Matthew B. Caton who owns at least 45 engines, enjoys the thrill of the chase for antique gas engines.
Take a quick glance at the exhibitors and attendees at gas engine shows, and it’s easy to think that this is an older person’s hobby. But take a closer look and you’ll find a growing number of younger enthusiasts. You’ll meet them here in Young Iron.
Matthew B. Caton, Age: 35, Hometown: Meyersdale, PA
Q: How long have you been collecting gas engines?
A: My father and I bought our first flywheel engine, a 1908 Detroit vertical cylinder gas engine, when I was 7 years old.
Q: What attracted you to the hobby?
A: A combination of moving parts, loud noises, smoke, meeting interesting people, and the thrill of a wild goose chase looking for engines.
Q: Who else in your family collects engines?
A: Just my father and me.
Q: How many engines do you have in your collection? Any rare or unusual ones?
A: I have at least 45 engines. My rarest engine would be the Miller Machine Works engine, built in the early 1900s in Springs, Pennsylvania, which is in the same county I live in. Also the 2-cylinder Twentieth Century steam engine is the only portable Twentieth Century known. It ran the line shafts at the Miller Machine Works machine shop.
Q: What is your favorite engine in your collection and why?
A: That’s a very tough question because each engine has a unique story with them. I would have to pick the Miller Machine Works engine because of its history. This engine was built in the same county I live in and it was used on a Keystone Well Driller rig that was based in my hometown. It’s a very dependable running engine and it always gets lots of looks at the shows.
Q: Are you working on any restoration projects?
A: I’m just maintaining the engines I have in running condition so far.
Q: Which shows do you normally attend each year?
A: I regularly attend the Pennsylvania Maple Festival (Meyersdale), the Chickentown Gas & Steam Assn., the Farmers and Threshermens Jubilee (New Centerville), the Coolspring Power Museum, and the Glades Highlands Antique Iron Association (Berlin). I’d like to go to the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion (Rollag) and the Midwest Old Threshers Reunion (Mt. Pleasant, Iowa).
Q: What are some of the obstacles you’ve come across in the hobby?
A: I go through the same four obstacles that a lot of collectors go through: No time; no money; no room; the “no it’s not for sale” person. But if you don’t have any obstacles, sometimes it’s just not as fun. It’s the stories of acquiring an engine, finding out what the engine operated or who may have owned that makes it fun. I would have to say I am very lucky that throughout my collecting that I have met a lot of older collectors and engineers who have taught me a great deal about engines and anything mechanical.
Q: What are your favorite engines in general and why?
A: I like the larger stationary engines. They amaze me, that those engines have high horsepower at low rpm. And they all were designed using common knowledge, common sense, and putting it down on paper and not relying on a computer program to do everything.
Q: If money weren’t an issue, what is your dream engine?
A: An 1885 2 hp Otto made by Schleicher, Schumm & Co. In my opinion this engine shows the pride, engineering and craftsmanship that engine builders put into each engine they built in that time period. After witnessing this type of engine at Coolspring Power Museum run so smoothly and effortlessly, I would like one – or two – in my collection.
Young Iron is looking for gas engine collectors, age 35 and younger. If you or someone you know would like to be profiled, please contact us at (800) 682-4704 or email@example.com.