4609 Pacific Avenue Vancouver, WA 98663
Probably one of the neatest things about collecting old gas engines is the stories that come with them. I have been collecting engines for a few years now and being in my mid 30's these stories are of great value. The biggest percentage of engine collectors are of the age that actually used them in their day so this information and knowledge they have is just taken for granted. I urge the young collectors to spend time, ask questions, relay stories with these guys, cause when they're gone so is the data. A good example of what I've just mentioned is in the following story.
Helping my brother-in-law salvage some scrap iron along a river bank gave me the chance to meet the owner of the place. His name is John and we talked about the old iron and how it came about being there for so long. He said during the war there were scrap iron runs every so often in the area and that he would always contribute to them, but what was here was never picked up. Knowing that this is what happened to the majority of the old engines, I asked if he had saved any of them from the past. He nodded his head yes and motioned to the barn. My feet couldn't get there fast enough. Once the door opened there stood a 2? HP vertical Ideal and a 2 HP Witte. I was really excited and decided I really had to have them. I asked John if they could be made available. With a little thought and talk and price settling the engines were mine. I came back a few weeks later to get the engines out of the barn and noticed a small boiler. I asked what it was used for and he said it was for his steam engine. Now I was really excited! As we headed for the house I was thinking maybe this is the marine compound I have been patiently waiting for. Instead, here before me is this beautiful replica of what appears to be a Corliss. He said his father, whose name was Frank, made it when he was young. Frank, born in 1872, started the engine when he was 17. He made his own castings for the frame which is cast iron, the rest is in brass. The machining was done on a treadle lathe, a drill press, and a file. The project took a couple of years and if a trophy were to be given this is truly a first place winner. The engine was modeled after a Corliss that operated the Schlitz Brewery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The brewery was running the engine in 1942 when John's brother went there for a visit.
The model has a 3' bore, a 9' stroke and is rated at 4 HP?. Frank was a stone cutter by trade and nicely placed the engine on a marble slate 4? long, 16' wide and 1?' thick. This is without a doubt a wonderful heirloom and John says he already has a son. Oh well.
Now that's not the end yet.
Frank liked machining and having that lathe and press he took on odd jobs. One job in particular was for these two brothers Frank knew really well. These two brothers had been working on an engine design and needed some machine work by Frank. Well, between the three they got that engine to run but it ran poorly. With frustration they quit for a while. Frank moved out west around 1900-1901 yet still kept in contact with the two brothers. Later on the two brothers met another guy and those three worked on a little different version of their engine, this time with greater success.
In 1932 Frank went back to visit the HARLEY brothers and 'their partner DAVIDSON. At this time Harley-Davidson was in full production and selling like crazy.
You see it's stories like this that are just as important in our collecting as the collecting itself.