Coolspring Power Museum Expo 2015: Flame Ignition Engines

Event's 30th anniversary sees a record turnout of engines and gas engine enthusiasts at the Coolspring Power Museum.

| October/November 2015

  • 1883 Schleicher, Schumm & Co. engine
    1883 4 hp was one of four Schleicher, Schumm & Co. engines on hand.
    Photo by Richard Backus
  • Gasmotoren-Fabrik Deutz
    This 1889 2 hp was one of two Gasmotoren-Fabrik Deutz flame ignition engines at the Expo. The other was a 1 hp inverted from 1891.
    Photo by Richard Backus
  • 1889 Schleicher, Schumm
    The Triebner family’s 8 hp 1889 Schleicher, Schumm & Co. engine was first purchased by the University of Toronto.
    Photo by Richard Backus
  • Crown gas pump engine
    Circa-1883 Crown Gas Pump engine was one of nine on display; all of them were run simultaneously.
    Photo by Richard Backus
  • Crown gas pump engine
    Circa-1883 Crown Gas Pump engine was one of nine on display; all of them were run simultaneously.
    Photo by Richard Backus
  • 1886 Fetu-Defize
    Fantastic 25 hp 1886 2-cylinder Fetu-Defize ran flawlessly.
    Photo by Richard Backus
  • 1887 Crossley
    Jerry Toews brought this 1/2 hp 1887 Crossley.
    Photo by Richard Backus
  • 1901 Crossley inverted
    Peter Knight displayed this beautiful 5 “manpower” 1901 Crossley inverted.
    Photo by Richard Backus
  • Piano base Crossley
    Kenny Tharp’s 2 hp 1888 “Piano Base” Crossley.
    Photo by Richard Backus
  • 1885 Hille
    Tommy Turner’s 2 hp 1885 Hille is one of two known to exist.
    Photo by Richard Backus
  • Lowne toy engine
    Fantastic Lowne atmospheric engine was one of many functioning period toy engines displayed at the Expo.
    Photo by Richard Backus
  • 1923 Hercules FW
    Dave Rotigel setting up his 1-1/2 hp 1923 Hercules Model FW drag saw, which he had running and cutting logs throughout the weekend.
    Photo by Richard Backus

  • 1883 Schleicher, Schumm & Co. engine
  • Gasmotoren-Fabrik Deutz
  • 1889 Schleicher, Schumm
  • Crown gas pump engine
  • Crown gas pump engine
  • 1886 Fetu-Defize
  • 1887 Crossley
  • 1901 Crossley inverted
  • Piano base Crossley
  • 1885 Hille
  • Lowne toy engine
  • 1923 Hercules FW

What a difference a year makes – or in this case 20 years. In 1995, the Coolspring Power Museum, Coolspring, Pennsylvania, marked its 10th anniversary with a special Summer Expo celebrating flame ignition engines. Organized by John Rex and the late Nate Lillibridge, the event drew an estimated 1,000 old engine fans from across the country. It was a unique opportunity to witness a special gathering of flame ignition engines in operation, and as Coolspring founder Paul Harvey remembers, there were around five flame ignition engines on display, along with another 10 or so “very interesting pre-1895 engines. It was a well received and attended show,” Harvey recalls.

Interest in early internal combustion engines – specifically engines produced since the Otto and Langen of 1867, which used flame ignition to commence the combustion process – has continued to increase markedly, a fact reflected in the interest shown for this year’s 30th Anniversary Summer Expo, which for the second time in the museum’s history put the spotlight on flame ignition engines. Organized by well-known engine historian, restoration expert and scale model designer/builder Wayne Grenning, the 2015 event drew more than 4,000 visitors to witness the largest collection of flame ignition engines ever gathered in one place at one time in the U.S. – at least 60 in total, and that’s not counting the dozens of Paradox and other toy engines on display.

Behind the scenes

Planning for the event started in 2012 when Grenning, looking forward to the museum’s 30th anniversary, suggested to the museum board repeating 1995’s successful flame ignition theme. “The first thing the museum did was say, ‘OK, so you’re volunteering for this, right?’” Grenning recalls, adding, “And I said I guess I should.” In 2013 Grenning, along with his father and engine collector and Coolspring Museum volunteer Woody Sins, traveled to Nuenen, Netherlands, for the 25th annual Nuenen stationary engine rally. Slide-valve engines were a featured theme at Nuenen that year, with at least 15 displayed. Knowing this, Grenning printed up flyers announcing the planned Coolspring event and passed them out at Nuenen, hoping to inspire international interest in the Coolspring show.

That winter, Grenning sent out letters to every known owner of flame ignition engines in the U.S. and Canada, inviting the owners to display their engines at the planned Expo and promising proper care and recognition of their engines. As an added inducement, he pledged the museum would foot the bill for the expensive and hard to acquire hydrogen gas necessary to run flame ignition engines. Importantly, thanks to his job with fuel specialists Praxair, Grenning could secure hydrogen fuel at a discounted rate.



That early seeding paid off handsomely. The 2015 event attracted engine fans from around the world, with an estimated 100 engine collectors traveling to Coolspring from Europe and Australia to see the record collection of engines on display – more than 50 of them brought by owners from across the U.S. and Canada. Recognizing the importance of the event, Rough & Tumble Historical Association in Kinzers, Pennsylvania, made available the 1/2 hp 1867/1868 Otto and Langen engine in its collection, which holds the distinction of being the oldest internal combustion engine in North America and the third oldest running engine in the world.

The engines

“I really wanted the Otto and Langen to show up,” Grenning says. For Grenning, that engine’s importance extends beyond its place in history as the first practical internal combustion engine. It’s also important because it’s a direct, physical link to its inventor, Nikolaus Otto, father of the 4-stroke or Otto Cycle engine, the design that underpins internal combustion engines yet today. “It’s one of the things Otto himself touched and built,” Grenning marvels.



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