The Old Creek Engine

Old creek engine

Ronald E. Valliere

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R.R. #1 New Providence, Iowa 50206

I have been an avid reader of Gas Engine Magazine for quite a few years. I especially enjoy articles written about the different ways and conditions some of these old engines are found. This is an experience that happened to me about six years ago. I thought maybe some of your readers would enjoy reading about it.

I farm near the town of New Providence, Iowa. I have a close friend by the name of Lewis Harrell, who is a carpenter by trade, who lived in town and is a part of this story. Louie (what everybody calls him) and I share a lot of common interests, fishing being one of them. This story started about the first part of June. There is a stream four miles north of town where we fish quite often. Due to a lot of high water that spring, we were unable to fish it until the water had receded. We started that evening at an old iron wagon bridge that had been there at least 75 years. The road ran north and south with the stream flowing west to east. We parked our pickup truck on the north side of the bridge with the idea of fishing downstream. We had to climb down about a 15-foot bank to enter the stream. The large amount of spring water had formed a big sand bar about 200 feet below the bridge.

After sliding down the bank, I noticed a large pile of trash that had formed high and dry on the middle of the sand bar. When I walked by it, I saw part of a wheel of a gas engine peeking out the bottom. I hollered at Louie, and the two of us started picking through the pile of rubble. Lo and behold there was the saddest looking 1? horse John Deere engine you ever saw. I told Louie I sure would like to take it home. Being the good friend that he is, he suggested we give it a try. Both of us are pretty husky fellows, so we just picked it up and started out. We had no trouble until we got to the bridge-getting it up the bank was a different matter! One thing an old gas engine nut has is a lot of determination! When we got it in the back of the pickup, I told Louie that that would be the biggest and best thing we would ever drag out of that stream. The fishing ended right then, and we took the engine home.

My wife came out while we were unloading it on a small flatbed truck. She asked where in the world did we find that pile of junk and what were we going to do with it? When I told her I was going to fix it up and make it run, she just laughed and said, 'That will be the day!'

The first thing I did was wash it off. It smelled just like the bottom of a swamp. The old engine had been purchased with the original John Deere truck under it. The front axle was broken off at the swivel and was lying beside the engine. The back wheels were broken off at the legs and were gone. Both flywheels were broken off at the hubs, with one hanging on the engine. After hosing down the engine, I found that there wasn't a screw or nut that was stuck-I suppose being down in the mud pretty well sealed it from the air. There wasn't any water in the crankcase, but the head was completely full of sand. The piston had stopped clear forward but with a block of wood and a little tap with a hammer was freed. All of the springs were in fair shape, but the tension was very weak. The rocker arm was broken, both valves were stuck, and the gas tank was beyond repair.

I sent the mag to Wally Steding at Fort Dodge. Wally gave it his best try, but after drying it out in an oven decided it was a hopeless case. I purchased a used mag from the late Don Moreland of Farrar, Iowa for $75.00, and a used pair of flywheels from Owen Stackhouse of Geneva, Iowa for $25.00. The wooden skids were half worn away by the action of the water and sand and had to be replaced. All told I had about $150.00 in repairs-probably more than the old engine is worth-but I consider it money well spent.

I had a young man with a metal detector help me try to find the back wheels. It is unbelievable how much stuff has been tossed off an old bridge in 75 years! After digging about 200 holes, we gave that up.

After I had it put back together, I called Louie. We put in gas, oil and water, and with a few cranks it let out a big bark and smoke; and after a few minor adjustments, it ran real well. Louie and I jumped around like a couple of kids! (Only an old engine nut would understand this.)

I have about 20 engines, none of them real rare, some run better than the others. If I had to keep only one engine it sure would be this old creek engine. One wonders how it got in the creek in the first place. This is only a guess, but there is a farmstead across the road where we parked the truck. Like a lot of farms these days, it had been sold and nobody lived there. Several years later I ran across the old fellow who had lived there for many years. I asked him if he ever had an engine and what became of it. He said many years ago he and his brother purchased a 1? horse John Deere for $90.00 with $15.00 more for the truck. He said it would always start no matter what time of year. It sat out by the windmill and one day just disappeared. I suppose some boys got to pulling it around the house and it got away from them and ended up in the creek. It provided a pleasant moment in my life.