Those Wonderful 'Webspokes' built by John M. Kroyer

Samson Vertical

An excellent view of the side shaft drive and 'nasty starting handle.' Samson vertical #396.

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2440 Thomas street ceres, California 95307

It is my opinion that these web spokes were built using the original pattern conceived by John Kroyer. I believe production began using the two-and-a-half horse vertical engine and the five horsepower horizontal 'N.' I believe all other Samson engines grew from these, the original idea and design.

My vertical Samson (serial #396) was machined using only a lathe and a shaper. Every part of it is stamped with a (4), which I believe is an assembly number, a number which identifies a mechanic to his work. In my opinion, each mechanic was issued a stamp, a sort of early day quality control. It also helped to avoid confusion on the assembly floor. Every engine has these marks. It is a stamp of a man who excelled at engine assembly. It also became a record of a workman, a company record. Sound right? We will probably never know for sure. Thirty years ago you could find these old boys who worked for Samson Iron Works. Now, their memories are lost forever, their experience just a dream. Be careful and record today that which might be lost tomorrow.

Now, let us review the handful of Samson vertical engines which survive.

Samson engines are an 'open' design which seems to have originated on the west coast. Four turned steel columns separate the base from the cylinder. The main bearing caps have oil reservoirs cast in to hold wicking. The big end of the connecting rod also has cast reservoirs to catch the oil that flows down the rod from the wrist pin area. The oil finds the cups through gravity, a very haphazard method, but it works quite well.

When I first saw a Samson vertical about twenty-five years ago, I fell in love with its side shaft actuating mechanism. It's actually a 'half side shaft using a face cam to activate the exhaust and ignition. The small driven gear on the side shaft is cast iron with cast teeth. It is not 'tooth' machined. A brass gear on the crankshaft drives the side shaft. You cannot count the number of clicks, snaps and pops these engines make in a cycle!

The early two-piece ignition system is used on all verticals. An insulated stationary electrode is fitted into a threaded plug which is secured in the combustion chamber. Another threaded plug situated at ninety degrees to the insulated plug carries the movable 'hammer' electrode. This mechanism is of course operated by the face cam via a trip rod. There is a thumb nut to vary the timing. The cylinder has a compression release cock to facilitate starting. The cylinder heads are water jacketed, turned and polished. Original cylinder lubricators are the early 'Essex' brand made by the Essex Brass Company, Detroit, Michigan. They are fitted with the wing nut lock and check ball.

The vertical governors characterize these engines. They are very similar to the early Gardner steam governor, excepting the throttle body, which is quite different. The governors are driven by a flat leather belt. There is a nasty starting handle situated in the flywheel rim much like an International LA engine. When the engine starts, the handle folds back into its recess in the flywheel. But none of them do that and a 'boot heel' is required to knock it back into place. A very dangerous situation.

But all in all, they were a sturdy little engine, the granddaddy of a most successful line of engines ultimately developed by John M. Kroyer.

The five HP web spokes were developed in the same period in which the verticals emerged. They are substantial and well made, using much the same carburetion and ignition that were developed for the vertical Samsons. Their cylinder heads are also water cooled. Their flywheels are massive compared to other Samson 'N' engines, their strokes about twice the diameter of their cylinders. Long stroke, slow speed characterize the early Samsons. Their later engines were short stroke, high speed. The five horsepower horizontal web spoke is the prettiest of all because of its splendid proportions and design. Listed below are the serial numbers for the known vertical and horizontal web spoke Samson gas engines.

Webspokes

Samson Serial No. List (Verticals)

1. Samson Vertical No. 170 (no 'N' prefix).

2. Samson Vertical No. N305.

3. Samson Vertical No. N396. (Fuel Vaporiser).

4- Samson Vertical No. N625.

5. Samson Vertical No. N944.

6.  Samson Vertical No. 2270 (no 'N' prefix).

All engines are 2.5 HP.

Webspokes

Samson Serial No. List (Horizontals).

1. Samson Horizontal No. N376.

2. Samson Horizontal No. N626.

3. Samson Horizontal No. N903.

4. Samson Horizontal No. N10 71.

5. Samson Horizontal No. N1535.

6. Samson Horizontal (No serial no. plate fitted).

7. Samson Horizontal (incorrect nameplate on engine).

All engines are 5 HP.

The Solid Frame Vertical.

There is a very scarce Samson vertical in existence which is totally different from all other Samson verticals. It has a cast iron frame with an integral cylinder. It is in the collection of Larry Snow, Red Bluff, California. Larry thinks this may be a fairly late engine designed to compete with the hordes of other gas engines on the market during this later period (1910-1918). Many cheaper engines flooded the power market in the teens, and Samson engines were still assembled by hand, babbitt poured, peened, and fitted by hand. Samson engines were expensive and perhaps the competition caused John M. Kroyer to look for a more economical design. It is possible this engine is his answer to the problem.

