The circa-1920 1-3/4 HP Olds-Seager restored by Robert and James Meixell.

Content Tools

For the sake of preservation

I'm not sure if I can call this a trend just yet, but if Robert Meixell's story about the restoration of an Olds-Seager engine is any indicator, the preservation of antique gas engines is taking an interesting turn.

The Olds engine, as you'll learn when you read Robert's report beginning on page 28, had been sitting unattended for 83 years before he and his son, James, happened on to it.

Every one of us dreams of being led to an old tin shed, opening the door, and finding an old engine, forgotten and lost to time: That's exactly what happened.

What makes this story even more unique is that Robert and Jim didn't buy the engine: They weren't even concerned with owning it. Instead, they just wanted to make sure the engine was preserved for the future. So working with the engine's owners, they removed it from its weather-beaten shed, took it home and in less than a month had it back in running form.

Although I used the word "restoration," the engine really received more of a resuscitation. No new paint, no new skids, but a concerned, sympathetic cleaning and oiling of all its parts until it could be coaxed into running again. And when they were done? Well, it went back to the original owners, where it will stay until such time as the owners deem otherwise.

The trend I alluded to is one of engine collectors restoring or saving engines for the simple joy of restoration and for the purpose of preservation. Last issue, John Bailey shared the story of his restoration of Buzz Bradley's extremely rare and beautiful 3 HP Holland engine.

John wasn't going to own the Holland, but that wasn't really important to him. What was important was the chance to work on an exceptional engine, and the chance to make sure the engine will be around for generations to come.

For Robert and Jim, and for John, the goal was preservation, not possession. And I'm willing to bet there are many more stories like theirs out there, of old iron collectors helping other owners preserve their engines, selflessly and graciously lending a hand to make sure these old engines we love are around for years to come.

It's just part of what makes the old iron community so special, and the rest of us so lucky.