Those Wonderful ‘Webspokes’ built by John M. Kroyer

1 / 8
An excellent view of the side shaft drive and 'nasty starting handle.' Samson vertical #396.
2 / 8
Another view of 'open crank case' of the 'solid frame Samson Vertical.' Note specific information cast into the cylinder. Owner Larry Snow, Red Bluff, CA. No serial #.
3 / 8
The standard carburetor used on the verticals.
4 / 8
Another good view of the face cam and how it communicates vertical movement to actuate the exhaust valve. Samson #N396 (vertical).
5 / 8
Samson horizontal engine. (Web spoke) #N376, 5 HP. A very interesting engine with an unusual preheater and large brass name plate. Note 'safety cup' over the key on the crankshaft. Owned by Norman Taunton, Gait, CA.
6 / 8
See the unusual 'Vaporiser carb' used on this engine. Warm air is drawn off the exhaust through the air preheater. This is a Distillate system used on Samson Vertical Ser #N396.
7 / 8
Samson horizontal engine. (Web spoke) No serial number, 5 HP 'N' Series. Late style ignition. Owned by Lester Bowman, Ceres, CA.
8 / 8
Samson horizontal engine (Web spoke) #N903, 5 HP. This engine has 'two piece' early ignition but has the standard brass nameplate and float type carb. Owned by Ray Hughes, Mokelumne Hill, CA.

2440 Thomas street ceres, California 95307

It is my opinion that these web spokes were built using the
original pattern conceived by John Kroyer. I believe production
began using the two-and-a-half horse vertical engine and the five
horsepower horizontal ‘N.’ I believe all other Samson
engines grew from these, the original idea and design.

My vertical Samson (serial #396) was machined using only a lathe
and a shaper. Every part of it is stamped with a (4), which I
believe is an assembly number, a number which identifies a mechanic
to his work. In my opinion, each mechanic was issued a stamp, a
sort of early day quality control. It also helped to avoid
confusion on the assembly floor. Every engine has these marks. It
is a stamp of a man who excelled at engine assembly. It also became
a record of a workman, a company record. Sound right? We will
probably never know for sure. Thirty years ago you could find these
old boys who worked for Samson Iron Works. Now, their memories are
lost forever, their experience just a dream. Be careful and record
today that which might be lost tomorrow.

Now, let us review the handful of Samson vertical engines which
survive.

Samson engines are an ‘open’ design which seems to have
originated on the west coast. Four turned steel columns separate
the base from the cylinder. The main bearing caps have oil
reservoirs cast in to hold wicking. The big end of the connecting
rod also has cast reservoirs to catch the oil that flows down the
rod from the wrist pin area. The oil finds the cups through
gravity, a very haphazard method, but it works quite well.

When I first saw a Samson vertical about twenty-five years ago,
I fell in love with its side shaft actuating mechanism. It’s
actually a ‘half side shaft using a face cam to activate the
exhaust and ignition. The small driven gear on the side shaft is
cast iron with cast teeth. It is not ‘tooth’ machined. A
brass gear on the crankshaft drives the side shaft. You cannot
count the number of clicks, snaps and pops these engines make in a
cycle!

The early two-piece ignition system is used on all verticals. An
insulated stationary electrode is fitted into a threaded plug which
is secured in the combustion chamber. Another threaded plug
situated at ninety degrees to the insulated plug carries the
movable ‘hammer’ electrode. This mechanism is of course
operated by the face cam via a trip rod. There is a thumb nut to
vary the timing. The cylinder has a compression release cock to
facilitate starting. The cylinder heads are water jacketed, turned
and polished. Original cylinder lubricators are the early
‘Essex’ brand made by the Essex Brass Company, Detroit,
Michigan. They are fitted with the wing nut lock and check
ball.

