Flywheel Forum: Engine Collection Journey

Check out these letters from Gas Engine Magazine readers about gas engine collections, drip oilers, and much more!

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Jim Albaitis

56/4/1: Engine collection journey

After reading Christine Stoner’s excellent editorial (February/March 2021 issue of Gas Engine Magazine) of the journey to start an engine collection, my mind drifted back to how I began on a long road with the gas engine. Wonderful memories! Having acquired my first engine in 1958 and finding a few others locally, I started seriously searching in the mid-1960s. I found gas compressor stations operating huge Nordberg Corliss steam engines and others with Snows, Coopers, and Transits, as well as a power house with 12 Bruce-McBeth engines. Of course, the oil fields had a diversity of operating engines. The 300hp Miller was then in daily operation, and the engineer was always happy to chat. I pleasantly recall them visiting with the operators and learning firsthand how to start and operate them. Any day I could visit at least six operating engines.

The search included grist mills, water works, factories, and many other promising old buildings. Sometimes a reward was found. Much of the early collection came from the original sites, with long stories from the owners. I was so privileged to witness this magnificent era, and it seemed that it would never end. But so it did, and today it is just fond memories! However, it did help me acquire many engines for the collection that is now Coolspring Power Museum and preserve a bit of the era for all to enjoy.

Paul E. Harvey, MD
199 Coolspring Road
Coolspring, PA 15730

Thank you for your complimentary letter, Dr. Harvey! It’s fascinating to hear how the seeds of engine enthusiasm took root in your past and has now grown into a diverse and well-preserved collection of gas engine history. To learn more about the Coolspring Power Museum, turn to Page 20. – Editor

56/4/2: Historical Society seeks information

Wanted: Information on the TC Pelton Boat and Gas Engine Works of Lyons, Iowa, circa 1890-1918. Lyons is now incorporated into Clinton, Iowa. I belong to the Clinton, Iowa, Historical Society and they have been most helpful. However, more information is needed: advertising posters, catalogs, photos, etc.

Send to: Dave Irey
6348 Mildred Ave.
Edina, MN 55439
(953) 943-8357 (9am – 9pm CST)

56/4/3: Drip oiler specifics

Let’s talk drip oilers. In all my years, I have never seen any information on what brand name oiler a certain flywheel engine used. Can you please help me out? This is what I have been told:

  • Foos uses DT Williams
  • Stover uses Sherwood (rabbit ears)
  • Novo uses Essex
  • Fairbanks-Morse uses Michigan Lubricator Co. (swing top)
  • Hercules uses (unknown)
  • Sandwich uses (unknown)

Your friend,

Ray Fisher
(520) 861-0181

Can anyone help Ray fill in the blanks of his oiler research? Send the details our way as well to share with other readers. Thanks! — Editor

56/4/4: Coincidence or relation?

I found a couple of patents that interested me because of the name Layton (my last name). Patent No. 761,539, May 31, 1904, shows a unique 2-cylinder engine using only one piston. Patent No. 787,925, April 25, 1905, shows a 4-cylinder engine with only one throw on the crankshaft. Both patents are interesting when you study them a bit. Both patents were held by Rawson H. Layton and John E. Pfeffer. I think these patents would be a challenge for model makers to build. I have been an engine collector for 50 years and have never seen anything close to these designs. I have traced my family tree back six generations and have not made a connection to Rawson H. Layton.

Thank you for the in-depth articles in Gas Engine Magazine. I think the magazine gets better and better. I have every issue from No. 1 until now.


Les Layton

Sounds like those patents are worth looking into; I’m curious to see these unique designs. Perhaps Rawson H. Layton is a very distant relation that fell off the family tree. Either way, it sounds like the last name coincidence has provided you with fascinating findings. It’s great to hear you enjoy the magazine and have been a dedicated reader from day one. Thanks for sharing! — Editor

56/4/5: Lost Fairbanks-Morse records

I am responding to the request for information about the Fairbanks-Morse Z engine as posted in Flywheel Forum in the February/March issue of Gas Engine Magazine.

The bad news first – the only history you will have on your engine is what the previous owner has told you. The factory will not have any more details on that specific serial number for the following reasons. The records for individual Z engines are not at the Beloit, Wisconsin, factory. The thought has been they were shipped to the Kansas City branch in 1953 when all Z production was transferred there, but no paper to confirm that has been found.

