The Edwards Gas Engine: UGLY BUT UNIQUE!

Edwards Gas Engine

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12300 Club Road, Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52404-9010

Editor's note: In our November issue, we ran a story about the Edwards Motor Company of Springfield, Ohio. We were unable to speak with Armand DeYoung before we went to press, but he has since sent us this story and pictures of his Edwards engine.

The Edwards gas engine is somewhat of a rare bird, a bit on the ugly side, but also unique. I purchased my Ed-wards engine several years ago while at one of our local shows. It was one of those days where I had scoured the buy/sell area several times when I walked up to a trailer load of engines and noticed this Edwards. I prefer open crankshaft engines, but for some reason I was intrigued by this engine with no obvious flywheels. The seller allowed another guy and me to remove the flywheel cover to have a look inside. I noticed that the engine had two cylinders, but the thing that really caught my eye was that this engine had igniters. I was not aware of any two cylinder engines that used igniters. Even with the magneto missing, I decided that this engine was something I should have, and a deal was made.

In his book, Encyclopedia of American Gas Engines, Charlie Wendel indicates that the Edwards engine produces 1.5 HP on one cylinder, 6.0 HP with both cylinders firing, and that the company was in business from 1924 to 1926. I know of no serial number listings for these engines, but two fellows have written to me stating they have name-plates on their sparkplug engines which have serial numbers 17993 and 20214.

I brought the engine home, and after a few days proceeded with the task of getting it started. I found a crank in the water hopper and noticed that the engine would have to be cranked backwards. In my opinion, cranking an engine is bad news, and cranking one backwards was even worse. I was successful in getting the engine to run using a battery in place of the mag. After a few minutes this knocking started. I shut the engine down and removed the flywheel cover to find that one of the rod bearings had disintegrated. This was the result of not spending enough time to make sure everything was being oiled. On the Edwards engine, there are two oilers, one for each cylinder, which lubricate the wrist pin and piston like most single cylinder engines. The oil also catches in a small indent near the wrist pin where it is pushed up a tube that runs along the side of the rod, apparently by centrifugal force, to lubricate the rod bearing. The tube on one cylinder was plugged and the bearing insert didn't like running dry. Both rod bearings were replaced with brass inserts made by Jim Patton, a friend (now deceased) and member of our local club.

The search for an original mag became another story. I placed an ad in GEM and had a call from a fellow in New Woodstock, New Hampshire. He had a collection of mags and was sure that he had one for an Edwards. I learned that he, Murray Clark, owned an amusement park which included a historical village. He also collected gas engines and had, among other things, several mags on display in his general store. He shipped the Edwards mag to me, and although half of the cone gear was missing, it was the right one. I am sure Murray knew I had a unique engine and he could have really taken advantage of my situation, but he refused to take a penny for the mag. He, like a lot of us, wasn't in this hobby to make money. This was really a first for me, but I sent him a video of the Mount Pleasant, Iowa, Old Threshers Show to show my appreciation.

The remaining portion of the gear provided a pattern so I could have one made. Carl Bruchner, a retired machinist and member of our local engine club, came to my rescue and made a replacement gear for me, and I was back in business.

I ran the Edwards a time or two at our local show, but it was so hard to start that it was easier to belt it to another engine. I am not crazy about fighting an engine while at a show, so it joined a couple of my other engines in the back of the shed.

I decided that this was the year the Edwards was going to some shows, but the starting problems had to be resolved. I had found some documentation on the Edwards and a picture showing the engine being started with a strap wrapped around the pulley. I made a strap, which included a knob to fit into a hole on the pulley. I am a fairly good sized guy, maybe not the strongest, but it was nearly impossible to start that engine with the strap. And, after pulling the strap, the knob would fly by my head like a bullet. There had to be a better way.

After considerable head scratching, I decided that a six volt battery and a coil, with a double throw switch, would be the ticket. I would start the engine on one cylinder, as normal, but use the battery for a sure spark. Then once the engine was running, I would throw the switch up to MAG. The design works very well as I can now prime one cylinder, use the crank to turn the engine over compression, and it usually starts with minimal sweat.

The Edwards Gas Engine Company was one of many companies that came to be in the early 1900s. This company was located in Springfield, Ohio, and apparently started business in approximately 1924. The company folded, or at least stopped manufacturing engines, in 1926. From the information I have gathered, it appears that the early Edwards engines, those made in 1924, had igniters with low tension magnetos. They then upgraded to spark plugs and high tension magnetos. I have also been told that some of the early engines had a smaller water hopper, but I have not seen anything in print to substantiate this. But, if so, this probably was changed early on, as this engine, when running with both cylinders, really boils the water.

I have tried numerous times to locate other owners of Edwards engines, and in particular, ignitor engines. I have seen a few spark plug engines, but know of only four other ignitor engines. So far, my engine owner registry is as follows: Evert Hayden, Tucson, Arizona, SN 17993, spark plug engine; James Oster, Chicopee, Massachusetts, SN 20214, spark plug engine; William Lamond Jr., Coatesville, Pennsylvania, no SN, ignitor engine; Alan Nowell, Miami, Florida, SN 5944, spark plug engine; Charles Rakes, Bentonville, Arkansas, no SN, ignitor engine; and Robert Johnson,, no SN, ignitor engine.

If you have one, please drop me a note.