A Sparkling Discovery
This adventure started on a miserable but fateful day in February 2005. It was a cool, wet, drizzly day – the kind of day when you just want to go home and sleep. After 10 hours of being soaked while unloading plumbing pipes, I had had enough. I went home (another hour’s drive) only to find that my wife was in just as foul a mood as I. She had to work in a cold office building because the heat had gone out the night before and repairs had not yet been made. We looked at each other and said, “We’re eating out!” We both laughed and headed for the car.
Excerpted from the July 2006 issue of Gas Engine Magazine. Subscribe today to read the full article and more!
A Sparkling Discovery
This adventure started on a miserable but
fateful day in February 2005. It was a cool, wet, drizzly day – the
kind of day when you just want to go home and sleep. After 10 hours
of being soaked while unloading plumbing pipes, I had had enough. I
went home (another hour’s drive) only to find that my wife was in
just as foul a mood as I. She had to work in a cold office building
because the heat had gone out the night before and repairs had not
yet been made. We looked at each other and said, “We’re eating
out!” We both laughed and headed for the car.
We were eating our salads when another couple was seated near
us. My wife, Mary, noticed that they were wearing western outfits.
I knew that there was a dance hall nearby and told Mary they had
probably been line dancing.
Throughout dinner we exchanged looks with the other couple, and
the gentleman even walked by our table giving me the once-over. I
had put on a brand new shirt with one of my engine club
affiliations printed on the back. It was for the North Jersey
Antique Engine and Machinery Club, of which I am vice
When we were leaving, Mary told the couple she liked their
outfits. The people explained that they had indeed been at the
dance hall. The gentleman introduced himself and said he liked my
shirt, too. He asked me if I worked on engines. I told him I did
and that I belonged to several clubs that repair and display old
engines and machinery. He told us he had a couple of old engines in
his yard he would like to get running. I gave him my business card
with my phone number, and told him to give me a call when he was
ready and I would come over and take a look at the engines. I
learned that his name was Bill and he lived only about eight miles
from my home in a town called Cedar Knolls.
More than a month went by before I heard from Bill. Finally, he
called, “Hiya, this is Bill – the engine guy? I wanted to know if
you have any time Saturday to come and look over the engines?” He
said to bring my trailer as he had some stuff he wanted to give
The first thing I noticed as I pulled up in front of Bill’s home
was a small-sized (so I thought) horizontal engine painted blue and
silver on a couple of 4-by-6-inch timbers that were in bad
Bill and his boss had picked out engines together. When his boss
died suddenly 16 years earlier and the company was sold, Bill
expressed an interest in the engines and inherited them. There were
about five or six engines in the warehouse where he used to work,
most of which had sat idle for over 10 years. Bill loaded two of
the engines onto his truck and took them home. He went back to the
warehouse the next morning and noted the other engines were gone.
He asked some of the nearby workers where the engines were and was
told they were in the dumpster. When he found them, they were
thoroughly broken into small pieces – what a loss.
The engines he did get, he put on display in his yard. For over
15 years the two engines stood out in the weather. As Bill was
explaining how he got the engines, we were walking around his yard
looking at them up close. The first one I looked at was a maroon
upright engine. It was a Fairbanks-Morse igniter-fired marine
engine and stood about 3 feet tall.
We then went to look at the blue and silver engine. The first
thing I noticed was that the engine had a weird head. It had a
protrusion and a cover on the front, but had no valve linkage. At
first I thought something was missing, but closer examination
brought out a surprise – this was a hot bulb engine! I then spotted
the brass engine identification plate. It read as follows:
CHARTER-MIETZ OIL ENGINE
Patented in USA and Foreign Countries
SPEED 550 TYPE H 4 HP C.R. 5.5:1
ENGINE No. 9146 Size: 4-1/2 x 6-1/2
CHARTER GAS ENGINE COMPANY
STERLING, ILLINOIS, USA
I looked the rest of the engine over and noted it was equipped
with a Madison-Kipp Model 50 mechanical force-feed oiler. It was
frozen tight. The oil level glass was broken, but in place. The
oiler drip sight glass was missing, as were about a half a dozen
screws from the oiler top. The zinc flow meters were heavily
corroded with chunks of zinc missing from the catch cups. The hand
primer crank was there and was still free on the shaft. All the
activation linkages seemed to be there. Some of the oil
distribution lines were bent or broken. The governor mechanism was
free, although the rest of the moving assemblies were not. The
crank seemed to be frozen in place and the small pumps on top of
the engine were stuck, too. There was a connection on the exhaust
that looked like a heat exchanger. It was in place, but the piping
was wrung off long ago.
The 4-by-6-foot wooden skid the engine was mounted on was in
really poor shape. The right side was collapsing. Bill told me the
engine was extremely heavy for its size and that he blew a
hydraulic hose on his tractor taking the engine off his truck. The
engine was mounted on a subbase with two 2-inch holes in it: one in
front and one in the rear, along with a tapped 3/8-inch
pipe-threaded hole at the rear of the engine, just above the 2-inch
holes. It also appeared that the cast iron fuel tank was mounted on
top of the engine crankcase with a loose-fitting lid. It was clean
inside and smelled slightly like fuel oil or kerosene. The piping
from the fuel tank was sheared off the pump end, but was still
Of the two engines, I?told Bill this would be the showstopper.
It was a neat piece and was well worth restoration, although it
looked like the Charter-Mietz needed more work than the
Fairbanks-Morse. Bill stated that he really didn’t have the time to
give to the engines, as he had the dancing and worked on cars. He
asked what I would do with them and I told him I would display
them, show people how they worked and try to obtain some history of
the manufacturers and the engines themselves. They both needed a
lot of TLC. Bill looked at me for a few seconds and said, “They’re
yours.” I stood there sort of dumbfounded and said, “What?” He
repeated his statement, “They are yours, as long as you promise to
display them and show them, and not to lock them up in some garage
like a lot of collectors do. I want people to appreciate them and
see them. I think you will do that, won’t you?” I couldn’t believe
my ears. All I could stammer was, “Yes sir!”
