Well, Maybe Just Two

F & J pump engine

The F & J pump engine as found.

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519 East Locust Lanork, Illinois 61046

Well, depending on how good your memory is, you may remember me from last year. I wrote a small article about my Great Uncle Robert and the 1HP R&V that was found in one of his barns. The R&V took about 10 years to get running, because the head and just about everything it touched was missing. The parts were eventually found, and the motor was running quite nicely when we took it to Robert's house to show him the smoke and smells. After we got the R&V running, Robert made a comment about being surprised to see 'that engine' running. He thought we had taken the one that hooked directly to the pump jack. 'You know, the one out in the old carriage shed with only one flywheel.' Dustin (my brother) and I ran out to the shed for a look.

At this point, I must refresh your memory about me. I am an accountant who knows very little about gas engines, or anything that is really that mechanical. Basically, if it doesn't plug into the wall and say 'Windows 98' when it starts up, I'm lost. Saying that, I had kind of seen the Fuller & Johnson about a year before. My brother and I were on one of our exploring tours, when we came to the old carriage shed which had a lean-to built on to it. The door was buried in the ground and it was wired shut in several places. So I found a spot where I could stick my head through, when I saw the pump engine. Since it was missing the head, cylinder, piston, detent swivel and stop and other ignition parts, I diagnosed it must be part of some old feed mill. The wooden base had rotted off, so I assumed the metal rods were there to hold it from the ceiling or something. It is amazing the theories you can come up with when you really don't know what you are talking about. The thing that bugged me was the flywheel. If it was just a grinder, why did it need such a large flywheel?

Well, once Robert mentioned there was an engine in the old carriage shed, I had a pretty good idea that my former theory was really off base, and I knew where to look. Dustin and I went over to the shed and found the 'grinder' in question. Sure enough, once we cleaned the brass tag, it clearly read F&J Farm Pump engine. Well, I was excited, but at the same time I knew I was in trouble. This engine was missing everything that made it run. In talking to Robert, he said at one time there were two of those engines on the farm, and that this one had been on the home place for a long time. As far as he could remember, the cylinder had been taken off a long time ago so a smaller gas engine (Briggs?) could be belted to the flywheel and the jack part was used that way for some time. The head, cylinder, piston and rest were probably somewhere around, or maybe in, one of the ditches. There had been a machine building out by the carriage shed that was torn down before WWII, so the engine went home with me as it was.

Over the next few months, I went through all the sheds again (the first time was looking for parts for the R&V). On a nail in one of the sheds I found a piston that looked odd, so I took it. It turned out to be an old-style piston with the brass tube to oil the piston's wrist pin. (Do you put grease or some kind of oil in it? The grease seems too thick to go up, and the oil runs out.) It is amazing the 'stuff' you find on your hand and knees in old barns, some of it very interesting, some not so. High and low I looked for about three months, both in and out of the buildings (I found one of the R&V parts under a barn wall, both in and outside). I was just about to give up looking, when one day in early spring just after the snow had melted, but before the grass turned green, I went looking in a ditch near one of the machine sheds. As I was walking down into the ditch, I tripped over a log and fell face-first on my hands. 'Blankety-Blank log, why did it have to be lying right there?' Of course, as I was getting back to my knees, I saw the back end of a connecting rod sticking out of the ground. Since I was on my knees anyway, a small prayer meeting of repentance and thanks was held. After the service was over, we sang the Hallelujah chorus while doing the 'Snoopy' happy dance.

Then the pocketknife came out and the digging began. The connecting rod is connected to the piston, the piston is connected to the cylinder, the cylinder is connected to the head, and the head is connected to the tree. Tree??? A small tree was growing around the cylinder, with the roots wrapped around the head and forming into the fines of the cylinder. I went to get the camera at this point. Once I dug the cylinder/tree out of the ground, I kept looking for the carburetor. After a lot of horseshoes and other unknown parts, I found another head with a carburetor attached. Although I did not find any ignition parts, I was happy with what I found. I took the cylinder/tree-combo home and cut off as much of the tree as I could, and then let it dry out for a while so the roots would shrink up a little bit. When it was loose enough, I pried the roots free of the cylinder and put the cylinder/piston in a bucket of diesel for a month.

