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Van Duzen: Whatta Doozy!

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By Christian Williams | Oct 31, 2011

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Mike Raisch’s circa-1890 Van Duzen features a unique valve motion on both the intake and exhaust side of the engine.  
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A circa-1890 6 HP Van Duzen. 
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Mike Raisch’s circa-1890 6 HP Van Duzen is living history. 

A trailer pulling onto the grounds of the Tri-State Gas Engine Show in Portland, Ind., doesn’t normally spark as much inter­est as Mike Raisch’s did when he dropped off his exhibit for the 2009 show. Upon further investigation, it quickly became apparent that Mike’s feature contribution was one of the more historic Ohio-built engines in existence, a circa-1890 6 HP Van Duzen.

Historical perspective  

As C.H. Wendel explains in American Gasoline Engines,since 1872, Benjamin Van Duzen was considered a pioneer in the devel­opment of the internal combus­tion engine. Operating as the Van Duzen Gas & Gasoline Engine Co., in Cleveland, Ohio, Van Duzen received more than 15 patents for his designs.

It’s likely that one of those pat­ents, no. 448,386, relates to Mike’s engine and its unique valve oper­ating and charge forming mecha­nism. As Wendel notes, the patent was filed on Feb. 1, 1890 and granted on March 17, 1891. “I’ve never seen this particular valve motion,” Mike says of the intake valve side. “And the exhaust side is exactly the same.”

Wendel continues by stating that this Van Duzen is consid­ered one of the first American-built engines equipped to burn either gas or gasoline. It also appears to have been designed to fit tight quarters with a short, square cylin­der with an 8-inch bore and 8-inch stroke. “Most of these engines have a longer stroke,” Mike says.

Tailor-made

From what Mike knows, the Van Duzen spent its service time in Mt. Healthy, Ohio, north of Cincinnati, where it was removed by the guy that Mike bought the engine from. As far as what it did, Mike isn’t sure but he has a good idea. “I know the name of the street that it came off of,” Mike says. “I talked to a guy who grew up in Mt. Healthy and he said that at one time there were tailor shops on that street so it possibly might have powered one of those.”

Mike bought the engine disas­sembled, but soon realized that it was nearly complete. “There were a few things missing, but all I had to do was put it back together,” Mike says. “I just took my time and it took several years. I’ve had a lot of fun with it.”

Contact Mike Raisch at 5110 State Road 252, Brookville, IN 47012-8122.

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