During the time frame of the Z engine production, Fairbanks-Morse was assembling them on moving assembly lines at around 600 engines per day. Engine serial numbers were based on when an engine shipped and included all engine models in production at that time. Therefore, a 1-1/2hp Z engine may follow a model N followed by a 3-cylinder model Y-V. Your serial number, 560366, shows as a 1923 build on a generic list of serial numbers based on typical January 1 numbers.

Another option was the methods by which these engines were sold. Some were shipped driving other auxiliary equipment (air compressors, water pumps, etc.) with larger engines, therefore making tracking near impossible.

At other times, many were sold to dealers in large groups, maybe a railroad boxcar at a time, without any record of the actual end user being reported back to Beloit. There may be some branch records available, but that would take many hours to search and at the present time not all records are in one convenient location. Sorry, no good news.

I am a Fairbanks-Morse retiree with 34-plus years in field service in Houston, Texas, and Denver, Colorado, along with engineering in Beloit, Wisconsin.

An interesting note is I still have access to a “History Room” at the Beloit plant even though I retired in May of 2013.

Ron DeGraff, Fairbanks-Morse Historian
(608) 921-1075

Regardless if it’s bad news, we appreciate the information shared in your letter. This is an excellent example of why it’s important to pass on any known details on engines when they change owners. Maintain a history in writing for future generations to learn from, and help to keep these details from disappearing forever. — Editor

56/4/6: First engine, finally up and running

Charles Hargraves is 93 years old and a Korean War veteran who lives in Ludington, Michigan. In the early 1960s, he bought his first engine in Scottville, Michigan. It was this 4-1/2hp United for which he paid $15. Since that day, he became an avid engine collector.

One day in 1973, I stopped to visit him. He showed me his engine collection. He sold me my first engine that fall day. From then on, I was hooked, too.

In early September 2020, Charlie showed me this 4-1/2hp United again. We had a great conversation about it. He told me since he had purchased the engine in the 1960s, he never had it up and running. I asked him if I could take it home and work on it. With work and TLC, I was able to get it up and running. Now, Charlie has it home with him and finally can start it up!

I felt at 93 years old, Charlie deserved to have his very first engine, his 4-1/2hp United, in his garage where he could start it up and finally enjoy it!

Jim Albaitis
Ludington, MI
(231) 843-4442

Thank you for writing, Jim. I’m sure Charlie is grateful to have his first engine running due to your efforts. – Editor

56/4/7: Walk-about discovery

On my walk-about in my neighborhood last summer/fall, I spotted this machine along with a lot of other stuff in a neighbor’s driveway. He had emptied his garage and was rearranging everything so he could get his car in for the winter. I asked about the machine and found out it was a floor scraper and was used in a small-town grocery store/meat market. It was used to scrape the floors (probably wood). The lever on the handle was used to unlatch the blade for removal. I came back and took a photograph — the machine was a keepsake and not for sale. I don’t remember seeing a name on it. It was in very good condition for being around 100 years old. It was also quite heavy. I don’t remember seeing one at a museum or a threshing show, and I visit several a year. Possibly other readers remember seeing such a machine or using one.

David Irey
Edina, Minnesota

Unique discovery, David, thanks for sharing! – Editor

56/4/8: Searching for Mogul parts

Can anyone help? I have a Mogul 2-1/2hp C28068 that is missing the fuel pump and magneto, plus other parts.


Bill Gingerich
24491 Cemetery Road
Spartansburg, PA 16434
(814) 654-7254 (leave a message)

56/4/9: Seeking desert engine details

Hello and hope you are doing well. I am a long-time subscriber to Gas Engine Magazine, but this may be the first time I’ve emailed. I found what I consider to be a unique engine I’d like to share. I snapped these photographs in Joshua Tree National Park, just outside of Twentynine Palms, California. This engine is part of an old-time gold ore stamping mill that includes a shaker table. The hopper on this engine is unique and the entire engine seems to be of heavy construction. I am wondering if this engine is native to California and these desert communities.

Thank you,

Todd Stellhorn
Cherry Valley, CA

Surely we have a few Californians who can offer up more information on this. Send details, please? – Editor

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