Big Springfield Gas Engine

Courtesy of Joe Fahnestock, Union City, Indiana 47390.

Joe Fahnestock

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Dayton Daily News & Radio's 'Joe's Journal'

It was early spring, not even the dandelions had popped up through the cool, moist ground as we drove up the long lane, past the two lovely white houses cozily situated at the far end. The sprawling fields bore evidence of winter plowing here and there, but planting was still a few weeks away.

In one field there would be strawberries, in another tomatoes, yet another, watermelons, cantaloupes and Hallowe'en pumpkins growing between rows of Silver Chief sweet corn. The only visible crop above the ground were the eighty-some apple trees, planted years ago--and these hadn't even begun to bud. It was a cool, overcast day-- the lull between the end of winter and the spring planting which soon would be coming up--a mighty fine time to finish painting a couple of prize gas engines for the mid west gas round-ups this summer.

'What a beautiful engine,' I said, spotting the big 1894 Springfield, occupying the center of the workshop floor where John Stoltz and his father, Earl, had just finished some touching-up.

'Bet you can't guess the horsepower of that engine,' said John, figuring that the size and weight, as well as the 30-inch diameter fly-wheels would cause me to miscalculate--which they did.

'Let's see--it looks like it might be a six-horse engine,' I replied. 'How much is it?'

'It's a two-horse,' explained John, noting the surprise on my face.

'I can hardly believe it's only a two-horse,' I retorted. 'But, when it comes to these old low-compression gas engines, a horsepower really meant something.'

'It has a five-inch bore and six-inch stroke,' added Stoltz. 'But it turns over at only 275 rpm.'

The beautiful old Springfield Engine had been bought new from the Springfield, Ohio, factory and was used to power an entire machine shop in Urbana, Ohio, till 1908, when it was replaced by a larger engine. Francis McCaffery bought it, but never used it-having stored it until John Stoltz discovered and purchased it in 1969.

'That old engine had set in an old barn for sixty-one years--just a block off the main street of Urbana,' mused Stoltz. 'But nothing was stuck in it-- absolutely nothing. And we had it three years before we began restoring it.'

'We honed out the cylinder by hand. At first it was out-of-round by about thirty-thousandths, but when we finished it was only five-thousandths,' went on John. 'Then we had the piston enlarged by spraying it with bronze and turning it down to a snug fit.'

'We also made a new wrist-pin, an ignitor rod, a fuel-valve rod and an injector-pump rod,' added Stoltz. 'Then I made a muffler for it from scrap.'

Sitting alongside the big Springfield, and bearing evidence of fresh red paint and aluminum trim, was a one-and-a-half horsepower Chore Boy Engine with air-cooling fan situated to the side of the cylinder. The newly-made runners and ignition box bore evidence of just having been made and varnished to reveal the natural wood grains.

'What beautiful restoration, in both engine and mounting,' I exclaimed.

To which replied John Stoltz, 'Yes--we've just finished it. This old Chore Boy bears evidence of being manufactured around in the early teens.'

'The runners are made from red elm, and the battery box from a coffee nut tree--both grown on our place,' added the senior Stoltz, Earl. 'We had the boards sawed out over at the Robbins Sawmill, west of Troy, Ohio. (An earlier Spark Plug story in G. E. M.)

John and Earl Stoltz had just painted this 1? HP Chore Boy, with air-cooling fan. Runners made from red elm, battery box from coffee nut tree on Stoltz farm. The 2? HP Mogul in rear was their first engine.

Spark Plug John Stoltz kept making apologies for the 'untidiness' of his shop--the only thing being out of place was a single newspaper underneath the engine he and his father had been painting. And before I could snap a picture, even that was whisked out of sight, leaving everything spic 'n span and quite in order.

The well-appointed shop boasted almost every kind of wrench and tool that a gas engine collector could want--and all in their proper places. (How I wish the top of my desk could be half as orderly.) Overhead were neatly lined dozens and dozens of old-time parts--spark coils, ignitors, magnetoes and everything else in between. Even an ancient Mousetrap Carburetor, the like of which I'd never seen before. On a lower shelf were all kinds of gaskets and cans of 'goo', while succeeding shelves further down boasted all sizes and shapes of saws, carpenters' squares, wrecking bars, hammers, chisels, planes as well as socket sets, monkey wrenches, pipe wrenches and box wrenches--ad infinitum, world without end.

Spark Plug John Stoltz and his father. Earl, get the big Springfield Gas Engine ready for the summer shows. It's a real beauty with lots of plumbing attached, but only 2-horsepower at 275 r.p.m. That's no disappointment, as the old-time, low-compression gas engines really could give a mighty tug on the old belt, regardless of ratings. (John made the muffler. Engine once ran a full shop). Back in the corner can be seen their first engine, a 2? HP Mogul which runs the overhead line-shaft which came out of the historic Mac-O-Chee Castle workshops, near West Liberty, Ohio. Also note the old Coca Cola clock regulator.