'Samson Gas Engine' is cast into the cylinder along with Stockton, California, U.S.A. There is no doubt it is built by the iron works but its story is unknown. It is a web spoke using a single flywheel which appears to be identical to the flywheel used on the side shaft verticals. Here the similarity ends. It has the solid type frame but the crank-case is open so the rod and crank can be serviced. It has 'wick' reservoirs on the main caps. The timing gear carries an eccentric which operates the pushrod. (This engine is not a side shaft.) It has an overhead valve arrangement with the exhaust valve operated by the pushrod. The mechanism which performs this function is very unique, very similar to a steam engine valve actuating mechanism. It is an igniter engine using a Lunkenheimer carburetor. A simple air preheater is constructed out of various pipe fittings modified to do the work. There is a very simple system to change the ignition timing and overall it is a most unusual engine.

This old Samson vertical raises many questions in my mind. Was it an experimental engine? A prototype? Was it built within the company by an employee and perhaps is one of a kind? What special purpose was it designed for? Why is there no governor on the engine? Is it early or late? Why no serial number? Oh my, my! Larry is probably right about the reason the engine came into existence. But this engine raises more questions than it answers. We will never know the answer to many of these questions, but that's the wonderful thing about our hobby. The satisfaction of solving the mystery and discovering the answers add much joy to our hobby. Knowing is wonderful but when there are no more questions, when all the answers are found, then the end is near.

I hope you find these web spokes interesting. They are an early form of gas engine peculiar to the Central Valley of California. I've tried to portray the known vertical Samsons to share with you. They are few and far between. The majority of these photographs were taken at the 1999 regional hosted by Branch 49, at Angels Camp, California. Brandon Perry (president of Branch 49) called Samson owners to attend, and attend they did! Over twenty-two Samsons were counted along with Ron Ludford's Samson ore crusher. It was an incredible feeling to see Samson come alive in Angels Camp.

I hope these photographs fully portray John M. Kroyer's marvelous web spokes. It is impossible to comprehend the amount of thought and skills that it took to create these mechanical marvels. From idea to pattern, from mold to melt, from machining to assembly, it is a process few can appreciate. Fewer yet were those who prospered and left behind a legacy of power in flywheels.

John M. Kroyer was fully able to 'deliver the goods.' I have a great fondness for his engines which powered the delta ferries and irrigated the parched face of our valley. The benefits from his engines and pumps are forever woven into the fabric of our agricultural history. It is fitting for us to pay tribute to John M. Kroyer not only for his accomplishments, but for the joy his engines still bring to us after a century of progress.

Samson Gas Engine Serial No. List, August 1999

TYPE

SER#

HP

R.P.M.

Vert

170

2.5

 

Horz

122

15

260r.

Horz

N125

3

 

Vert

N305

2.5

 

Horz

N376

5

300r.

Horz

N386

12

280r.

Vert

N396

2.5

350r.

Horz

N590

8

 

Vert

N625

2.5

 

Horz

N626

5

 

Horz

N704

8

280r.

Horz

N740

1.5(Jr)

 

Horz

N781

15

 

Horz

N841

1.5 (Jr)

 

Horz

N903

5

 

Vert

N944

2.5

350r.

Horz

N999

1.5 (Jr)

 

Horz

N1071

5

 

Horz

N1116

3

350r.

Horz

N1126

3

350r.

Horz

N1202

3

350r.

Horz

N1310

8

280r.

Horz

N1440

1.5 (Jr)

 

Horz

N1455

12

 

Horz

N1480

3

 

Horz

N1484

6

 

Horz

N1535

5

300r.

Horz

N1571

4

 

Horz

N1622

4

300r.

Horz

N1624

4

300r.

Horz

N1783

3

350r.

Horz

N1844

3

350r.

Horz

N1906

3

350r.

Horz

N1913

6

 

Horz

N1943

4

 

Horz

N1955

3

35Or.

Horz

2209

3

350r.

Vert

2270

2,5

350r.

Horz

2409

4

 

Horz

2469

12

375r.

Horz

2487

3

375r.

Horz

2578

3

375r.

Horz

2820

4

325r.

Horz

2871

4

350r.

  

(name plate only)

 

Horz

2942

3

 

Horz

3057

3

375r.

Horz

3070

2

375r.

Horz

3076

3

 

Horz

3079

3

 

Horz

3103

3

375r.

Horz

3263

3

375r.

Horz

3428

6

 

Horz

3454

6

325r.

Horz

3474

4

350r.

Horz

3555

4

350r.

Horz

3868

10

300r.

Horz

3869

3

375r.

Horz

3910

12

300r.

Horz

3929

6

 

Horz

3949

4

 

Horz

4011

3

 

Horz

4053

5

 

Horz

4250

12

300r.

Horz

4367

3

375r.

Horz

4402

6

325r.

Horz

4465

3

375r.

Horz

4471

4

 

Horz

4665

10

300r.

Horz

4831

5

350r.

Horz

4911

2

375r.

Horz

5028

6

325r.

Horz

5067

5

325r.

Horz

5069

12

 

Horz

5106

6

 

Horz

5109

8

 

Horz

5143

6

325r.

Horz

5148

8

 

Horz

5159

5

350r.

Horz

5187

4

 

Horz

5490

5

325r.

Horz

5638

15

260r.

Horz

5711

3

 

Horz

6106

12

300r.

Samson single cylinder sieve grip tractor engine, serial #5765, 5'x7' cyl., 450 R.P.M. Spark plug ignition and Schebler carburetor.

List compiled by Lester Bowman.

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