It's a routine played out in the shops of most gas engine collectors find a rusty old treasure, fix it up, and immediately start work on the next project.
That's exactly what Blaine Knox of Redlands, California, does; one engine restoration after another. But now he has two problems. One, he's run out of storage space; two, he doesn't know exactly how many engines he has.
'I know it's over 300,' he says, 'but every time I try to count, I get a different number. Everyone's welcome to come and give counting them a try. It's easy to count the ones on the shelves. It's the ones in the middle that give me trouble,' says Blaine.
Blaine lives along a wide palm-tree-lined boulevard in the historic section of Redlands, just off the freeway. Even Blaine's home, built in 1900, is a historic landmark. He moved to California from Missouri in 1940 and worked as a machinist until his retirement.
It was less than 15 years ago that he got bitten by the engine bug. Now he makes regular trips back east with his truck and trailer hunting for new restoration projects. Waukee Swap, Rollag and Cool Spring are among his favorite stops.
'It's a disease that there's no cure for,' says Blaine. 'You catch it pretty quick and it just keeps getting worse. Those flywheel engines just get hold of you. I fall in love with them all, even the little Maytags.'
'Most of the engines were made in the east and stayed there. There's very few that were made in California.'
He does have one 19?? 12HP West Coast engine made in San Diego. It stands next to his 6 HP Associated. The Associated is one of his particular favorites. Originally from the Appalachian Mountains, it's one engine he has no plans to restore.
'It looks rough, but it runs perfect. Some of my engines were in bad shape when I got them. I want to keep this one just the way it is so people can see what they look like before all the work.'
And Blaine's put a lot of work into restoring his prizes. He's done all the restoration work himself, and only has three or four more to finish. A few of the larger ones, including a 6HP Foos, stand sentinel outside the barn he built behind his house. Inside, hundreds of smaller engines sit on shelves that line the outside walls to the rafters. The floor area is filled with the larger engines, and he's left just enough space for a small walkway around the edge. His Maytag collection is in a little alcove in' the front.
With light streaming in from the skylights, Blaine's collection is a colorful mix. 'I wasn't always authentic when I picked colors for the paints,' he explains. 'Most engines were red or green, so instead of having 150 red and 150 green I used colors I liked when it came time to paint.'
His biggest engine is a 15HP Jacobs and his smallest a 1HP Mogul. He's got a nice assortment of rare engines including an Illinois Chanticleer (that's rooster in French). Looking over his collection you'll see Economy, Majestic, Foos, Novo, Stoner, Monitor, Robertsonville, Sandwich, Root and Vandervort, Stickney, Webster and just about any other engine name you can imagine.
Along the one side and in an addition on the back is Blaine's other collection antique cars. He's got everything from a 1901 Oldsmobile and 1906 Cadillac to a 1926 Model T and a Hup-mobile. He collects early cars because they're smaller and don't take up as much room. Remember, Blaine has a problem with space, and there's just no more room to expand.
And we can't forget his hog oiler collection. They're just outside the barn, near the garage door. 'I just wanted one,' says Blaine, 'but I wound up with 11.'
A little space opened up when Blaine's Advance-Rumely steam engine went to his son Jim's farm in nearby Marino Valley. Jim is a collector tooof anything that's old and made of iron.
The acquisition of the Advance-Rumely sparked some ingenuity on Jim's part. Fuel, either wood or coal, is too hard to come by and too expensive in California, so Jim rigged up his air compressor to supply pressure to the boiler and he's off and running.
But what's Blaine going to do about his dilemma? 'I just don't know,' Blaine says as he looks over his collection. 'Every one of them is my favorite.'