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In times like these our hobbies become lifesavers. At GAS ENGINE MAGAZINE and FARM COLLECTOR, we have been tracking down the most interesting and rare vintage farm machines and collections for more than 80 years combined! That includes researching and sourcing the best books on collectibles available anywhere. Our online store is open and we are here to answer any questions you might have. Our customer service staff is available Monday through Friday from 8a.m.-5p.m. CDT. We can be reached at 1-800-888-9098 or by email. Stay safe!

The Cultivator
Thoughts from the editor.

Back to My Roots and Looking Forward

back to roots

Longtime readers of Gas Engine Magazine might recognize the name at the end of this column. For those who don’t, I was the assistant editor of GEM from 2007 to 2011 before moving on to other positions within Ogden Publications.

You’re reading my words today because longtime editor Richard Backus has decided to scale back his direct involvement with GEM in order to focus on his successful auto repair shop in Lawrence, Kansas. While we’ll certainly miss working with Richard on a daily basis, he’ll still be offering his expertise as a contributing editor when time allows.

The good news is that we’ve already found the next day-to-day editor of GEM, but I don’t want to steal their thunder. If all goes according to plan, you’ll be meeting them in this space in the next issue. In the meantime, I’m returning to my roots by acting as interim editor. It’s been a fun walk down memory lane pulling together this issue, and it also offers me the opportunity to share my vision for GEM going forward.

GEM was my first experience working on a magazine. I learned a lot from those first four years, not just about putting a magazine together, but how to understand its audience and connect with readers. I learned that exposing my lack of technical knowledge wasn’t a liability, but rather an opportunity for others to share their expertise by teaching me, which many did graciously. In short, I learned that the best thing I could do as an editor of this magazine was simply be a conduit for people to tell their stories.

Nine years later, I’m writing this column as the new Editorial Director of Ogden Publications. In addition to GEM, I’m now in charge of setting the big-picture strategy for the other eight magazines in the Ogden family as well as guiding a talented team of 22 editors. A big part of my job these days is making sure I’m putting the right people in the best position to help others share their stories through our magazines. As that relates to GEM, I’m very excited to work with the incoming editor and help them learn what I learned 12 years ago – that GEM readers are some of the friendliest and most knowledgeable people you’ll ever meet. Every one of you has a great story to share with others in this fascinating hobby and it’s a pleasure for us to help you do that.

To that end, you’re going to see more of us at shows this year, taking photos and talking with you about your engines. We’ll also be investing more in the magazine by offering remuneration for articles. We’ve always depended on you – the reader – to keep this magazine interesting and now we’ll be able to offer you a token of our appreciation for sharing your time and expertise with us. So please – keep those story ideas coming!

In the short term, please bear with us as we bring the new editor up to speed and try out some new ideas to breathe fresh life into the magazine. As always, please let us know how we’re doing: what you like, what you don’t like, and what you’d like to see more or less of.

Above all, thanks so much for reading. Here’s to many more years of Gas Engine Magazine!

Celebrating the Coolspring Power Museum

2020 marks the 35th anniversary of the Coolspring Power Museum in Coolspring, Pennsylvania. Since its founding in 1985, the Coolspring Power Museum has gone from being a relatively small and obscure collection of pioneering engines to the largest and most important museum of early gas engine technology in the world.

That’s not just hyperbole. The “museum” — it’s really more of a living trust — counts some 275 engines among its collection, with perhaps 3/4 of those in running condition. Most of the engines are larger, industrial-type units, including giants like a 1925 175hp Otto, the largest single-cylinder, twin-flywheel engine ever made, featuring a massive 21-inch bore and 30-inch stroke.

Thanks to an active staff of volunteers and officers, the not-for-profit museum has over the years continuously added to the collection, acquiring “new” engines and building new structures to house them as necessity demands. Just recently, the museum was gifted one of the most historically important engines ever made, a 1903 M.A.N. Air Blast Injection diesel and the oldest operational diesel engine in the world.

Built in Augsburg, Germany, in 1903, it spent the early part of its life in the North Sea on the island of Helgoland, where it powered an elevator. By the 1920s air blast injection was obsolete and the engine was taken out of service, but it was spared being scrapped when it was bought by Henry Ford. Ford had an early appreciation for pioneering engines and industrial machinery, and placed the engine in his museum in Dearborn, Michigan. The engine eventually passed through several private collections before being donated to Coolspring.