The vertical governors characterize these engines. They are very
similar to the early Gardner steam governor, excepting the throttle
body, which is quite different. The governors are driven by a flat
leather belt. There is a nasty starting handle situated in the
flywheel rim much like an International LA engine. When the engine
starts, the handle folds back into its recess in the flywheel. But
none of them do that and a ‘boot heel’ is required to knock
it back into place. A very dangerous situation.

But all in all, they were a sturdy little engine, the granddaddy
of a most successful line of engines ultimately developed by John
M. Kroyer.

The five HP web spokes were developed in the same period in
which the verticals emerged. They are substantial and well made,
using much the same carburetion and ignition that were developed
for the vertical Samsons. Their cylinder heads are also water
cooled. Their flywheels are massive compared to other Samson
‘N’ engines, their strokes about twice the diameter of
their cylinders. Long stroke, slow speed characterize the early
Samsons. Their later engines were short stroke, high speed. The
five horsepower horizontal web spoke is the prettiest of all
because of its splendid proportions and design. Listed below are
the serial numbers for the known vertical and horizontal web spoke
Samson gas engines.

Webspokes

Samson Serial No. List (Verticals)

1. Samson Vertical No. 170 (no ‘N’ prefix).

2. Samson Vertical No. N305.

3. Samson Vertical No. N396. (Fuel Vaporiser).

4- Samson Vertical No. N625.

5. Samson Vertical No. N944.

6.  Samson Vertical No. 2270 (no ‘N’ prefix).

All engines are 2.5 HP.

Webspokes

Samson Serial No. List (Horizontals).

1. Samson Horizontal No. N376.

2. Samson Horizontal No. N626.

3. Samson Horizontal No. N903.

4. Samson Horizontal No. N10 71.

5. Samson Horizontal No. N1535.

6. Samson Horizontal (No serial no. plate fitted).

7. Samson Horizontal (incorrect nameplate on engine).

All engines are 5 HP.

The Solid Frame Vertical.

There is a very scarce Samson vertical in existence which is
totally different from all other Samson verticals. It has a cast
iron frame with an integral cylinder. It is in the collection of
Larry Snow, Red Bluff, California. Larry thinks this may be a
fairly late engine designed to compete with the hordes of other gas
engines on the market during this later period (1910-1918). Many
cheaper engines flooded the power market in the teens, and Samson
engines were still assembled by hand, babbitt poured, peened, and
fitted by hand. Samson engines were expensive and perhaps the
competition caused John M. Kroyer to look for a more economical
design. It is possible this engine is his answer to the
problem.

‘Samson Gas Engine’ is cast into the cylinder along with
Stockton, California, U.S.A. There is no doubt it is built by the
iron works but its story is unknown. It is a web spoke using a
single flywheel which appears to be identical to the flywheel used
on the side shaft verticals. Here the similarity ends. It has the
solid type frame but the crank-case is open so the rod and crank
can be serviced. It has ‘wick’ reservoirs on the main caps.
The timing gear carries an eccentric which operates the pushrod.
(This engine is not a side shaft.) It has an overhead valve
arrangement with the exhaust valve operated by the pushrod. The
mechanism which performs this function is very unique, very similar
to a steam engine valve actuating mechanism. It is an igniter
engine using a Lunkenheimer carburetor. A simple air preheater is
constructed out of various pipe fittings modified to do the work.
There is a very simple system to change the ignition timing and
overall it is a most unusual engine.

This old Samson vertical raises many questions in my mind. Was
it an experimental engine? A prototype? Was it built within the
company by an employee and perhaps is one of a kind? What special
purpose was it designed for? Why is there no governor on the
engine? Is it early or late? Why no serial number? Oh my, my! Larry
is probably right about the reason the engine came into existence.
But this engine raises more questions than it answers. We will
never know the answer to many of these questions, but that’s
the wonderful thing about our hobby. The satisfaction of solving
the mystery and discovering the answers add much joy to our hobby.
Knowing is wonderful but when there are no more questions, when all
the answers are found, then the end is near.

