'Second Chance' 7 HP Witte Runs Again!

Witte Engine

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Pres. Miracle of America Museum 58176 Highway 93 Poison, Montana 59860

Some GEM subscribers remember the story I submitted in the June 1998 issue about pulling the main part of a 1923 7 HP Witte engine out of Flathead Lake. It was in thirty feet of water and had been used as a buoy anchor for forty years. Fortunately, for some unknown reason, the flywheels, crank, rod and piston assembly, gas tank and oiler had been stored in the boat house. Some of you may have wondered if I ever got it going.

Cylinder bore and babbitt bearings cleaned up pretty well after some forty years in Flathead Lake.

Who would have thought that after forty some years in the lake, the Witte mag and carburetor would ever function again?

I set the goal of having it running this year for the Miracle of America's annual Live History Days, the third weekend in July. Remember I had steam cleaned it after pulling it out of the lake and 90% of the parts moved. I should have gotten to it right away, or at least sprayed it down with light oil, because its surface rusted pretty badly in places.

With the encouragement and help of friends, Ed and Sue Brueckman, who have recently become addicted to old iron and flywheels, it finally started. The engine cleaned up well. I had to braze a broken ear on the mag mount. Ed JB welded a broken corner on the needle valve boss on the carburetor. Fortunately I had a newer 'parts' engine which had the carb and filler cover, valve springs and retainer, which had rusted beyond use on the original engine. Ed just touched up the valves and seats. We sent the magneto to WJW in Maida, North Dakota/Morden, Manitoba, Canada. He had read of my previous story and was anxious to help get the Witte going. He provided quick service and it worked perfectly.

Sarah poses while Mom and Dad, Ed and Sue Brueckman check serial number to verify it's a 1923.

1923 7 HP Witte runs again at the Northwest Antique Power Association Show in the fall of 2000.

Helper Alec Mole crushing rock to 5/8 crush with the 7 HP Witte and power to spare.

1923 7 HP Witte runs again at the Northwest Antique Power Association Show, fall 2000. Note Autlman Taylor and Frick steamer in background, as well as a Silver King and 820 John Deere.

I had a frame and rear wheels from an old cement mixer and a nice front axle with matching wheels of a smaller size (although they were still too big to turn under the frame). This problem was solved by building an arch assembly using ' x 6' x 6' angle iron and 3/8' x 6' flat. I machined a sleeve so a clutch could be installed and mounted a 4 'jaw crusher on the cart as well as a steel box to hold two five gallon buckets of rock to crush.

While we did get it running and crushing rock for our Live History Days, we had a few bugs to work out with the magneto trip rod. The cam gear pin was pretty badly rusted and it took more than an hour to four-jaw it up just right, but I now have a perfect finish on it. We built a new rod and end, and bushed it to fit the new pin size. Ironically, it turns out the bore of the cam gear and bolt/pin were not rusted or worn. I've thought that perhaps some parts had more grease or oil on them, but normally a valve stem doesn't retain that much oil. So why were they in good shape and the springs rusted beyond use? Oh well, I have more important things to wonder about, like why does it start sometimes on the first pull and other times it takes five minutes? The exciting thing though is, IT RUNS! But, don't think anyone will be hiring me to crush rock.

I have dubbed it 'Second Chance.' We did a quick brush paint job and showed it at the Northwest Power Association annual fall show in Columbia Falls, Montana. We also showed a 1 HP Handy Andy Galloway and a Vaughn Flex-Tred garden tractor.

I sure enjoy your magazines and appreciate the articles you'd done on the museum artifacts. Thanks.