Stationary Engine List

Stationary Engine

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A subject which comes up every so often on the AT1S internet mailing list is just how much an engine should be restored, to a high-gloss, pin-striped perfection or left as much as possible 'as found,' with original paint work. The following comments are a variety of opinions which surfaced during this discussion, which just happened to have a most appropriate subject heading: 'Engine Show Heaven.'

I attended a small local show this weekend and got a neat treat today. A collector friend of mine brought in his 1910 round rod 7 HP Galloway and a 1913 Gilson 6 HP, both in original condition on their original horse carts.

He could not make it in to the show until late this afternoon, so he told me that these were mine to run until he made it to the show. What an absolute treat to sit between these two beautiful, original, and smooth running pieces of art! As some have stated on occasion, the spectators seem to be drawn to the engines that are in their original working clothes, and these were no exception.

I believe that some of it is that the 'rustys' look more like the mental image in many folks memories of 'the good old days.' Growing up during the '40s and '50s, I do not recall seeing that many shiny tractors. Sure there were new ones being bought, but most of those had to sit out in the weather, and there were a lot of really old ones in use, too. Those were seldom repainted.

I can't recall ever seeing a clean shiny stationary engine running as a kid. I never saw one repainted until they started being collected. Don't get me wrong, I love seeing the great restorations, engines and tractors both, but that isn't the memory picture most of us have.

I will say that a really nice original 'anything' is worthy of preserving and in fact should be preserved in its original condition as far as 'finish' is concerned. I do however, think that it should be put into like new mechanical condition.

But! the showing of rusty broken down junk with homemade bailing wire repairs and non-correct retrofitted parts is an act showing disrespect to the original designers and the men who dedicated their lives to building these tools. I will acknowledge that the 'users' of these tools had to do what they could to keep them going, but I see no excuse for a collector to not make the proper repairs.

Eleven of my fourteen stationary engines are in original finish, but every one of them is in top mechanical condition, with all of the correct parts. To me this hobby is not about 'just make it run,' it is about learning the old ways, preserving it and making it work today. I am also one who does not feel driven to show engines doing a job. I carry a display board with my engines that explains what they were used for, but all of these jobs are still done today by electric motors. It's the engines that are the story; to me it has always been about the 'Engines' and making them run like new, even if the are a 100 years old.

I agree with you, with one exception. If these were 'of necessity' farm repairs or modifications, then they might be worth preserving to show folks what sometimes had to be done to keep these tools working in times of tight money. BUT... if you're gonna do that, then THAT should be the focus of the display. Put up an info board explaining the repair or modification, why it might have been done, what the cost of a proper repair might have been, and what the 'correct' configuration should be. Don't just exhibit a cobbled together engine with no clarification.

I feel that both approaches preserve an interesting part of engine history and show respect to the craftsmen who designed and built the old engines AND the tinkers and smiths who modified and repaired 'em.

I have a 2 HP Monitor, built in 1915, and it is pretty close to being barn fresh. I made a couple of new pins for the governor linkage and a new pushrod, gave it a quick and dirty valve job and run it like it is. I wanted to do a full blown 'trailer queen' restoration on it, but it runs and I spend most of my time on big engines and stuff in the engine shed at the club grounds. When the first show came around this year, I dug it out of the shed and stuck it on an old set of trucks from a cement mixer, figuring it was temporary, but easier to move. It ran all weekend flawlessly and I got a lot of comments about how neat it was, left original. My buddy told me how good it looked on those trucks! I want to leave it this way and run it until it needs extensive repairs. When it does, I suppose it will be blasted clean and the whole she-bang, but I dread the thought of it. It just won't be the same. This Monitor was the first engine I have bought in several years that actually would run when I hauled it home. When it is left in the 'unprettified' state, you can see what it really is, warts and all. So much heartbreak can lurk under a little bondo and Krylon!

I like some of the old repairs, done when the thing was in use, as long as it runs good. Crude modifications look pretty good, except when they are covered with new paint! Paint is only temporary, but good repairs last a long time!

May I just interject another view concerning preservation. I would say one of the only times a 'different' style of repair could be left alone is on a piece that has been in one's family since it was new, and has the owner's kinfolk's 'fingerprint' as it were that is, a ding here, a dent there, or somewhat of a different style of repair. The I-beam that holds the axle on my great-grandfather's Galloway saw rig is bent. I know that either he or my grandfather did it, so it stayed that way when I restored it. The same will be true when I get my grandfather's Allis WD running this winter. The fenders are dented up, but my grandfather did it, so they are going to stay that way. If they had repaired something on them that wasn't quite kosher, I would be inclined to leave it that way for the same reason.

I can't touch the nail in the intake on Granpa's United .

I get one heck of a kick out of some of the jerry-rigging that was done to keep an engine going.

One of the most rewarding, and most difficult things, is to repair and restore an as found engine and make it all look a hunert years old and unrepaired. In fact it's my favorite kind of engine. Trying to properly screw up the new and or homemade fasteners and replicating corrosion and patinas in iron is much more challenging than antique furniture ever was.

The only thing I take off the engines is any marking that was put on for the sale (I sometimes get them at auction and they paint #s and such on them with some kind of paint). I do just enough to get them running and that is it. I figure the younger generation deserve to find one in semi original condition.

Had to comment the 'leave it like it is restoration.' We all spend lots of hours and megabucks dressing these old engines up, when most of them really didn't look or were that well painted right from the factory.

Personally, I like the 'working clothes' look it takes 80 to 100 years to achieve that.

BUT, whatever it looks like (and variety of restoration levels makes a show more interesting than if every engine were perfectly original or beautifully restored), they should be RUNNING!

And on the subject of old repairs, it's interesting to note that in the general antiques market, the value of repaired items used to be considerably less than those in perfect condition, but now the trend is changing, as the ingenuity of some repairs (and also the probable expense) is a good indicator of just how valuable the item was considered to be at the time.

As for level of or even whether to restore I've read this thread with much interest seems to me like we're talking here more about people than machinery more about what or whom is to be commemorated than the iron itself. And that's reflected in the really great part of this hobby it ain't the iron it's the people.

Doesn't that just sum it up!!! This hobby attracts a huge variety of people and with that comes a diversity in restorations.

Once again, my thanks to Ted Brook over who saved this e-mail thread for me when my computer crashed. I don't know what subject I'll find for next month's article right now there's a lively discussion going on about whether all crank handles should be melted down, or that they are the only correct way to start an engine.

If my calculations are correct, this article will be appearing in the issue of GEM you get in December, so I'll take this opportunity to wish everyone all the best for the holiday season, and to look forward to another wonderful year of restoring, running and showing engines.