Odd Engine

Courtesy of John Paradise, R. R. I, Aurora, South Dakota 57002.

John Paradise

Content Tools

R. R. 1, Aurora, South Dakota 57002

It all happened a few years ago when a friend of ours, Burt Wulf, stopped in to see us. We showed him a 6 horsepower International Harvester, which we had just restored. He looked at it and said, 'Bet I got one that's older.' Of course we were very interested and inquired about it. He said he would show it to us the next day.

The engine was in the basement of his shop, which was once a machine shop back in the twenties used by his father, Frank Wulf. The engine sat over in a corner on a concrete base. It had been used sixty years ago to run the cement mixer which made concrete blocks. The engine built the local school (which we now own), a church, the shop in which it was stored, and many foundations for houses in our small town of 250 people.

Mr. Wulf wasn't sure what the engine was, but thought it might be a Stickney. The engine had a vertical cylinder and a single flywheel with a round cross section on a cantilevered crankshaft 3 feet long. At the top of the engine there was a strange arrangement of valves, the governor, and the vaporizer. It had the regular Stickney plunger ignitor on the side. The valve was operated by an eccentric instead of a cam. It was unlike anything we had ever seen before.

After many weeks and much coaxing, Mr. Wulf finally sold us the engine. Well, buying the engine was one thing, and getting it out of the cellar was another. The basement had a 12 foot ceiling and a long, rickety wood stairs. We took the engine apart into four main pieces, the flywheel and crankshaft, the cylinder, the base, and the vaporizer-governor assembly. We than attached ropes to each part and pulled them up the stairs. Each time we thought the stairs would collapse.

We finally got it all home, and it was much bigger than it seemed to be in the cellar. The engine was complete and required very little work to get it in running order.

Here is a very odd engine which we found in our neighbor's basement. It was used to run a homemade cement mixer sixty years ago.

We now have confirmed our belief that the engine is a Stickney, rated at 3 horsepower. We know of only three others, and would like to hear from anyone who has one. It was made between 1890-1895 in St. Paul, Minnesota.

The engine has some very unique features. There is only one valve leading into the combustion chamber, but there are five other valves to compensate for this. The governor is operated by bevel gears off of the camshaft. A three-foot long shaft runs vertically along the engine to the top, where the governor is located.

As I said before, the flywheel is round in cross-section. The vaporizer works by gas trickling over a small cast-iron block, through which many holes are drilled. Air flows through the holes to vaporize the gas.

We have taken it to four engine shows this past summer, and at one of these shows an old-timer came up and told us his father had one like it many years ago. He said he thought he would never see one again.

We have traveled thousands of miles looking for old engines, and it is truly amazing how we found this gem in our own backyard without even looking!