An Early Farm Gas Engine Model

Fairbanks Morse Model

Courtesy of H. B. Upshur, 290 Appletree Drive, Media, Pennsylvania 19063.

H. B. Upshur

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290 Appletree Drive, Media, Pennsylvania 19063.

I am writing this story because it may be of general interest to readers and in particular to the many people who have asked for more details on this farm gas engine model at the many meets where it has been run over the past six years. I have been asked if plans or castings are available for it and unfortunately they are not at the moment, except perhaps for the flywheel castings which are the only castings used in it. I hope to find time in the future to measure and draw plans for it.

As a teenage farm boy on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, part of my chores were to maintain and operate three engines that we had on the farm. One was a 5 HP Economy on the complete portable sawmill rig Sears sold. Another was a 3 HP Fairbanks Morse on the main farm water supply pump and the last was the smallest Economy on a corn sheller. I became fairly familiar with them, all but the Fairbanks got the most use and therefore required most attention.

I left the farm in 1941, was drafted into the Air Force in 1943 and spent two years overseas mainly in Italy with a bomber repair crew and mobile machine shop. After Germany yielded in 1945, work diminished and to fill spare time waiting for rotation home, I made several model engines. One of these was a simple model of the Fairbanks

Morse engine from memory of it. As can be seen in the picture of its original condition in 1945, the frame and crankshaft were fabricated assemblies from soft steel plate and drill rod. Two thick headers of proper shape were match bored and a steel sleeve cylinder silver soldered to space them apart. Side plates were screwed and soldered to the rear header thus forming main bearing supports. Base and rear plates were added and a thin top plate and copper wrapper screwed and soft soldered on the water hopper. The cylinder head was crudely milled and hand ground to shape. I had no gears, but using an index plate and slitting saw on the lathe I cut equally spaced slots, filed them to crude shapes, and ran gears together with valve grinding paste so the teeth shaped themselves. Originally no governing was used, just a straight push rod with breaker point cam on the flywheel hub. The original flywheels were turned from steel plate. Engine bore was 11/16 inch and stroke 7/8 inch. Rings were tried but dragged too much, so just a snug fitting steel piston and brass connecting rod were used. My mother sent over a model plane spark plug by mail and it ran once or twice but was very hard to start.

The engine was mailed home from Italy in late 1945 and remained buried in my junk until I joined Rough and Tumble in 1959. After they moved across the road to the present museum grounds in the early sixties, Mr. Shaeffer brought his now well known York gas engine model to the meet one August which began a friendly competition between us. This occured because by the next year's meet I had dug up my model and begun a series of additions which continued for several years improving it and adding working details. This included spoked flywheels made from castings for the Stuart 10 steam engine models, working flywheel governor and hit and miss rig, muffler, lubricators, better carburetor as well as a lot of better finishing on the original parts. However, each year I made sure the engine would run in some form at the August meet.

1945 condition of Fairbanks Morse model.

1972 condition of the Fairbanks Morse model.

Some pictures of some of the gas engines hard to find.

After a year or so Mr. Shaeffer said he was going to make one smaller than mine and he sure kept his word. Next August he showed up running one of only 1/2 inch bore so new it was not yet painted. I conceded the distinction of building the smallest working farm gas engine model to him and he went on to an even smaller one, 1/4 inch bore, which is frequently seen at the meets. However, I think my engine is still the oldest model farm engine. Not so long after Moses Stauffer built a larger one and then others until the 1972 Rough and Tumble meet exhibited no less than 11 working farm gas engine models.

I hope this article may prompt other builders to describe how they became interested and built their farm engine models.

Otto 5 HP, No. 6736. Restored by Andy and shown at the Baraboo, Wisconsin Show in 1971.

Otto 15 HP, No. 6204. Restored and built into a portable by Andy. Shown at Northern Illinois Show in 1970.

1-1/2 HP Fairbanks Morse used for many years to pump water by a German farmer northwest of Fredericksburg, Texas.

New Holland 5-HP Engine which came from Pennsylvania and is now making its home at B. J. K. Helmeth and his Son George, Arthur, Illinois. They have several other engines and own a small engine repair shop.

Thermoil 21/2 HP. No. T2630. Will burn No. 2 fuel oil or kerosene mixed with motor oil. No history.