REPRINT: How Your Hobby Started Part 3

By Staff

This month we continue reprinting a series that first appeared
in GEM in the March-April 1969 issue. Over the coming months, we
will retrace engine history as presented by Carelton M. Mull. This
segment originally appeared in the July/August 1969 issue of

Early inventors as Huyghens, Papin, Robert Street, Barnett,
Samuel Brown and others, while testing versions of their engines,
realized considerable accomplishment when they were able to get an
engine to explode the fuel in a proper progression to create enough
power to keep a flywheel turning. Under such circumstances, with
crude machines, it was hardly possible to classify engines
according to a type such as two or four cycle.

From all of these efforts, a light was dawning. In England, an
engineer by the name of Dugald Clerk worked on an idea of one
intake stroke and one power stroke on his engine by using the
travel of the piston to uncover a port in the cylinder to exhaust
the burned gases. His engine was built with an auxiliary cylinder
used to compress air for scavenging.

When the power piston moved towards the end of the expansion
stroke, it uncovered a port through which the exhaust gases pass;
thus reducing the pressure in the main cylinder to that of the
atmosphere. Pressure from the displacer cylinder was then admitted
through a valve in the head, forcing out the burned gases and
charging the combustion space for the next power stroke. This
series of events within the cylinder is repeated in every
revolution of the engine. The auxiliary or displacer cylinder with
the intake valve arrangement made this a rather difficult engine to
build. It was a definite type, and Dugald Clerk explained his
engine as a two-cycle machine, establishing for the first time this
fundamental design.

During the next decade, this two-cycle type was improved and
simplified. Much experimentation and research has perfected the
two-cycle as it is known today; as it is widely used in the
smallest and largest gasoline and diesel engines on today’s

While Lenoir and Clerk were building engines, another French
engineer, M. Beau de Rochas, 1862, was conducting experiments on
the theory of the actual operating conditions inside the combustion
space of a gas engine and on the matter of the firing sequence. He
found a better operating system by utilizing one stroke of the
piston to charge the cylinder with the explosive fuel, and the next
stroke to compress the fuel mixture and then fire it at near top
dead center using the next forward stroke for power, with the
return stroke of the piston to exhaust the burned gases. Thus it
was Rochas who was the inventor of the four-cycle internal
combustion engine.

During the period from 1860 to 1875, there were a number of
inventors at work improving the designs of Lenoir and Rochas.

Two men who contributed much in this respect to the development
of reliable gas engines in the early stages of this industry in
Europe were Nickolaus A. Otto and his partner Eugen Langen of
Germany. They improved on the four-cycle design, and in 1878, Otto
developed the first magneto ignition. They founded the N. A. Otto
and Cie Company, and also the Gas Motoren Fabrick Deutz

The output of their factories expanded and their engines were
shipped to the countries of Europe and to the United States. During
the years of 1878 to 1895, they sold over 45,000 engines.

The imports of the British, French and German engines into this
country influenced our first inventors. The Otto Gas Engine Company
was established in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where they
manufactured vertical cylinder engines from 1 HP to 3 HP and
horizontal engines from 2 HP to 120 HP. Many old textbooks describe
these original Otto engines as having horizontal open and
water-cooled cylinders bolted to a cast iron sub-base which also
carried the main bearing journals. From bevel gears on the crank
shaft, the lay shaft along the side of the engine, operated the
slide intake valve as well as the governor.

Ignition was by a gas flame and timed by the movement of the
slide valve mounted horizontally across the back of the cylinder
head. The exhaust poppet valve was on the other side of the
cylinder head and at right angles with the intake valve. For those
who wish further details on this early engine, the patent is no.
194,047, dated August 13, 1877.

In 1875, the U.S. Patent Office issued the first three patents
in this country on gas engines.

The first patent was issued to G. W. Daimler of Wurtenberg,
Germany, by the United States as No. 168,623. This patent covered a
very interesting design in stationary engines, because it seemed to
be backwards from all other models so far developed. Both ends of
the cylinder were open to the atmosphere. The power or working
piston and connecting rod were water-cooled. Then, there was a
loose piston at each end of the open cylinder and they were
arranged to seal the cylinder when the explosion was about to take
place. Ignition was by a gas flame. There was a crosshead at one
end of the cylinder, with side arms connecting the crosshead to the
flywheels at the other or opposite end of the engine. Anyone
wishing to study this odd design may secure a copy of G. W. Daimler

After years of development, Daimler built some of the
world’s finest automobiles. Associated with Messers. Benz,
Maybach and Otto, Mr. Daimler built high speed automotive and
airplane engines.

From these early factories came the simple small size gas
engines. The horsepower ranged from a fraction to 5 HP for portable
engines and up to approximately 100 HP for stationary units. The
builders were experimenting in new fields for a wider application
of their motors. In 1886, Mr. Benz and Daimler built one of the
first vehicles to be powered by a gas engine, and it was
successfully road tested as one of the first horseless

Outmoded transportation conveyances were much in need of
improvement. Both land and water offered a great market for this
new motive power that could be operated without a cumbersome steam

Daimler was one of the first inventors to. build marine engines,
and in 1886 he was successful in putting an engine on a bicycle. He
licensed Panhard and Levasser in France to build his engines. They
built a three cylinder machine.

Argyle Co. and Renault, Friers and New Orleans Co. in France,
were building an air-cooled engine at about this era, which was
used in some of the small cars such as the Renault.

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Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines