Fairbanks-Morse Engine Color and Nelson Bros. Engines
In the March 2001 issue of Gas Engine Magazine you
published a letter from Stan Agacinski, in which he inquired about
black paint he had found on his 1919 FM Model Z. Here is
justification, in the form of a letter from Fairbanks-Morse, for
the black paint. The engine about which this letter was written is
a 1914 4 HP Type H FM.
Although the previous owner painted it a nasty green, he left
the original paint around the ‘Jack of all Trades’ decal.
It is definitely black. Not all FM greens are the same, either. My
1908 Type N was a Brewster green. There are at least three FM
engine in the area with dark red paint; a 2 HP Type T, a 6 HP Z and
3 HP Z.
In the April 2002 issue you have a picture of a Bohon Dixie
King. Although some Bohons may have been made by Nelson Brothers, I
doubt that this one was. It has none of the Nelson hallmarks. The
MacLeod engine in the August 2002 issue on page 3 is a Nelson
Bros., one of the 23 or more names Nelson used on their contract
engines. It was probably built between 1915 and 1923. If it has
open well oilers on the main bearings it would be toward the
earlier end of the range. I have an identical-looking 5 HP, but it
has a Gray tag on it – badge engineering at its finest.
The more I research into Nelson engines, the more variations I
find. There are many engines that show a family resemblance but are
not identical. Does anyone know when Nelson took over Gray?
Al Wait 177 Park Ave. Contoocook, NH 03229-3083
Western Electric Dynamotor
This is in reference to the Western Electric ‘Dynamotor’
inquiry from Douglas Poor of Yucaipa, Calif. (see GEM, June
I believe this might be a ‘tone’ plant, also called a
‘ringing machine.’ It was installed in a central office
building and generated dial tones, busy signals and ringing tones
as well as the current that actually rang phones. From its size, it
sounds like it would have been installed in a smaller office.
Larger ones were about five feet long.
In 1918, the year the machine was patented, the Bell System was
about to begin installing automatic (dial) switching systems.
Smaller offices and those in smaller (at the time) cities, such as
Denver, Houston and Raleigh, would get ‘step-by-step’
equipment, and almost all the larger cities (except the Los Angeles
area) would get ‘panel’ equipment, which was much more
complicated but had a much greater capacity. Tone plants were made
in different sizes to meet the needs of different offices.
I suggest Mr. Poor contact the Vintage Telephone Equipment
Museum in Seattle, Wash., at (206) 767-3012. The head curator is
Don Ostrand. This is a museum of working telephone equipment and is
well worth visiting. They have both step-by-step and panel
switching machines, as well as the later crossbar systems. All are
up and running, and you can make calls on them. I’m sure
they’d have something on Mr. Poor’s Dynamotor or know
someone who does.
Frank Wilsey 2702 Whitney Ave. Baltimore, MD 21215-4149 E-mail:
Just thought I’d report to you that I finally struck pay
dirt locating another Crown Motor Works engine, thanks to the
article you published in GEM (see GEM, April 2002). It’s the
only Crown I know about other than the two I have that were left
over from my grandfather’s engine-making operations in the
Early last week I received the latest of several dozen responses
to the GEM article, this one from a Mr. Charles (Chuck) Werntz of
St. Peters, Mo., and it turns out he has a 1/2 HP Crown engine
(confirmed with the exchange of color photos and several phone
conversations) that’s in perfect working condition. In fact, he
runs it regularly at local antique engine shows.
Chuck is 86 years old, and he’s had the engine for 75 years!
It was given to him when he was a boy by his father, a machinist,
who obtained it about 1924 in a trade with the Fleming Rake Co.
(now defunct), a manufacturer of farm equipment near Huntsville,
Mo. Since the engine has no markings on it (consistent with what I
pointed out in my article -my grandfather never put any markings on
his engines), Chuck and his father never knew who made the little
engine, where it came from or even when it was made. First his dad,
and now he’d been wondering and speculating over this little
mystery for nearly eight decades. So now, after all those years, he
knows, and he’s thrilled – thanks to the April 2002 GEM
And I’m pleased, too. It’s fun to know there’s at
least one other Crown engine still kicking, and it’s a 1/2 HP
model, the one model I’d never seen before (it’s the one
shown in the line drawing on page 26 of the GEM article). So now I
have a chance to obtain more data and refine the story about the
Crown Motor Works. Chuck Werntz is arranging for a friend to make
and send me a video record of his engine – in both static and
running form. I’m looking forward to getting that video.
Chuck also related a charming tale of how when he was a young
boy, not too long after Charles Lindbergh’s famous solo flight
across the Atlantic to Paris, he would run his little engine in his
backyard in Huntsville, Mo., with a propeller on it rather than its
He says he’d sit out there in the yard thinking of
Lindbergh’s long, lonely flight, and, with his own leather
helmet and goggles on, listen to the roar of his little engine and
feel the Missouri wind from the prop blowing across his face. He
said that in this way his boyhood imagination, and his little Crown
engine, took him on many solo flights to many places, all around
the world. Thanks again for the publishing the Crown Motor Works
Doug Nash 32906 Avenida Descanso San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
Send letters to: Gas Engine Magazine, 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka,
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Excerpted from a letter from Colt Industries Fairbanks-Morse
February 3, 1976 Subject: Fairbanks-Morse (Jack of all Trades)
In reference to your letter dated Dec. 30, 1975, we have enclosed a
copy of instructions for setting up and operating subject engine.
The approximate date of manufacture for your engine was 1915, the
color, black. We’re sorry, there are no decals. Good luck now
in restoring your engine.
J. C. Johnson Colt Industries/Fairbanks-Morse Engine