Rescuing a 1934 125 HP Buckeye Gas Engine

| July/August 1981

Several years ago, my father-in-law, John Nahrwold, told me about a big gas engine that was in the basement of an elevator at Grabill, a small farming community in northeast Indiana. Last spring the subject was mentioned again. My father, Oscar Schuller and son, Mark, John and I went to the elevator to see the engine. I knew it was big from what John had told me, but I wasn't expecting the sight that my eyes met when I walked down the steps into the basement.

Mounted 8 feet wide, 20 feet long, and 6 feet deep sat the biggest one cylinder engine I had ever seen. The engine itself was 17 feet long and the two flywheels were 6 feet high. One flywheel was 10 feet wide and the other was 17 feet. The piston was 7 feet long. Nearby sat a generator which the engine powered to furnish electricity to operate the elevator. The engine and generator were covered with dust and cobwebs. Everything was there, just as they had stopped using in 1947. We opened the engine cover and using a pry bar turned the flywheel and found that the engine still had compression. After cleaning the nameplate, we saw that it was a Buckeye Oil Engine manufactured by the Buckeye Machine Company in Lima, Ohio.

Several people had expressed interest in the engine, but no one could figure out a way to get it out of the basement. John had several ideas to solve the problems in removing the engine and also how to transport it after it was out. My brother-in-law, John Michael Nahrwold, was also interested in preserving the engine. After discussing the various possibilities, the four of us, John Nahrwold, John Michael Nahrwold, Oscar Schuller and I decided to buy the engine.

All four walls, as well as the ceiling and floor of the basement, were cement with the exception of a 6-foot section of wall behind the engine which was cement block. There was a cement beam directly above the engine. We assumed that the engine had been brought in through the 6' opening and then it was closed. To line up with the cement block section, the bolts still holding the engine to the cement foundation had to be cut and the engine moved forward 4 feet and to the left 4 feet.

Removing the Buckeye
By the last week of July we had our plans and equipment ready to remove the engine. We had to get the engine out during the weekend of August 3-5 since the elevator wanted to stay in operation during the week. Using rollers and jacks we slid the engine under the cement beam and moved it in front of the cement block section. The flywheels rubbed the bottom of the beam on the way under it so it was a tight fit.

After the elevator closed Friday afternoon, we removed the cement blocks which crumbled from age, and we dug a trench to the basement using a backhoe. The special trailer to carry the engine, that John designed and built by revamping an old car-hauling trailer, was backed into the trench and lined up in preparation for Saturday's work.