Rock Island Line

Proving One is Never Enough, an Illinois Collector Goes for a Full Set of Rock Island Engines

| October/November 2002

Rock Island Line: Pete and his eight Rock Island engines, which range from the 1914 7 HP heading the lineup in this photo to the 1918 1 HP at the tail end. Rock Island Plow Co., Rock Island, III., didn't make its own engines, choosing instead to buy them from other manufacturers. From 1911 to 1913 Rock Island engines were made by the Jacob Haish Co., DeKalb, III. Beginning with 1914, engines were sourced from Alamo Manufacturing Co., (later to be named Alamo Engine Co.) Hillsdale, Mich. Rock Island Plow Co. was eventually purchased by J.I. Case in 1937.

I would like to introduce you to my collection of Rock Island gas engines. I feel very fortunate to be the owner of eight of these gas engines; over the years I have been able to collect the 1 HP, 1 - HP, 2- HP, 3 HP, 4 HP, 5 HP, 6 HP and 7 HP. The Rock Island gas engine was made in Michigan by Alamo and sold by the Rock Island Plow Co., Rock Island, Ill.

My collection of Rock Island engines started when I bought the 2- HP engine from my brother, Frank. That first engine got me interested in owning more Rock Island engines, so I began buying more, my goal being to collect the complete line. I purchased most of these engines in and around the area where I live from individuals and at auctions.

The 3 HP engine, for instance, belonged to a father and his sons. I first saw it from a distance, partially hidden behind a building and clearly in very poor condition. After a number of attempts to purchase the 3 HP engine from the father, he finally turned the engine over to me on one condition: That I fix it up so his sons could hear it run for the first time. They had always hoped to see it restored one day, and that finally became a reality. The 4 HP engine is the only Rock Island engine I purchased out of state, bought at auction in Minnesota. I almost didn't go, but at 2 a.m. the day of the auction I jumped out of bed and the next thing I knew I was in Minnesota. The 4 HP completed my collection, and over the years I restored all the engines and built wheels to put under them.

My collection of Rock Island gas engines has given me a great deal of pride over the years. They have been on public display at the annual Atkinson Antique Gas Engine and Tractor Show in Atkinson, Ill., which I have been a member for 40 years. The complete collection was also on exhibit at the Mark of the Quad Cities in Moline, Ill.

Contact engine enthusiast Pete Claeys at: P.O. Box 81, Preemption, IL 61276.