Sitting on its original cart and looking much as it did when it
left the Springfield Gas Engine Co. factory some 100 years ago, Ed
Johnson’s 6 HP Type A Springfield, serial number 3408, was the
most original Springfield at the show. The Type A’s unique
overhead camshaft running perpendicular to the cylinder is clearly
visible. Just visible on the left side of the camshaft is the
cam’s bevel drive, which mates to the engine’s inclined
sideshaft, which runs back and downward to the crankshaft.
If you didn’t make it to the June 2002 Coolspring Power
Museum Show in Coolspring, Pa., you missed the largest collection
of Springfield gas engines ever seen at one time since the
Springfield Gas Engine Co. of Springfield, Ohio, closed its doors
some 100 years ago. Fifteen of the estimated 32 to 34 Springfield
engines known to exist were there, ranging from 1 HP to 15 HP
examples. As organizers of the Springfield Fest, Roger Kriebel,
Harleysville, Pa., and I got the okay to feature Springfields
before the 2001 show was held, giving owners of Springfield engines
time to prepare to attend this great show.
Springfield Engine Types
The Springfield Gas Engine Co. started making engines in 1891,
building among the first – if not the first – engines designed to
run on gasoline. It’s not known exactly how long the company
stayed in business, but it’s thought the last engine left the
factory some time between 1904 and 1907.
There were two types of Springfields, Type A and Type B, both of
them unique in design and quite different than any other engines
ever built. The Type A has an inclined sideshaft driven by bevel
gears on the ‘off side’ of the crankshaft. The sideshaft
runs to a set of bevel gears driving the camshaft, which sits on
top of the engine running perpendicular to the cylinder. The cams
work directly on the exhaust and intake valves, making it a true
overhead-cam engine – and it also has fuel injection. When power is
called for, a pump pushes gas into the air intake.
There are five cams on the camshaft. The first cam operates the
exhaust valve, the second cam is the drop cam above the center of
the head and operates the igniter, the third cam is the intake cam,
and the fourth cam works the metering of the fuel charge on the
fuel pump. The fifth cam is operated by a freewheeling, belt-driven
governor that works the fuel pump when the engine is in the hit
cycle. This cam pushes down the fuel pump plunger, pushing a charge
of gas into the air intake. On the miss cycle, the piston goes
against compression. The exhaust valve is not opened. It’s a
truly interesting engine to watch, and when you see one in action
you can see why no other engine manufacturer even remotely copied
it. Type A engines are all tank-cooled, and for their size have
very large flywheels. My 6 HP has 49-1/2-inch flywheels, and it was
called a 15 HP when I bought it in 1968 – early Springfield engines
had no horsepower rating on the nameplate.
Stiles Bradley, Pavillion, N.Y., brought this circa 1900 10 HP
Type B. Barely visible underneath the front of the cylinder head is
the Type B’s pendulum governor, which is operated by a crank
arm on the end of the sideshaft. The governor acts on an arm that
holds the exhaust valve open when governed speed is attained. This
was one of two Type B Springfield engines at the show.
Jerry Toews drove 1,200 miles from Goessel, Kan., to make the
Springfield Fest, bringing along his 8 HP Type A, serial number
2441. Now that’s what you call dedication.
The Type B is completely different from the Type A. At first
glance it looks like it has slide valves, but what you’re
seeing is the pendulum governor that runs across the front of the
engine. A crank arm on the end of the sideshaft operates the
governor. The exhaust valve is operated off the sideshaft but the
intake valve is atmospheric. The fuel/air mixture is only admitted
when the engine slows and the governor allows a slide to open,
which lets the fuel/air charge into the intake passage. You really
have to see it in action, as it is hard to describe. There were two
Type Bs in attendance, a 10 HP and a 15 HP.
This large grouping of Springfield engines also provided an
opportunity to note differences in the engines from one year to
another, and from one size to another. A notable difference is in
the nameplates – later engines have a raised boss where horsepower
and serial numbers are stamped. The early engines used a ‘buggy
spring’ (flat curved steel) for the exhaust valve spring, and
there was one later 8 HP that had the same intake manifold as an
early 6 HP.
Springfield engines were remarkable, as was this event, a rare
gathering representing almost 50 percent of surviving Springfield
engines. I wish to thank the Coolspring Power Museum for this
memorable gathering of Springfield gas engines. The 2003 show,
which will be held June 19-21, will feature Olds engines, and it
should prove to be another very interesting exhibit you will not
want to miss.
Contact engine enthusiast John Davidson at: 8250 200th Ave.,
Bristol, Wl 53104.