Gas Engine

Courtesy of Joe Fahnestock, Union City, Indiana 47390

Joe Fahnestock

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For years and years a fellow arrives and departs the factory gates where he's employed - clocking in of mornings and clocking out of evenings - returning home to partake of supper and read the daily newspaper thence to bed, only to repeat the performance at the cock's crowing, next morn. Oh yes, the good woman cooks the meals, washes the dishes and makes the beds, like a good wife should, while the man of the house does his thing - the twain sharing very little that could be called 'common interest' or 'mutual endeavor'.

Guess who's having fun? It looks like Spark Plug Ed Hufnal is, when he slides out his old gas engines from the family residential garage and has his own one-man gas engine show. L. to r. - an old 750 Model Delco Light Plant which he is restoring, a 2 HP Jaeger [his first engine] and a 3 HP Fairbanks-Morse. He says his engines scooted the starlings out of the trees and they never came back. How's that for neighborly relations?

True, the twosome had attended a so-called 'steam engine reunion' at Kinzers for years, but only to look and envy. For who could afford to own a steam engine, let alone house it or haul it around - a plaything of the well-to-do or those lucky enough to inherit one from an eminent, opulent forebear higher up on the family tree.

Then came the day when Dad was transferred from Hobart Manufacturing Co. of near Philadelphia, Pa., to Hobart Manufacturing Co. of Troy, Ohio, seven years ago, whereupon the breadwinner of the household read in the local newspaper about a certain Miami Valley Steam Threshing Show at Urbana, Ohio. And, packing the family into the family jalopy, they set off to attend -  to watch, and drool and wish - but as usual nothing eventful happened to change their mode of living except going back each summer to see the same show over and over again.

But fate changed all that when, one day, someone was passing out handbills advertising a certain Tri-State Gas Engine and Tractor Show to be held at Portland, Indiana - and Dad got one. So again they packed up and went. All of a sudden, son John looked up and said, 'Dad - I'd like to have one of these old engines to work over.'

This lit up a light-bulb in the subconscious regions of Dad's head.

'That was the excuse I'd been looking for for twenty years to get one,' says Ed Hufnal, explaining the event that changed the humdrum of their family life into one glorious challenge and adventure.

No blessed event ever caused greater excitement than the day the Hufnals came into possession of an old 2-horse Jaeger Gas Engine (their first) which had run a cement mixer for thirty years till the mixer wore out, and then had 'set around' for another 'thirty-year' prior to their acquiring it. But, unlike most humans who, after that many years, have practically gone 'Over The Hill' - The Old Jaeger now occupies the 'throne of glory' in the engine-bedecked family garage where the Ed Hufnals live in the City of Troy's nicer side, reigning as king over the several other engines they've more recently acquired and have been, at various times, cleaning up, repainting and restoring like new

Yes - Dad Hufnal still clocks in at Hobart Manufacturing Co. every morning, and clocking out each evening. But as soon as supper's over, the newspaper has given way to the gas engine with not only the head of the household spending his wee hours of the night, and also weekends out in the garage tinkering, but also son, John, and even Sally gets in her licks at making 'em look 'n pop like new again.

John Hufnal works on one of his two twin-cylinder Maytags. When John said he'd like to have an old engine to work on, Ed [his Dad] said, 'That was the excuse I've been looking for - for over twenty years.' Now they have seven old gas engines, which are seven tickets one way to happiness.

For Sally (Mrs. Hufnal) not only helps Ed and son John clean the sludge 'n gook off from around the rods n housings 'n gears, but she grabs a paint brush 'n can and proceeds with her artistic eye to restore them to original colors, touching up factory decals and lettering the names in gilt. Though she's satisfied to stay out of a man's world of unsticking stuck pistons, removing old, and broken piston rings and replacing them with new, grinding pitted valves and the like, hers is the important and unheralded task of restoring the old gas engines to what we prefer to call their 'glory days'.

In other words, in the hands of such people as the Ed Hufnals, old gas engines, unlike their human benefactors and creators, begin living all over again at an age when many of the latter are vegetating in rest homes. Not only do the old, restored gas engines bask in their original spit 'n polish but they even furnish 'soul music' for the neighbors whenever the Hufnals slide them out in front of the family garage and hold their own 'gas engine show' -.

'And another thing', laughs Ed Hufnal. 'One summer we began running our engines and the starlings all left, and never came back.' (Now neighbors - isn't that something to be thankful for, over and above the sweet music of internal combustion!) They flew in like the dickens to roost at night, Ed started his engines, and off they flew again.

As one old gas engine led to another, the Ed Hufnal garage now boasts not only the three nicely restored and running ones - the 2-horse Jaeger, a 750-model Delco Light Plant and a 3-horsepower Fairbanks - but several other engines in various stages of restoration.

'The Jaeger was frozen when we got it,' explains Ed. 'We had to make a new wrist-pin, a new timing-gear shaft and installed six new eighth-inch rings to replace the three original quarter-inch ones.'

To run the old three-horse Fairbanks-Morse, Ed installed a Ford coil ignition.

Old gas engines filled the need for a family hobby at the Hufnals in Troy, Ohio. Mrs. Sally Hufnal paints one of her model gas engines. She also letters and paints the big engines, like the 2 HP Jaeger beside her. Ed looks at all that 'gook' which he and Sally will have to be cleaning off the Jaeger to the right.

Of it he explains, 'A farmer had installed it new in his barn back in 1923. It is an older engine than the Jaeger.'

Employed as a Sales Engineer at the Motor-Generator Division at Hobart Brothers Company in Troy, Ohio, Ed Hufnal finds that his knowledge of the 400-cycle Ground Power Equipment they manufacture (to furnish electric power to aircraft on the ground) comes in mighty handy in tackling some of the problems of restoring his antique gas engines. Especially in restoring the original relay panel that he plans to install back on the old 750-Delco Light Plant which he likes to show at the several local area steam and gas engine shows. 'It will be a real challenge, setting everything to work like the original,' says Hufnal, who started the Delco Engine by turning over the fly-wheel (like I do the Joe Dear), starting it to popping which resulted in lighting up the two fifty-watt light bulbs he has mounted by the engine base. 'I recently had it over to this year's Darke County Steam Threshers Show and kept eight 50-watt bulbs lit. But it does have the capacity to keep ten such bulbs burning.'

When Dad Hufnal runs his engines, Mom (Sally) usually sallies forth to also watch and listen, followed by 18-year-old son, John who lines his two twin-cylinder, two-cycle Maytag Engines up to add to the Hufnal Family Gasoline Alley Show. Even the family cats, Ralph and Harry, join the show, wondering just how an engine without fur can purrr. Ralph was a 'he' who became a 'she' when Harry was born.

Lately the Hufnal family has taken in several more 'orphaned' engines that their former owners had 'retired to pasture'. One, an old Mogul of one-and-a-half horsepower, which Ed calls a 'mess of rust' and which has a hole in the cylinder wall. Another, a very tired-looking old Delco 850 Engine, both lying in pieces on the Hufnal garage floor, awaiting the magic touch and 'labor of love' needed to make 'em run like new again.

'This last one is a 2-horse Hercules which was made by that firm for Jaeger,' explained Ed. There's still lots of 'gook' to clean off the gears of this old one. Which Sally Hufnal has been helping Ed to wipe off, except time out for doing some painting of the small gas engine models she has been touching up - as her part and contribution to the family hobby.

'It was funny how we found this old engine,' says Sally. 'We answered a newspaper ad for three trailers. But they turned out to be boat trailers. We told the man, a farmer, that we were looking for a trailer to haul our old gas engines. And he replied, 'How would you like another Jaeger Engine?' He showed us this old engine which had been out on a farm north of Troy.'

The Hoffman Bros. with New Holland gas engine.

Everything seems harmonious with the Ed Hufnal family. No longer is life the hum-drum clocking in and clocking out at the Hobart Manufacturing Co., thanks to the new hobby of collecting and restoring old gas engines. Though this family always got along well together, and the marriage didn't need saving, one wonders why so-called Family Clinics haven't discovered how the old-time gas engines might well serve in bringing broken couples back together again. (Worth the try.)

Even young eighteen year old John Hufnal, also employed at Hobart Brothers, in the Motor Generator Division Battery Charger assembly line, finds that his work is much more interesting and rewarding since he and his Dad have been working on the old gas engines.

To Spark Plug Ed Hufnal, wife Sally and son John, we reserve a seat in our growing Hall of Spark Plug Fame. Not only for restoring their quota of old-time Agricultural Americana, but for demonstrating how a worthy hobby can contribute to modern family unity. And that, brother, is much more than mere wedding rings and marriage licenses can ever do. Yea, even the family counselor might learn from this - that gas engines contribute to family bliss.

Even the neighbors get a lift - when popping gas engines scoot starlings adrift.