I hope you find these web spokes interesting. They are an early
form of gas engine peculiar to the Central Valley of California.
I’ve tried to portray the known vertical Samsons to share with
you. They are few and far between. The majority of these
photographs were taken at the 1999 regional hosted by Branch 49, at
Angels Camp, California. Brandon Perry (president of Branch 49)
called Samson owners to attend, and attend they did! Over
twenty-two Samsons were counted along with Ron Ludford’s Samson
ore crusher. It was an incredible feeling to see Samson come alive
in Angels Camp.

I hope these photographs fully portray John M. Kroyer’s
marvelous web spokes. It is impossible to comprehend the amount of
thought and skills that it took to create these mechanical marvels.
From idea to pattern, from mold to melt, from machining to
assembly, it is a process few can appreciate. Fewer yet were those
who prospered and left behind a legacy of power in flywheels.

John M. Kroyer was fully able to ‘deliver the goods.’ I
have a great fondness for his engines which powered the delta
ferries and irrigated the parched face of our valley. The benefits
from his engines and pumps are forever woven into the fabric of our
agricultural history. It is fitting for us to pay tribute to John
M. Kroyer not only for his accomplishments, but for the joy his
engines still bring to us after a century of progress.

Samson Gas Engine Serial No. List, August
1999

TYPE

SER#

HP

R.P.M.

Vert

170

2.5

Horz

122

15

260r.

Horz

N125

3

Vert

N305

2.5

Horz

N376

5

300r.

Horz

N386

12

280r.

Vert

N396

2.5

350r.

Horz

N590

8

Vert

N625

2.5

Horz

N626

5

Horz

N704

8

280r.

Horz

N740

1.5(Jr)

Horz

N781

15

Horz

N841

1.5 (Jr)

Horz

N903

5

Vert

N944

2.5

350r.

Horz

N999

1.5 (Jr)

Horz

N1071

5

Horz

N1116

3

350r.

Horz

N1126

3

350r.

Horz

N1202

3

350r.

Horz

N1310

8

280r.

Horz

N1440

1.5 (Jr)

Horz

N1455

12

Horz

N1480

3

Horz

N1484

6

Horz

N1535

5

300r.

Horz

N1571

4

Horz

N1622

4

300r.

Horz

N1624

4

300r.

Horz

N1783

3

350r.

Horz

N1844

3

350r.

Horz

N1906

3

350r.

Horz

N1913

6

Horz

N1943

4

Horz

N1955

3

35Or.

Horz

2209

3

350r.

Vert

2270

2,5

350r.

Horz

2409

4

Horz

2469

12

375r.

Horz

2487

3

375r.

Horz

2578

3

375r.

Horz

2820

4

325r.

Horz

2871

4

350r.

(name plate only)

Horz

2942

3

Horz

3057

3

375r.

Horz

3070

2

375r.

Horz

3076

3

Horz

3079

3

Horz

3103

3

375r.

Horz

3263

3

375r.

Horz

3428

6

Horz

3454

6

325r.

Horz

3474

4

350r.

Horz

3555

4

350r.

Horz

3868

10

300r.

Horz

3869

3

375r.

Horz

3910

12

300r.

Horz

3929

6

Horz

3949

4

Horz

4011

3

Horz

4053

5

Horz

4250

12

300r.

Horz

4367

3

375r.

Horz

4402

6

325r.

Horz

4465

3

375r.

Horz

4471

4

Horz

4665

10

300r.

Horz

4831

5

350r.

Horz

4911

2

375r.

Horz

5028

6

325r.

Horz

5067

5

325r.

Horz

5069

12

Horz

5106

6

Horz

5109

8

Horz

5143

6

325r.

Horz

5148

8

Horz

5159

5

350r.

Horz

5187

4

Horz

5490

5

325r.

Horz

5638

15

260r.

Horz

5711

3

Horz

6106

12

300r.

Samson single cylinder sieve grip tractor engine, serial #5765,
5’x7′ cyl., 450 R.P.M. Spark plug ignition and Schebler
carburetor.

List compiled by Lester Bowman.


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