I do not have a press or a torch, and the grease method sounded difficult, so I used the grill method. I would get the barbecue grill as hot as it would go (on days when the wife wasn't around), put the cylinder in, and let it cook. I did that two or three times with diesel soakings in-between. Then I got out the 10-pound sledge and went to beating with a wood block. The piston came out relatively easily. The piston was shot. The back of the cylinder/piston had been pointed skyward for a long time, and the walls of the piston were rusted through. The cylinder walls were really rough, so I took it into the local auto shop to have a sleeve put in and to get new valves and seats in the head. 'New' ignition parts were ordered from a supplier out of GEM. While waiting for the machine shop, I cleaned, sandblasted, primed, and did anything else I could think of to what I had left. I wrote a letter to Mr. Verne Kindschi of Wisconsin, and found out the Farm Pump Engine was made in 1913. He was also able to supply me with some literature and a color sample.

Once the parts were all back, things went together pretty easily. I had everything put back together, and all looked good, so I put a makeshift gas tank on the carburetor and, to my surprise, it started right up. It really seemed to run well for 3 or 4 minutes, so I went in and called my dad to tell him the news. I left a message on his machine: 'It is alive!' Back out I went, and played some more. (At this point, if this were a movie, the music would change from happy, bouncy, victory-kind of music to something more ominous.) I started the engine up and it ran for about 2 or 3 minutes then BANG!!! The cylinder broke into about 6 pieces at the tabs where they were bolted onto the engine block. I stood there looking at it for a few minutes, I went in and called dad and left him a message: 'It's dead,' and I went to bed at 9 p.m. (which for me is a sure sign of shock and depression).

I still do not know what I did wrong. My theories are: (you know how good I am with theories)

1. I don't know what I'm doing. 2. See one. 3. The metal is so old and brittle it would not take it. 4. The carburetor was putting too much gas in the cylinder and it washed all the lubricant out (though the piston was still free in the head). 5.  Something was wrong in the machining for the sleeve; not enough metal left to hold it all together. 6. See one and two.

I was not sure what to do at this point, and since I was taking a new job about three hours away, the F&J went on the back burner, but it was still cooking. For three months I was away from home during the week, and home on the weekend. So my Saturdays and Sundays were full of visiting with my loving, patient, and pregnant wife; keeping up the house; packing and getting ready to move; and trying to think what to do with the F&J. I thought of several different ways of fixing the cylinder, including buying a new cylinder (which I did) but nothing seemed right; I wanted the tree/cylinder. So I took the parts (about 6 of them) to the local welding shop, where the owner's father said it wouldn't look pretty, but he could braze it so it would hold. He was also able to straighten out the connecting rod that had been bent on 'Black Saturday.' My wife shuttled the cylinder around from weld shop to machine shop, and on one of my last few weekends in Carthage, I put it all back together.

It ran, but every time it would 'hit,' I would pray.

The next day I loaded up the engine in the truck and took it to Uncle Robert's. Once again it ran fine, and Robert said, 'I never thought I would here that engine run again.' About two weeks later the F&J made the move to Lanark, Illinois, with the rest of the family, but sat untouched in the shed until recently. Two weeks after the move our first child, Robert Markley was born, and it wasn't till after his first birthday that he let me go out and play in the garage. I took it apart as far as I dared, and painted it the best I could.

The cylinder still does not look right with all the brazing on it, but it is a good reminder to me of a few things:

1.1 still don't know what I'm doing. 2. I am doing this because I enjoy it and it is a challenge. 3. I still got it to run even though it was a boat anchor for 50+ years. 4. See one.

I have seen some F&J pump engines on the internet that were hooked to actual pumps so people could see how they really work. This is a neat idea, but I'm not sure I really trust my fix job enough to let it run for that long a time frame. Although I know the real 'men of iron' have probably figured out what it was that I did wrong. And those who are serious collectors are baffled about how I could write such a long story about such a common engine. I want to thank those of you who have read all the way through this article. The one thing I see over and over at whatever auction or show I go to, is the fun of talking to and learning from others. Thanks for listening to my little story, and thanks for sharing your time.