Update On A ‘Cover Girl’

By Staff
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Frank Ferguson of P.O. Box 67, Forest Ranch, CA 95942
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Photo from 2001 Steam and Gas Show Directory

E-Mail address: mpmurph@cooper-energy-services. com

I thought you might want some additional history on the engine
that appears on the cover of the 2001 Steam and Gas Engine Show
Directory.

Back in 1991, Chris Eby of Paradise, Pennsylvania, introduced me
to a Mennonite farmer from Lancaster County who had an old
single-cylinder diesel engine sitting in the woods on his farm. He
was interested in selling it, and as a collector of diesel engines,
Chris thought that I would be interested in the engine.

Sent this photo of an 8 HP Samson gas (or distillate) engine,
built circa 1902, fitted with a vertical governor and belt driven.
The engine worked in California Gold Country.

I met the farmer at the Rough and Tumble Reunion in ’91, and
we drove out to his farm from the show grounds to look at the
engine. When we finally arrived where the engine sat, it was
obvious that the elements had had their way with the old thing for
many years. Supposedly, the engine had been used in a fishing boat
on the Chesapeake Bay many years ago, but upon closer inspection I
noticed degree marks on the flywheel. The engine was obviously a
Caterpillar, as I recognized the remains of the injection equipment
and the valve cover. Being a single-cylinder engine with the degree
scale on the flywheel, and having injection equipment (the fueling
cam, etc.) and dainty levers exposed precariously to the elements,
I knew it had to be a laboratory engine.

Unfortunately, the piston and rod were missing, and many of the
components on the exterior of the engine were damaged or severely
weathered. Well, I thought I could give it a better home and at
least get it out of the weather, so I made a deal with the farmer
and bought the old Caterpillar engine. Chris Eby moved it to
Coolspring during the fall show in ’91, where it sat until a
few years ago.

Having always admired the job John Wilcox had performed in
stacking the flywheel halves for the 200 HP Snow diesel back in
’82, I placed the Caterpillar engine next to them. Over the
years, I tried to keep the engine covered against the weather, but
I would always uncover the engine during shows at Coolspring so
folks could see it. About five years ago, Jim Rush approached me
about buying the engine. I finally sold it to him, knowing of his
skills in restoring engines and his great interest in diesels. I
knew I would not be able to take on such a monumental task as
restoring the old Caterpillar engine in a timely fashion, but I
felt strongly that Jim could.

Over the last couple of years, Jim would give me updates on his
progress with the engine, and what a sight to behold last year at
Portland! Jim did a wonderful job of restoring the engine, and I
think Mike Cummins pitched in as well. Really great to see the
engine again, in restored condition and running.

When I first saw the ad for the Directory, I immediately
recognized the engine and the setting. Then I noticed that I was in
the photograph! That’s me, leaning against the tent pole,
flapping my jaw as usual! What tipped me off for sure was the
autogiro image on my tee shirt; there are not many of those shirts
out and about!

From research I performed, the engine in the photo was developed
by Caterpillar for studying lubrication and wear characteristics of
pistons, rings and cylinder liners back in the thirties.
Apparently, several hundred of these engines were built, and they
ended up in use by Caterpillar and oil companies in their efforts
to improve engine life and durability through materials and
lubrication research. When corporate research methods changed and
the engines were no longer needed, some ended up in laboratories at
various universities. Finally, as engineering education and
research evolved, the Caterpillar lab engines were scrapped. I do
not know of any others that have survived, but I am sure they are
out there somewhere. One example that appears to be in original
condition, including the Caterpillar gray paint, can be seen at the
show in Elnora, Indiana.

I just thought readers might want to know a little more of the
recent history of the engine. Keep up the good work on the
magazine, I still look forward to receiving it every month.

Gas Engine Magazine
Gas Engine Magazine
Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines