CONSOLIDATED Returns To Work

By Staff
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Engine in condition as found at my shop in March 1998.
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Restoration in progress: parts blasted and primered, July 1998.
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Finished running (note steaming hopper), March 2000.
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Finished stationary, March 2000.
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OP Consolidated at work, April 2000.
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A small pile of his handy work, April 2000.

160 Malabar Drive Westbrook, Connecticut 06498

This is a story about old Consolidated and how I caught him out
of work and depressed and how he was rehired to go to work for me.
I am younger than some of you and older than others; how ever that
doesn’t change my love for old iron. When I was only five I
remember my folks taking me to see the steam trains in Essex and
the rest is a story familiar to many of us. I saw my first hit and
miss show when I was about ten, and got a small Stover CT-2 basket
case at thirteen. I restored it and went to many events, but soon I
graduated and went into submarines in the Navy. I had little time
for hobbies and sold the Stover.

I did my time proudly and got out and went to work in various
mechanical capacities, always having in the back of my mind that I
would someday get another engine.

I have a good friend, John Nedobity, who has a little one-man
scrap operation in Killingworth, and one Friday night about two
years ago, we were sitting around John’s stove, drinking his
homemade cider (smooth as wine but tough as nails!) as was often
the case on a cold wintry Friday. I had been asking him if he knew
of any engines, and he finally said that there was someone local
who had one. He mentioned that I should jump on it, and I, after
considering another sip, suggested that we take a look as soon as
possible. A meeting was then arranged between me and Billy Vokel
who, as it turned out, I knew from a few years back. We took my
Buick up a path fit for nothing less than four-wheel drive, to
Billy’s farm in Killingworth, and braved old Ma Vokel’s
shotgun warning not to let my dog chase her cats, and met
Billy.

Billy’s farm and John’s place are the last remnants of a
dying era in New England that is becoming more scarce with the
influx of people who think they can run everyone without a picture
perfect yard out of town. I think a lot of you know what I mean,
but that is another story itself. Anyway, Billy’s farm is
covered with old iron treasures, tractors, Model A’s, balers,
and of course a few engines. I said to Billy, ‘So, let’s
take a look at this engine.’

I was afraid to answer. I thought, ‘I waited for this
thing?’ It was only about horse, and the timing gears and
cylinder were just about rotted off. What a disappointment. I said,
‘Well, I don’t think that’s anything I’d want. You
have anything else?’

Billy looked at me and John and then stroking his beard slyly
said, ‘Oh, we ain’t done yet, I’m just whetting your
appetite. I know you wallet’s just makin’ your leg itch,
ain’t it, boy? Ha, ha, ha! C’mon!

We walked down the old farm road, out past the tractors and
Fords, to where the iron thins out and then, suddenly, there it
was! Taking a slight list sideways with the bottoms of those
thirty-six inch wheels settled in and a color only the weather can
paint. I wanted to leap for joy; it was one of those medium-size
engines I remembered from when I was a kid and could never somehow
afford or find. Everything was intact, the Columbia clutch, the
ignitor, and even the American injector brass fittings. I was
floating on air, a dream come true! Billy broke in, saying,
‘You’re lookin’ pretty hard at that one, boy, only I
don’t know if your wallet is big enough, ha, ha.’

I looked at John and then at the engine. He looked pretty
depressed leaning over and slumping into the ground, so we made a
deal. I came back with John a week later and Billy loaded it for us
with his backhoe. On the way home I said to John, ‘Well? What
do you think?’

‘It looks like a good load of engine scrap, we can head down
to New Haven with it.’ he chuckled. (Actually, John has a soft
spot for old iron as you can see by what he doesn’t cash
in.)

The next thing I did was look it over good and see what this
project would involve. A sandblasting was a must, so I marked the
timing gears with a punch (a must for anyone who can’t find the
marks), removed all the brass, and proceeded on. I broke the engine
down into its component parts and bagged and labeled all the small
parts and those that would be good patterns for things too rusty. I
protected journal surfaces, and things I did not want blasted, with
duct tape, as the sand will bounce off it. The piston luckily, or
should I say the balance of the engine caused it, was stopped
nearly at BDC, so I left it in while I sandblasted. Then I primed
it with NAPA Trio-Prime, which is an acid etching paint. I
recommend that kind of primer because, if you take the metal down
to near white, it is not coming off, it locks out moisture, and you
can apply filler over it. The piston came out pretty easy once I
blasted the open end of the cylinder removing the scale. I used a
little penetrating oil and my friend Tommy helped me pop it out
with a mallet and a 4×4.1 used another friend’s machine shop to
make various new parts such as the rocker pivot bolt, valve rod,
ignitor shaft, and crown heads of various bolts. I did farm out
some work like the cam follower and governor roller which had been
hardened (many thanks to Bud at Eriksson’s in Saybrook). The
bearings were all in good condition and I had only to polish the
journals with a crocus cloth. Thanks to my friend, Scooter, who
ground the valves, and Tom P., who repaired a valve stem for
me.

I made a channel iron stand in which to place the upper main
bearing caps upside down and then I could put the flywheels in to
turn them for painting. The ignitor I rebuilt and purchased the
mica from Hit and Miss Enterprises. Here is something I did that
may come in handy to others working on ignitors: I needed new
points, mine were pressed in. I remembered that Model A Fords had a
post for one part of the points so I bought two sets, NAPA part
#CS30, and drilled and tapped the ignitor to accept these; it
worked great. On the fuel pump I resleeved it with brass and found
ball bearings to make new check valves. The key here is to make
sure the balls seat well while the piston-to-bore clearance is not
so critical. When all the parts were primed and filled, I laid on a
couple of coats of urethane enamel, a GM truck color which appeared
to match a little color found at the head-to-block joint. I
smoothed out all the casting marks with filler; on some engines
this may be overkill, but on this engine I found traces of old
thick paint filler as is still often used on castings today.

As the restoration was progressing, I was thinking Old
Consolidated should have some function in life besides spinning
away. I had an old LeRoy trailer, probably from the ’30s or
’40s, with rubber tires, and I thought it would be a good
candidate for a saw rig. So, I went about gathering a few saw
tables and vintage pulleys to put it together. I installed new
I-beams in between the wagon frames to support the engine,
countershaft, and saw table. I made a sliding table and since I
wanted a right-hand saw, I had to build a countershaft. I used
17/16 line shafting (new) wow! Expensive! I
made the tension rollers out of 3′ schedule 80 pipe which I
machined to accept bearings. The belt tension is adjustable by rod
and nut. The Columbia clutch needed little but freeing up and new
shoes, which I made out of oak. I made new fuel pipe from
3/8 brass (again expensive!); the original
system was galvanized.

I was close to having the engine done, but was still waiting on
the governor parts and had not yet finished the fuel pump.
Nonetheless, I was anxious to see him go, so with John’s son,
Jonathan, we tried to start it with me acting as a governor. I set
the ignitor timing where I figured it should be, we gave it a wing,
and . . . nothing. About the time I was getting winded, John came
over saying, ‘I never did put much faith in those
ignitors.’

I said, ‘Well, I know it’s sparking, because if I close
the ignitor and touch a lead I get an arc.’

He looked down and said, ‘No wonder. That six-volt battery
couldn’t light a cigar in a blast furnace! Try a
twelve-volt.’

With a sheepish grin I did just that, and away he went with me
holding the exhaust valve open when needed. On the second hit the
old rusty muffler rivets gave up and the cover went across the
floor!

I finally finished putting everything together the way it should
be and got the saw working. I was so impressed with the way it cut
with a sharper blade that I took it over to my father’s where
we burn wood mostly for heat. Although not too mechanical, both my
folks, who have always encouraged my work, were impressed. Now we
use the chainsaw for chunking the wood to four-foot lengths, split
those lengths as needed, and then use the saw rig. It really cuts
so fast I don’t know why this method has been so forgotten. As
for Old Consolidated, he hasn’t been to any shows yet because
he is back in the work force and by his exhaust notes and the way
he fires right up, I think he likes it that way!

One final note: I have been a longtime GEM reader. I am willing
to say, although my brass plate was missing, I am up to 99% sure
this engine is a Consolidated Gas Company of New York. The
description in American Gas Engines Since 1872 seems to fit, and
another GEM subscriber, B. J. Benton of Texas, compared notes on a
Consolidated he had. I’m placing it about 1912. If anyone begs
to differ or has one of these engines, let me know. I figure it
must be 8 HP. Part numbers cast are preceded by an H. Also, is
there any connection between Consolidated (page 106) and
Rawleigh-Schryer (page 408)? My engine does have one-piece valves.
Finally, when I was fourteen I bought a very old five gallon gas
can that I still have; imprinted on it is ‘Consolidated Gas
Company, New York.’ Coincidence?

P.S. Let’s hear some more from fellows who are really
working their engines, too!

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