what came out with the badly rusted stemhalf of the exhaust valve guide. This was very discouraging since I didn't have any idea how to repair it. The head was laid aside, but what I didn't realize was that it would be eight years before the head would be repaired.

The following spring, I met my wife-to-be and between dating, full-time job, helping at the museum, etc., the Bull's Eye had to wait. Then in the fall of '68, I was called into the U.S. Army. The next 2 years Uncle Sam took up most of my time with Artillery training and then a tour in Vietnam. God saw me through some tough times and then rewarded me with a lovely wife in September of 70.

During the winter of '71, I restored a 1 HP coil box J-D and a Thomas Ludlow and Rogers cider mill. This was in preparation for our first Carolina Crank-Up, which was held in September, 1971. Every time I went into the workshop there was the Bull's Eye, still disassembledwaiting.

In the meantime, Dad made a trade for a 6 HP Bull's Eye on factory trucks. He bought this engine to trade on railroad items. I ended up with a good magneto and the trucks for my 4 HP engine.

Over the next few years the Lord blessed my wife and I with our daughter; we hosted the second Carolina Crank-Up; moved part of our museum to Conover, North Carolina; hosted the third Carolina Crank-Up; retired from operating a museum and moved back to Sugar Grove, North Carolina.

The most important event of my life took place in 1974, when, through the calling of the Holy Spirit, I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior.

In November of 1974,I enrolled in our community college. Industrial Maintenance Engineering was right down my alley. The two years I spent in school have been very helpful in engine restoration. The Bull's Eye engine parts ended up in my machine shop and welding classes.

That old valve guide that was half gone wasn't too hard to fix after all. It turned out that these engines used a pressed in exhaust valve guide. I pressed the broken guide out, and then machined a new one from cast iron. After removing the exhaust valve from its cast head, I machined a new stem complete with threaded bottom end. Next came the task of machining a new pin for the ignitor trip arm. The side shaft was bent and had to be straightened. The magneto case had a crack and had to be sliver soldered. Cleaning, painting, recharging the magnets, put it back in #1 shape.

The piston in the cylinder was the last stuck part. It had been soaking for several years but still would not yield to an oak block and sledge hammer. I didn't have an acetylene torch to use at home, so I decided to build a small fire in the hopper with kerosene. The trick would be to heat the cylinder and before the piston expanded, push or persuade the piston out; it worked fine.

All parts were cleaned to bare metal, primed and then two finish coats applied with brush. Clear lacquer was used on bare metal and brass parts. Mack Hodges of Boone, North Carolina, cut out the oak skids and built the tool box for me.

In the winter of 1976, our daughter watched day after day while I put the Bull's Eye back together. Dad and my brother came over for the crank-up and after a few pulls on the flywheels, the Bull's Eye was running again for the first time in over 30 years.

Our Bull's Eye has been to over two dozen exhibits and shows, including five states from South Carolina to the Tri-State Show in Portland, Indiana. The Bull's Eye engines were manufactured in Warren, Pennsylvania, by Jacobson, and sold by Montgomery Ward. I do not know the exact date of manufacture but guess around 1914.

I am presently serving as Vice-President of the Carolina Fly-Wheelers and am a former member of Miami Valley Steam Threshers Association, in Ohio.

I praise God for sending His Son to die for all of us; John 15:5 in part says, 'for without Jesus you can do nothing.' I am very thankful for my family and friends and their encouragement to preserve a part of our past for future generations.