The south side of the Stoltz shop looked even homier with the old-time Coca Cola regulator clock at the far end of the bench lathe, while down in the corner was a two-and-a-half horsepower Mogul Engine belted to a very ancient power-shaft overhead.

'That old Mogul was the very first engine Dad had,' explained John. 'After he got that, then we really began collecting engines one by one. And the shaft overhead came out of the old workshops at the historic Mac-O-Chee Castle near West Liberty, Ohio.'

There were other old gas engines that Spark Plug John Stoltz and his father showed me, as we toured their sprawling barns on both sides of their farm lane. There was a three-horse Wonder of 1913 vintage, and a ten-horse International Type M, built in 1920. And there was a one-horse Mogul (about 1915), a four-horse Mogul (of 1914), which John started just for the fun of hearing, and a two-cylinder, eight-horsepower Cushman of the early teens which uses a vibrator coil. Then there was the one-horse Perkins with vertical side-shaft to actuate the mechanism, sitting back in the corner which utilizes an unusual gravity-feed and inverted-cone type fuel mixer.

Of the big four-horse Mogul, says John, 'Only the wrist-pin and rings needed replacing--no other parts. We honed the cylinder a little and I made the muffler. That's all.' (And it does run beautifully.)

It was a pleasure watching John start the big four-horse Mogul--opening the pressure-valve and rocking the big flywheels just enough to make 'er take off.

In another part of the barn John Stoltz pointed out a whole array of antique gas engines sitting here and there, along the walls, from corner to corner. Engines of all vintages from before the turn of the century to into the thirties, such as Associated, International, Foos, Hercules, Field, Stickney, Simplicity Vertical (with the very low serial No. of 126), Bauroth Brothers (Spring-field 1890 and the oldest they have), United, Aermotor (with the galvanized hopper), Economy, Tom Thumb, Fairbanks, Novo, Delco, a hopper-cooled Famous and a Junior Engine made by I. H. C--all rating from one to nine horsepower and all points between.

John and Earl Stoltz look over 3 HP Wonder (1913 vintage) and big 10 HP International Type M (made in 1920).

John and Earl Stoltz start 4 HP Mogul, built 1914. John made the muffler. Back of John is a 1 HP Mogul, about 1915, and to far right is an 8 HP Cushman 2-cylinder, built in the early teens.

In another barn was a 1904 six-horsepower Famous Horizontal which had been buried under tar paper and boards only ten feet from Lake Loramie for years, and, as John says, 'I put gas in it and it started right off.'

Sitting together was a two-and-a-half Associated, a twelve-horse Associated, and a little brother Associated of six-horsepower, as well as a three-horse Badger, a two-horse Fairbanks Type-H that runs on kerosene, a four-and-a-half horse Olds, and still there were more, too numerous to mention.

Of the several old-time tractors that Spark Plug John Stoltz and his father Earl have around, there is the 22-40 cross-motor Case of 1920 vintage, a 12-25 Huber light-four cross motor from 1918, a Huber Model B, a 1934 English Ford and a Farmall F-20.

It was well past dinner time at the Stoltz Fruit and Vegetable Farm, north of New Carlisle, Ohio, when I wound up taking pictures and notes. Apologizing profusely for interrupting their noontime repast, the wife and I shook hands (or paws) with the solemn-visaged and very dignified 'Mike'--a typical Ohio farm pooch collie with classy Lassie proportions--and then we waved off. To the smaller house at the rear strode John--to dinner with his wife, Patty, while the Senior Stoltz cut a straight swath to Stella's sideboard in the imposing front residence, leaving me to mentally review my notes along the highway toward home. (Will I ever get the Stoltz gas engines straightened out from my scribbling?)

But by the time you read this story about a certain Spark Plug, John Stoltz, and his father, Earl, the strawberries will no doubt all have been picked, the corn all in tassel, the blossom will be on the tomato plant, and the melon and pumpkin vines reaching out all over the patch. And John and Earl will be lugging their gas engines off to this 'n that show, while waiting on the apples in the orchard to grow. Then by the time they lug their engines back home again, there'll be apples to squeeze for cider, you know.

However, hopping from workshop to strawberry patch to gasoline alley thence back to the orchard in the valley is not the vicious circle for the Stoltzes that life sometimes poses for the rest of us mortals. For somehow the restoring of old gas engines and the raising of fine vegetables and fruit to near perfection does have its therapeutic and psychological reward. Though man cannot live by bread alone, or for that matter just eating provender from the Stoltz land, there is that extra spark of life one gets from seeing the Stoltz engines as a sort of sideline dish between strawberry short-cake and apple cider.

For all this, and for preserving our American farm heritage, we offer you, John Stoltz--and Earl, too--an honored seat in our vaunted Hall of Spark Plug Fame.

The Stoltz workshop is well-stocked with old-time gas engine parts. John looks over old magnetos on top shelf. Earl fondles an antique, and rare Mousetrap carburetor. Tools all hang orderly.