Bill said he had some stuff for the engine club if I wanted it.
The stuff turned out to be a heavy 6-spoke flywheel, a boring bar
machine still in the original wooden crate, some other
miscellaneous hand tools and a Bunsen burner like we used in
school. After all was loaded, the poor tires on the trailer seemed
half-flat. I thanked Bill and proceeded home.
Freeing the crankshaft
There were five basic things to be accomplished in order to make
the Charter-Mietz run again. I needed to free the engine
crankshaft, repair or replace the Madison-Kipp oiler, sort out fuel
operations, restore functionality to the pumps, create or locate a
cooling system (the engine appears to be tank-cooled) and build a
skid or mount the engine on a cart since the flywheels extended
below the engine subbase.
I removed the rotten wood from under the engine base and using a
jack and brace, I placed the engine base on two 4-by-6-foot beams.
This left the flywheels about 3 inches off the trailer floor. At
this time I noted that the flywheels actually did move, though only
1/8-inch. I decided that to simplify the restoration, I would
remove all items that did not move. I removed the oiler, the
primary fuel pump, the unknown pump and the pump mounting plate,
which I found to be the transfer port and passage cover as
Removing the plate exposed the transfer ports and showed that
the piston had covered the port when the engine had stopped so long
ago. Luckily for me, there was no rust visible on the piston. I
rocked the flywheels and noted the piston did not move. I sprayed
Liquid Wrench on top of the piston, through the transfer port and
at this time I also removed the fuel injector and piping. The
injector is mounted in the top of the engine cylinder. It is made
of heavy brass, threaded with a long tapered 1/4-inch pipe thread
and has what appears to be a 0.06-inch nozzle, screwed into the
business end. I jacked the engine up so that the head was nearly
vertical. At this point, the engine base rested on the lumber, and
the flywheels touched the trailer deck. The engine now stood on its
tail, with no other support. I sprayed WD-40 into the cylinder for
about a minute through the injector-mounting hole and screwed a
Lincoln-type air hose fitting into the same hole. I attached an
airline and put 100 psi of pressure on the cylinder. As I heard no
air escaping from the cylinder, I propped the engine to leave it
standing for the night.
The next afternoon after I got home from work, I took a look at
the engine. There was a slight hiss escaping from the cylinder out
of the exhaust tee; bubbles were escaping from around the piston
through the transfer port. I shut off the air hose and let the
pressure bleed off. I lowered the engine onto its base using a jack
and opened the crankcase drain. A lot of crud and fluid drained out
and I removed the inspection cover at the rear of the
With a flashlight, I saw the interior of the crankcase was
pretty clean and no rust was visible on any of the interior parts.
After removing the safety pins, I used a 2-foot long, 1/2-inch
drive breaker bar and an 18-inch extension with a swivel socket to
loosen the connecting rod’s big end retaining bolts. The crank
throw had stopped approximately 90 degrees from top center at the
top of the crankcase. When the nuts broke loose, they did so with a
loud crack and the vibration made my hands sting for a few minutes.
I backed the nuts off until there were only a few threads holding
them on. As the connecting rod’s big end bearing appeared to be
made of bronze, I decided to try and see if the piston would break
loose by letting the flywheel inertia move the piston.
I rocked the crank counterclockwise as far as it would travel.
It spun about 1-1/2 inches at the rim. I then gave the flywheels a
yank, clockwise and they came to a stop after the 1-1/2 inches of
travel with a dull thump. I would have thought that the
metal-to-metal hit would have bounced back, but it didn’t, it just
stopped. I tried to maneuver a second time and this time I nearly
fell over, as I was hanging on to the flywheels. Instead of
stopping, the flywheels and crank (and everything else attached)
kept turning! The stuck piston had broken free. After a quick look
at the crank pin journal, I reinstalled the rod cap and tightened
the nuts to 45-foot pounds and reinstalled the retaining pins
through the bolt ends. I should note that there was virtually no
play in the rod bearing and after the re-assembly, I soaked the big
end bearing with oil before reinstalling the inspection port cover
and its four bolts. A quick look in the cylinder, above the piston
and through the open transfer ports, revealed a shiny surface with
no pits or rust.
I reinstalled the fuel injector, closed the open compression
release and tried to turn the engine over. Forget it. There was so
much compression, I could not pull the engine through the
compression stroke. Opening the compression release allowed me to
pull the engine through, but not on a continuous cycle. There was
simply too much cylinder volume to allow a complete roll through.
This thing was going to be a bear to start.
I then reinstalled the transfer port cover, opened the
compression release and again turned the engine over. This time I
was looking for the engine’s air intake. It turned out that the two
2-inch holes in the subbase were where the air induction was. I
made sure that there were no guests inside the intake and moved on
to the next item.
Tune in next issue for part two covering the fuel pumping system
and the Madison-Kipp oiler.
Contact engine enthusiast Andrew Mackey at: 26 Mott?Place,
Rockaway Boro, NJ 07866-3022;
Brownwalls at Old Threshers
Brownwall Engine & Pulley Co. sprang up during the heyday of the single-cylinder gas engine and was the successor to Parker Manufacturing Co.
The Saga of My Jaeger
Check out one man’s story of his memories of a Jaeger gas engine from his childhood rediscovered in his cousin’s basement decades later.
31 Years of Power
Check out these photos from the 31st annual Prairie Homestead Power Show & Market 2021, with engines from Monitor, John Deere, and more!