With the acquisition of the M.A.N. engine, Coolspring is undertaking an expansion project to create a new building to house the engine, along with several others. The planned building will be period correct and similar to what would have been built in Germany to house the engine back in 1903. The other planned air blast injection engines include a 400hp, overhead camshaft Busch-Sulzer, a 200hp Snow and a DeLaVergne engine that has been converted from air blast injection.

To drive funding for the planned expansion, Coolspring is seeking charitable, tax-deductible donations. There are several ways to help, including donating to the museum’s GoFundMe account and through the purchase of laser-engraved 8-inch by 8-inch donor bricks, which will be used in the building’s construction. Contributors opting to purchase bricks (which will be sold in various denominations) will be able to have the bricks engraved with up to six lines of text.

This is an important and worthy endeavor, one that will add to the museum’s already incredible collection of vintage internal combustion engines and help the museum further preserve the history of these important engines. We encourage everyone in the old iron hobby to consider making a donation, large or small, to help the Coolspring Power Museum continue its mission of preserving the history of early internal combustion engines. You can learn more by going to the museum’s website.

Richard Backus

Show Photos and the Past and Present

The 2019 show season is effectively over, making this the time for me to put out my annual reminder to readers to send in photographs of the engines you displayed and the shows you attended in 2019. Although some areas of the country were plagued by rain (Portland doesn’t count; it rains there for the show every year!), by and large, it sounds like most of you got to spend more than a few weekends hanging out with like-minded old engine fans, sharing your engines and learning about engines you’ve rarely or never seen.

That last point reminds me of a particular interest I have of late, namely, learning more about engines that were adapted by their makers – or a third party – to configurations never considered when they were first designed. Examples include the 2-cylinder (one for power and the other for the compressor) Schramm compressor engine and Associated’s 2-cylinder tractor-turned stationary engine.

Humans are nothing if not curious, and various inventive souls applied engines – and tractors – to all manner of chores their original designers never considered. The Fordson tractor is a perfect example of this, a machine modified and adapted from its original farm focus to jobs ranging from toboggan duty in the snow to road rolling and crawler applications. Conversely, Ford’s Model T was adapted to tractor duty – and all sorts of other applications never imagined by Henry Ford. Moving forward, I’m hoping to collect images and examples of this type of ingenuity as applied to gas engines, to share here in the pages of GEM. If you know of interesting applications you’d like to share – and if you have show pictures from 2019 to share – please email me at or write to me at 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609.

As promised last issue, where we shared the fruits of young engine enthusiast Dana Kehoe’s efforts restoring a 1910 1-3/4hp air-cooled Galloway, this issue features yet another restoration by a young enthusiast. Emma Riese was only 14 when she launched into the restoration of her late father’s 1921 2hp Waterloo Boy, but two years and many hours of work later, the engine is finished, and it’s superb.

Like Dana, Emma was mentored by engine restorer and enthusiast Jim Faith, who is acting on his conviction of the immense value kids receive by applying themselves to focused mechanical tasks such as the restoration of vintage engines. Those of us already bitten by the bug know he’s right, of course, but convincing a younger generation reared on bits and bytes that pistons and flywheels are cool is nothing if not a challenge. One, it seems, that Jim has taken on with great resolve.

After several such restorations, Jim knows the difference these projects can make in a young person’s perspective, broadening it in ways they never could have imagined. It’s interesting to think how much we yet have to learn from the past, and in ways we haven’t considered – and that vintage gas engines could be a vital link in the process.

Richard Backus

New Collectors, Old Collections

Just when it starts feeling like the pool of young aspirants to the old iron hobby is drying up, along comes budding engine restoration hobbyist Dana Kehoe. Currently studying automotive technology at the University of Northwestern Ohio, 20-year-old Dana stands as a refreshing reminder that with some encouragement, there are plenty of young enthusiasts out there waiting to be pulled into the old engine hobby.

In fact, Dana’s been involved with engines for some time. Mentored by his uncle Jim Faith, Dana first got a 1-1/2hp John Deere E running, followed by his first full restoration when he was just 15, a 1908 2-1/4hp hopper-cooled Galloway, the story of which we featured in the February/March 2016 issue. Recently, Dana finished his second restoration, a 1910 1-3/4hp air-cooled Galloway, a bookend if you will to the 1908 hopper-cooled Galloway he restored in 2015. And like many an engine man he found himself in the shop working with more than just his engine to fettle, taking on the challenge of simultaneously restoring family friend Todd Hasse’s almost identical air-cooled Galloway. The results speak for themselves, as you can see reading the story of Dana’s restorations.

