Fairbanks diesel engine

Courtesy of Charles Bryan, Box 262, Springfield, South Dakota 57062.

Charles Bryan

Content Tools

Box 262, Springfield, South Dakota 57062.

It was a pleasant summer afternoon and the family was out for a drive and a visit to Flintstone Village at Custer, South Dakota. We were there on a short visit to my folks who live just outside Pringle, South Dakota, where we first saw the 15 hp hot-tube diesel setting in an old pumphouse. Not being sure what we had seen, we stopped on our way home that evening for a first-hand look and to our excitement we found a 15 hp, two-cycle hot-tube Fairbanks-Morse diesel engine.

After some inquiry in the small town, it was found that the engine was a rail road pumping engine that had been turned over to the town when the steam locomotives were discontinued. The town then used the well and pumping unit for some five years at which time an electric motor was installed on a new well. Alter almost a year the town finally placed the engine up for bid and I was the successful bidder and proud owner of the entire pumping unit. This was only the beginning of many experiences with the hot-tube engine. The first problem was the weight of the engine and the lack of something to haul it home with.

As soon as it was found that I had been the successful bidder on the engine, work started on the construction of a trailer to carry it home and to be used for axles with brakes was secured and I built a flat bed suitable for the job at hand. Needless to say the first load found all the weak spots on the way home, but no major problems were encountered.

Much effort and several backaches were spared when a friend of my folks volunteered to help load the engine with his large sky hook. An arduous task of winching and jacking the engine onto the trailer had been planned, but the use of the log loader made the job much easier. When everything was on board, including the large cast iron pumpjack, I estimated the load at approximately 3? tons and I was glad to have had the trailer brakes to get out of the Black Hills and for any emergencies which never came on the 400 mile trip.

Work really started after arriving home as the diesel engine had been shedded and collected soot and grease for all those years and which had to be removed. After many hours of cleaning, the engine was ready for painting and for a cart which I was lucky to locate with in ten miles of home. The engine was cooled by circulating city water through it and to drain it, so a Hart Parr radiator had to be installed for a cooling system. After more cleaning and painting the engine was finally ready for one show late last summer at the Bill Mayberry Show at Niobrara, Nebraska.

I selected two more Fairbanks engines to make a gasoline, kerosene, and diesel display. Due to the complications of having busy teenagers, only Brad and I took the ferry 'Sally Ann,' which runs between South Dakota and Nebraska on the Missouri, the afternoon before the show. This gave me time to set up the display at leisure before show time. That night we had a downpour of rain which did more than settle the dust. Needless to say the first day attendance was poor as the weather continued to look threatening all that day. Sunday turned out nice and attendance was record high for one day and all three engines performed to perfection under the direction of my 'second engineer-operator' and wife, Joanne, and my Brad, when he wasn't somewhere else checking out the show which seemed like most of the time.

Old pump house at the edge of Pringle, South Dakota, with the Fairbanks diesel engine still inside waiting to be claimed.

In the center is the sky-hook setting the 15 hp diesel onto the trailer as my Dad steadied and I directed for position.

 we are all loaded except the pump. The large pulley in the foreground is the drive wheel from a Ferguson tractor which was used to speed up the pump jack. I also obtained the original cast iron pulley which is about five feet in diameter.

The big engine is started by first heating an external hollow hot tube with an upright blow torch which I have not located yet. I improvised with a homemade propane burner which did the job fine, but is obviously not original. When the tube is red hot, just pull the wheel backwards against compression and it is off and running the other way which is forward.

I still have to mount the large cast iron 'smoke bomb' muffler for next summer shows, but the large engine proved to be a fine show piece. I hope to be able to attend more shows next summer if the days fall when we can get away.

At we are crossing the Missouri River on the 'Sally Ann.' The truck stuck out over the opposite side, but Captain Hendrickson carried us both ways without incident.

Left to right: my father, D. C. Bryan; my wife, Joanne; and my son. Brad.

Picture is my second engineer, Joanne, and I as we started up for the Sunday 1971 Mayberry Show.

At  are our three engines portraying gas, kerosene, and diesel power still running smoothly at the end of the Sunday show. The propane tank was used to preheat the hot tube for starting.