Saving Springfield

A big, 40-year-old, 6 HP piece of GEM history returns


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In January 1966, Gas Engine Magazine made its big debut, and what image did Elmer Ritzman choose to portray his baby and represent the face of things to come? A 1903 6 HP Type A Spring-field. The serial number on the engine was 3086 and it was purchased new in 1903 by Charles Folk of what was then known as, Longswamp Township, in Berks County, Pa.

As luck would have it, this engine found its way back to us. Charles passed the engine on to his twin sons, Charles and Walter, who used the engine until 1945. Howard Geisinger of Kutztown, Pa., then purchased the engine in 1962 and displayed it at the Kempton Farm Museum. Howard also took the engine to the Kutztown Fair, where a curious boy around 17 or 18 years old took a liking to it. Howard allowed the boy past the ropes to take a closer look at the engine, and the boy admitted he'd like to have it some day if Howard ever wanted to get rid of it.

The boy was Ed Johnson, and he did get that engine in the 1980s. Thus, the jewel of Elmer Ritzman's heart that premiered on the cover of his first issue is still very much alive and well. Ed has done little more than clean the engine, which was in good, original shape when he acquired it. He said it was mechanically sound, still had the original paint and even the striping on the cart. The horse-drawn cart was hand-built by Charles Fegely, a local wagon-maker blacksmith. According to the January 1966 issue of GEM, Charles purchased a Springfield engine to run his shop and was given orders from the Springfield Co. to build wagons for them. This was believed to be how he paid off the engine he purchased.

Ed Johnson first became interested in engines when he was 11 or 12 years old. His father, he said, went out to a dump in a field behind a farm, where he found a 1-1/2 HP International Harvester made in 1921. He and a friend turned the 350-pound engine over and rolled it out like a wheelbarrow. Ed's father had a repair shop and a towing business, so he brought the engine home in the back of his wrecker. When he pulled up to the repair shop, Ed ran out and asked what it was. His father lovingly said, "It's a gas engine. Now go get me a piece of steel wool!"

Ed asked his father what he was going to do with it and his father said, "You're gonna fix it up!" Ed did as he was told, though he admitted that kids are notorious for taking things apart and not being able to put them back together, which he did. At his young age, he "took it apart pretty good," but it sat for a year before his father helped him put it back together. Ed said his love for the hobby really clicked at a show in Kinzers, Pa., and since then he has had around 1,000 engines come and go.

Though he has seen so many engines come in and out of his life, Ed has had the Springfield engine for 25-30 years now, and we are certainly glad he held on to this wonderful piece of history.

Contact Ed Johnson at: P.O. Box 50, Baptistown, NJ 08803.