Dana’s abiding interest in vintage engines would never have reached its current level without encouragement and dedicated interest from an experienced engine man like his uncle. And Jim Faith’s interest in mentoring doesn’t stop with nephew Dana, as he recently helped 15-year-old Emma Riese restore a 2hp Waterloo Boy as a 4-H project. Emma’s father, Brian Riese, had bought the engine as a project for his wife, but after Brian passed away Jim got Emma involved in restoring the engine. We’ll share the results of Emma’s excellent restoration in the next issue; the finished Waterloo Boy is simply beautiful.

Most of us keep an eye out for interesting engine auctions, and Nov. 6, 2019, kicks off what’s certain to be the engine sale of the year, if not the decade, with the first of two auctions of the 200-plus engine collection of Kenny and Wendy Wolf. Famous in the vintage engine circle, Kenny and Wendy are no ordinary collectors. For years, the husband and wife team has focused on finding and owning some of the finest, rarest engines in the world, a fact amply illustrated in the collection going to auction, which includes engines from Brown & Cochran, Goold, Shapley & Muir, Springfield, Otto, Lambert, Geiser and more.

Truly extraordinary, the Wolf collection represents the fruits of some 50 years of engine collecting and trading. The Wolfs have never been slow to sell or trade an engine so they might acquire one they’ve never owned or that simply caught their eye.

“If I still had every engine that I ever sold, it would cover 50 acres,” Kenny said in an article that ran in the June 2009 issue of Farm Collector. The first auction will be held Nov. 6, 2019, in Peru, Indiana, with a second scheduled for the spring of 2020. Turn to the inside front cover for auction details.

- Richard Backus

Big Engines in Oklahoma

Southwest of Hooker, Oklahoma, a small town nestled high in the Oklahoma panhandle, an old natural gas pumping station sits quietly in an open field. A tall silo on the site is perhaps the first thing you might notice driving by. Shuttered in the 1990s, it appears to be untouched, and chances are the engines in the installation, including multiple double-acting tandem twin Worthington compressor engines, are still there.

We first found out about the engines in the February/March 2019 issue, thanks to several photographs sent in by reader Bryan Cosby. This issue, Bryan sends in yet more photographs that show the enormity of the pumping station and the variety of engines that were once – and perhaps still – there.

The idea that they might yet be there is beyond tantalizing, and I’m hoping a GEM reader in the area will take a drive to the location and scout it out. We don’t know if the property is accessible, but perhaps a local caretaker or someone in the area will know how to gain entry. Finding the spot is easy. Just type in the GPS coordinates 36.8328211,-101.2618014 and you’ll be guided to a field just southwest of the intersection of Mile 43 Road and L Road.

The old installation is visible from the road, but what’s not visible are any of the engines. While the few photos Bryan has of the outside of the installation suggest it’s simply been locked up and abandoned, with no indication any engines have been removed, there’s of course every chance they have been. We hope someone looks into the site and reports back.See Bryan's great photographs of the engines in the installation here.

While rescuing any of the Worthington engines would be a Herculean undertaking, projects of that scale have been done before. For proof, look no further than the incredible 1917 600hp double-acting Snow engine now assembled and running in its own dedicated building at the Coolspring Power Museum. Watching the Coolspring Snow engine is mesmerizing, a choreographed mechanical dance of amazing beauty. Then there’s the 1907 1,100hp double-acting Snow rescued by the members of the Northwest Michigan Engine & Thresher Club in Buckley, Michigan. The rescue started in 2008, and it was another 10 years before the engine was finally back in one piece and ready to roll, but roll it does, thanks to the dedicated effort of teams of volunteers. Likewise, the Coolspring engine would never have seen the light of day without the effort of volunteers intent on seeing it run once again.

It’s a reminder of the amazing capacity of members of the old engine community to make things happen. Individually we save and restore smaller, “regular” engines. But huge, historically important engines like the Worthingtons in Oklahoma require a group effort if they’re to be saved and reconstructed, an effort the old engine community has shown itself capable of time and again. Here’s hoping the Oklahoma engines still survive, and that perhaps even one of them might get rescued some day in the future.

Richard Backus

Preserving Old Engine History

It never ceases to amaze me how information on the old engines we collect and preserve continues to come forward. The world around us is evolving and changing at a dizzying pace, especially as it relates to information. New digital technologies continue to promise new and better ways to gather, store and share information. But in our little corner of the world, it’s often word-of-mouth and personal experience handed down over time that brings to light new information on engine companies long gone from the landscape, their history slowly illuminated as engine enthusiasts share what they’ve learned.

Proof of this comes in the form of a letter from reader Harold Keller who writes in with personal knowledge about ACME/S.M. Jones engines built by ACME Sucker Rod Co. and its successor, S.M. Jones Co., Toledo, Ohio. Now 84, Harold remembers running a 10hp ACME pumping engine as a teenager, and still has access to information on ACME engines thanks to an owner’s manual yet in his possession. His personal recollections of ACME engines provides us with further insight into how these engines operated, a rare thing given that most of these engines were taken out of service decades ago, and very few survive in running condition.

Although their number are dwindling, we know there are many more enthusiasts out there like Harold who operated the engines we now collect when they were still working for a living, and we’d like to encourage those enthusiasts to share their stories with us so we can share them with the rest of the old engine crowd. Maybe you’re that person, or maybe you know that person. If you worked these engines as a young man, we’d like to hear from you. And if you know someone who did, but for whatever reason isn’t able to share those stories directly with us, we’d like to encourage you to sit down with them, pen in hand – or with your phone to record them directly – and take down their stories, and share them with us. If we’re really lucky, maybe they’ll even have photographs or other literature about the engines they remember, but don’t let that stop you if not; we’ll be happy to try to find supporting photographs and documentation.

That any of these engines have survived is amazing. The old engines we preserve were designed as workhorses to ease the burden of manual labor, and as such it’s doubtful anyone expected them to still be around 100-plus years later. And yet they are, and their ranks continue to grow as survivors are discovered and pulled from their slumber.

Our old engines represent much more than simply a hobby. They are reminders of a unique era in mechanical development and representative of the march of technology and the drive for innovation. And thanks to new digital technologies, we have an opportunity to record and share what we know about the history of long-gone manufactures and their engines with the entire world of engine enthusiasts.

Richard Backus


Moving Forward in the Community

One of the best – if not the best – aspects of collecting old engines is the people. When I was first introduced to the vintage engine hobby, I was completely out of my element. I had a solid background in car and motorcycle engines, but hit-and-miss engines? Not so much. Yet as soon as I was introduced to the old engine crowd, I discovered what an incredible resource of people of passion and capacity it contained, and I’m constantly reminded of my fortune in being a part of the community.

It’s likely that most of you know little about our parent company, Ogden Publications. In addition to Gas Engine Magazine, we produce a number of enthusiast publications, covering subjects ranging from vintage farm engines to vintage farm tractors, classic motorcycles, self-sufficient living and homesteading, fermentation, and heirloom plants. All of our titles are defined and motivated by that same recognition and embrace of community, and we’re committed to being active, positive members of those communities. Take Hank Will, our editorial director; when he’s not commuting to work on his old Honda XL500, you’ll find him cruising the fence lines on his rural farm where he practices small scale, alternative agricultural strategies, a driving passion in his life for as long as motorcycling has been in mine.

Publishing GEM and being a part of the old iron community is a unique opportunity that we don’t take for granted. Moving forward, we’re going to embrace our communities in a new way to better serve those audiences and make us more sustainable as a business in the process. Beginning sometime this year, we’ll embark on a new mission where we no longer look at ourselves as just a magazine and events business (you probably didn’t know we produce the Mother Earth News Fairs held across the country every year), but as a truly community-inspiring wellspring that feeds and is fed by an enthusiastic and engaged community of individuals.

Moving forward with us, you won’t simply subscribe to GEM or one of our sister publications, you’ll also get to choose membership in one or more of our communities. You’ll still receive GEM in the mail just as you always have, so don’t worry, nothing changes there. But for the same price of your subscription you’ll also have full access to our soon-to-be-gated websites including exclusive member-only premium material such as fixed discounts on books and products in our online store, videos and podcasts, reduced entry fees to certain events and museums, and more, as we’re still building the benefits list.

None of this happens without you, and the fact that we’re here and moving forward with new models to build our communities is only because of your interest in being a part of the vintage engine scene. We’ll have more details to share soon, but feel free to drop me a line with any thoughts or questions about the magazine or our future.

Richard Backus


Gas Engine Magazine A_M 16Gas Engine Magazine is your best source for tractor and stationary gas engine information.  Subscribe and connect with more than 23,000 other gas engine collectors and build your knowledge, share your passion and search for parts, in the publication written by and for gas engine enthusiasts! Gas Engine Magazine brings you: restoration stories, company histories, and technical advice. Plus our Flywheel Forum column helps answer your engine inquiries!

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