How many engines are too many? I don’t think there’s
anybody in the old iron collective who can answer that question, at
least not honestly. The more you look around, the more you learn.
The more you learn, the more engines you want. There are so many
different styles, so many engines with different solutions to the
same mechanical problem that it’s impossible to say
This basic fact creates an even bigger problem whenever you go
to a show, because you’re bound to trip across at least one
engine you’ve either never seen, never heard of or just have to
have, for whatever reason. This problem is made even worse when the
engine show in question happens to be the annual gas-engine
extravaganza that is Portland. Aug. 20-24 witnessed the Tri-State
Gas Engine & Tractor Association’s 38th Annual Anniversary
Reunion, and like most of the 37 shows that came before, it was a
With something in the neighborhood of 2,000 engines showing up
at Portland every year, it’s pretty much impossible to imagine
you’ll have seen every engine that’s displayed at the show.
Engines on display range from the ultra rare to the most common,
and between those two ends of the engine spectrum almost anything
Take, for example, the Joyner double-acting tandem that John
Davidson, Bristol, Wis., had on display. Built about 1920, the
Joyner is a marvel of engineering prowess, addressing mechanical
issues most of us have likely never even pondered. With two pistons
running in-line, and firing on both ends, the Joyner operates as a
four-cylinder engine with a common connecting rod, and it was
unquestionably the most unique engine at this year’s show.
Paul Jackson gets his 6 HP 1913 IHC tank-cooled Famous ready to
run. Paul bought the engine from its original owners 40 years ago.
Sitting on non-original trucks, the engine is otherwise very
original, down to the battery box, cooling screen and air
Gary Shonk’s 1-1/2 HP Royal, serial no. 1257. Very little is
known about the engine’s builder, Smith & Sons Mfg. Co.,
Kansas City, Mo., and this is one of the only known surviving
examples from the company.
Carl Stewart brought a trailer full of engines this year,
including this very nice 1-1/4 HP Galloway, which Carl says will be
his last restoration. Carl does all his work in his back yard, and
the level of restoration on his engines is nothing short of
fantastic. The 4 HP screen-cooled Jacobson sideshaft pictured on
page 1 also belongs to Carl.
The engine runs, and it’s a fascinating beast to watch in
action; and that’s before you notice the
‘trombone-slide’ cooling pipe that feeds water to cool the
connecting rod and pistons. The pipe is fixed to the connecting rod
and moves back and forth with every stroke of the engine, passing
through a packing gland and casing affixed to the right side of the
engine. Not only that, the Joyner has two water pumps; one to
supply cooling water to the connecting rod and pistons, and a
second to supply cooling water to the cylinder jackets.
Then there was the engine you couldn’t miss if you tried,
Charlie Inman’s 20 HP Stickney. Charlie’s Stickney was a
moose of a machine, it’s proportions almost a caricature of a
smaller 3 HP Stickney. Charlie, who brought the engine all the way
from Havre, Mont., isn’t sure when the Stickney was made, but
he knows that it was sold in 1916. Charlie got the engine running
this past March, and he’s still reeling at the response from
engine fans witnessing this engine (it’s the only one known)
The Stickney always had a crowd around it, many of them lining
up just to watch Charlie’s grandson, 13-year-old Markus Inman,
get it started. With a finesse that belied his age, Markus would
rock the Stickney back on compression and fire it, to the obvious
delight of everyone watching. By the end of the show, Markus was a
legend in his own right. Charlie’s Stickney has an amazing
story behind it, and we’ll devote a feature to it in the near
Another young participant was 18-year-old Doug Mixter,
Pittsburgh, Pa., who proudly showed his 15 HP hopper-cooled,
sideshaft Witte, the only known example (although there are reports
of another somewhere in the Midwest).
Robert Harman’s 1/4-scale hot tube Bessemer, which he put
together this year from rough castings, is modeled on a 10 HP
engine. Robert chose to leave it unpainted, or in its ‘working
Sid Heckman’s very rare 5 HP 1910 Rumsey made by G.B. Rumsey
Machine Co., Friendship, N. Y. Note the two spark plugs, a
fail-safe in case a plug fouled during service.
Doug bought the Witte at the show, so he doesn’t have much
history on it, but the very fact that he’s worked to get to the
point of having such an incredible piece of gas engine history
speaks volumes for his interest and ability. Showing serial no.
5388, the Witte was built before 1911, but an exact date isn’t
Doug, a full-time machinist, also had part of his 500-strong
collection of oilers on hand, and the variety and rarity of his
collection is stunning. He started collecting oilers before
engines, mostly because he couldn’t afford engines when he was
10. Doug’s dad, Budd Mixter, says Doug has probably sold a few
thousand to get the collection he has. ‘I sell the junk ones so
I can get the good ones,’ Doug says.
Tractors and Others
Portland is more than engines, of course, and the tractor crowd
was out in full force. Cockshutt tractors were this year’s
feature, and models on display ranged from the perfectly preserved
to the perfectly restored.
There were the usual tractor oddities, as well, like the tiny
prototype Crosley tractor, complete with mower, cultivator, plow
and planter, owned by Paul and Shirley Gorrell, Burlington, Iowa.
And Bill Stegman, Breedsville, Mich., showed off his father’s
circa 1935 Parrett Model 6, one of a few left.
But for us, this show is mostly about engines, and what a show
it was. The variety and quality of engines on display at Portland
never disappoints, and this year was no exception.
Richard Backus is editor of Gas Engine Magazine. Contact him
at: 1503 S.W. 42nd. St., Topeka, KS 66609-1265, or via e-mail at: