P.O. Box 6 Wilmington, Vermont 05363
Several years ago the Vermont Gas and Steam Engine Association held a show during May in the town of Danby. I was serving on the board of directors, and as I lived the closest to the site, assumed the responsibility of having the field mowed. The task was simple, another member of the Association had a friend who lived in the area who would mow the field for an annual membership in the Association and a book of raffle tickets on the engine that is raffled each year. All that I had to do was notify my friend, who would con tact his, and the field was mowed. Easy for me and a good deal for the Association.
On the Thursday before the weekend of the show, I drove past the field and found that it had not been mowed. I returned later in the day to find the field still unmowed. I could not remember the name of the person who was to do the mowing.
The field was owned by the proprietor of a nearby tavern. I drove over to the tavern, hoping that the owner could advise me of the name of the person who mowed the field. The owner's son was the only person present who said that a person who owned the first farm north of the site had mowed the field. The name did not sound right, but it was worth a try.
I was employed as a game warden and was wearing the uniform that day, complete with 'Smoky Bear' hat and side-arm. The man who answered the door was apprehensive to see an officer. I assured him that I was not there officially, but on behalf of the engine association. He said that he had mowed the field in the past, but had not done it for several years, and did not know who did. He said he would be happy to mow it for the Association, but had nothing to mow it with.
He then stated that he had an engine and asked if I would like to see it. Of course I'd like to see it!
I followed him to a small barn. There, lying on its side near a flat-head Ford V8 engine, was an International l-2 HP 'LA.' As with most of these engines, the valve and, water hopper covers and muffler were missing. I rolled the engine onto the skids and turned it over with the crank. It made a loud snapping noise as it turned over due to the impulse coupling in the magneto. There was no compression. The top of the spark plug was broken. The wire had been soldered onto the electrode, but that joint too was broken.
I already owned an International 3-5 HP 'LB.' I asked if the engine was for sale. He answered in the affirmative. I then asked how much he wanted. His reply, 'What will you give?'
Now, all engine collectors have been faced with this situation. The offer must be large enough so that the seller does not call you 'El Cheapo' and walk away, but it cannot be so large that you are 'stuck' if the engine turns out to be junk, good for parts only. I made an offer that I believed was appropriate. His re ply was 'It's your engine'!
I did not have that amount of cash with me. I never carried more than lunch money anyway, or my check book. I told him that I would pick the engine up the following Saturday as I was coming to the show. He said to leave the check in the kitchen door if no one were at home. We visited briefly. The engine had been used to run a milking machine. His sister had lived in my town and I was acquainted with her.
On Friday night, as we were setting up for the show, the person who mowed the field drove in with a Cockshutt tractor and a rotary mower, mowed the field, parked the outfit in one of the lines, placed a 'FOR SALE' sign on it, and departed.
I picked the engine up on Saturday and returned to the show with it. It was covered with hay. A new engine on the field drew much attention. Soon people were talking about 'that engine that guy got out of the hay-barn up the road'.
The joy of collecting engines is divided into three phases: phase one, finding them; phase two, fixing them; and phase three, firing them. Phase number one is covered.
Now for stage number two, fixing. I cleaned the hay and chaff from my prize with an air hose. I removed the oil filler plug but saw nothing. I removed the drain plug and a very small amount of 'gunk' came out. Uh-oh, has this engine been run without oil? I turned the engine over carefully with the crank. There was no evidence of burned out bearings. I filled the crankcase with oil and put oil into the cylinder through the spark plug hole, and cranked the engine over several times daily. After a few days it developed compression! There was no spark from the magneto. I removed it, filed the points and adjusted them according to the instructions contained in a reprint instruction manual that I purchased from Lee Pedersen through an advertisement in GEM. When reinstalled, the magneto produced a very healthy blue spark. The bottom end of the speed control lever was broken. I repaired it with a piece of aluminum bar stock, attached with small bolts to the remaining part of the original, and included an adjustment screw.
The gas tank was solid, but filled with rust scale. I remedied this by attaching a fuel filter used in a chain saw to the end of the fuel line with a piece of plastic fuel line tubing.
I also installed a lawn mower type muffler and a new spark plug. This appeared to be the end of stage number two, fixing. I was now ready for stage number threefiring.
I pulled the engine out to the door of my garage, filled the gas tank, opened the needle valve the customary 1 turns, and started cranking. The engine produced a few 'pops,' then nothing. I continued cranking and choking until I saw gasoline dripping from the muffler. Obviously, it was flooded. I did every thing that one does to start a flooded engineclosed the needle valve, re moved the spark plug, turned the engine over without the plug installed, used an air hose to dry the plug and blow out the cylinder. I reinstalled the plug, and with the needle valve closed, began cranking again. Finally, each time I went by the compression stroke, the engine would 'pop.' Then I'd get a couple of 'pops' each time. At last the engine began to run. I let it run at full throttle for a few minutes, shut it off and restarted it. I found that opening the needle valve a half turn was sufficient.
I took it to the next engine show and found that I had not completed the 'fixing' phase: the throttle valve was stuck in the wide open position. I did not run the engine much at that show.
After returning home, I removed the inspection plate at the back of the engine. Using a wood dowel for a probe, I touched the throttle valve control rod and heard a 'click.' The valve was now free. The 'fixing' phase was now almost complete.
I purchased a water hopper cover from a vendor at the Pioneer Park Days engine show at Zolfo Springs, Florida, a year ago, as well as some decals and a replacement muffler from other GEM advertisers. Someday, I plan to clean it up and give it a new paint job. I hope to replace the valve cover too.
The little engine usually starts the first time over, a definite asset when at a show with a crowd around.
At one show a person was insistent that I sell it to him. He said that he wanted it for a 'starter' engine for his grandson. I was not interested in selling, as at the time it was one of the very few engines that I had that was in running condition. Furthermore, it will make a nice 'starter' engine for one of MY grandsons!