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A recent topic on SmokStak, which can be found at, concerned how people got started in the engine

I got this idea while I was shoveling snow and I said to myself,
‘I wonder what got you guys started in engine collecting?’
I guess I could tell you my story about how I got started (I’m
only 13 years old).

Ever since I can remember, I’ve been interested in old farm
equipment. My grandpa used to take me to tractor shows when I was
old enough to walk. My first engine was a Maytag, then some model
steam engines and now hit-and-miss engines. I collect a lot of
other things, like blowtorches, barn and railroad lanterns. So
what’s your story? Chase

I’ve been fascinated by these engines ever since I was a
kid, but never had a chance to get one. Two years ago I took a new
job and a group of guys there were in this hobby. A good friend of
mine gave me a 1 HP Sattley that was a basket-case. I made some
parts, ordered some parts, put it together and cranked until I
almost broke my arm. Ordered a manual, set the timing etc., and got
the first POP! I was hooked! Two years later and I now have nine
engines. The Sattley is painted, decaled and will probably always
be my favorite. I enjoy going to shows and having a blast being
around great people. – Vern

For me, it all started when I was very young. We would go to the
local farmers fair and there were these very interesting engines
that ran on water (hey, cut me a break, I was young and that’s
all you saw, the water in the hopper). These engines fascinated me
and I thought how neat it would be to have one. As time went on I
kind of forgot about it.

I ended up becoming friends with an old farmer who had an
interest in older John Deere tractors, which in turn interested me.
I told a friend at work that I was looking for older tractors and
to keep an eye out for me.

One day he brought in an ad from his local paper that had some
tractors for sale. I had this ad in my truck for a couple days and
picked it up to look at it when I spotted a smaller ad that just
said, ‘Hit-and-Miss engine for sale.’ I figured, what the
heck, I’ll give it a try.

The guy still had it, so after work I went to take a look. The
engine was a Stover CT-2, with the magneto and crank handle, the
head was off, it had a valve with a bent stem stuck in it, and it
was loose. I made a deal with him and took the engine home.

I really didn’t have a clue as to what to do, so I picked up
a reprint manual. I got the valve out, had the auto parts store
match me up a valve and put it back together. The mag was still
hot, so that was a plus on my side. I put some gas in it and
cranked my arm off. After messing around awhile, I figured out the
check valve was stuck. Fixed that, cranked it over a couple times
and away it went. I still have this engine and it’s still in
its work clothes. The only thing I added was a set of skids. –

I got interested because of my older brother. When he was in
high school in the late 1950s he borrowed a Lawn Roller from a
neighbor, and I thought the hit-and-miss engine (maybe an Ideal?)
that powered it was neat. Fast-forward to about 1966, when we were
living on a farm in South Dakota. My brother did some work for a
neighbor, and in lieu of payment the neighbor gave him a Witte drag
saw that was lying in the woods. It was our first engine, and boy
was it stuck and in tough shape!

The next one was an Associated Hired Man, then a 2 HP Ingeco.
Many others followed over the next seven or eight years. In 1973 my
brother was diagnosed with leukemia, and passed away a year later.
I have many fond memories of him – working on engines, going to
shows and hunting for more engines. We had our share of ‘wild
goose chases,’ but some success stories, too.

Most of the engines had to be sold when we moved off the farm,
but I still have about a dozen or so, and my younger brother has a
few (the Witte saw rig is one of them!). – John

Well, I am sort of a third-generation collector. My grandfather
had a few engines, but my dad got me hooked on old iron. He was
(is) always bringing something new (old) home. My first engine was
a Fairbanks ‘D’ and I bought it when I was 14! I am now 25
and have approximately 50 engines. The smallest is a little York
model with 4-1/2-inch flywheels and the largest a 25 HP
Cooper-Bessemer with six-foot flywheels! – Allen

I got started in this fine madness when I repaired a finger that
had been crushed in the gears of a Bull Dog 1 HP engine. At the
young man’s request I went to the show to see the offending
machine, and the rest is a long dive into the pits of hopeless

Thought I could stop at just one. HA! I’m up to ten or so
and still looking. Thought I could attend just local shows. HA!
Portland, Coolspring and Sistersville have become annual
pilgrimages. Thought I would just quietly observe and keep my mouth
shut. HA! I now know engine people from all over the U.S, Canada,
England, Australia, Netherlands and who knows where else. Ain’t
it great! – Larry

I have an uncle who asked me if I wanted to see an old engine
run. Normally, that wouldn’t trip my trigger, so he told me I
probably had never seen this type of engine before. He sure was

He started an old 1925 6 HP Economy with one pull on the
flywheels, and I spent the next half-hour just staring at all that
goes on in an open crankcase. I was spellbound and hooked bad.

I started going to engine shows, and within two years I have
collected eight or nine engines. Sold one and traded one, and I am
always looking for the next one. It has to be red, it has to be an
Economy and it has to have all that stuff happening in glorious,
rotary harmony! So then I started my son! Economy Bob

I was into mechanical things from an early age. At around 12 I
had a basketcase Indian motorcycle that I put together and had a
ball with. I had different cars for years, and while attending an
auto show about 12 years ago I got my first taste of flywheel
engines. Through a friend of a friend I got my first engine, a
basketcase 1 HP IHC Famous with the butter churn pulley and
magneto. The guy had it all apart and had new bearings poured and
fitted to the crankshaft and connecting rod. I still have it. The
cars are long gone, replaced with engines and more engines. Where
will this all end? I’m just trying to have some fun. – Paul

I started into the ‘Big Boy Toy’ hobby in the summer of
my 15th year. It was 1964 and I just had to have a hot rod. It was
a 1937 Ford Coupe with a 283 Chevy, a LaSalle tranny and a Lincoln
rear end. That one soon gave way to a ’57 Chevy Nomad wagon
with a Vette 327, a Muncie four-speed and a 456 positrac. That was
followed by a ’67 HO GTO, Red with Black vinyl top and mag

Next came the Harleys, a 1952 Panhead dresser and then an early
Superglide. Then one day I rode the Panhead to my Dad’s house,
and there in the driveway was a John Deere 1 HP E, just doing what
they do. I said, ‘what in the hell is that?’ He says,
‘it’s a farm engine.’ Well I guess the old saying
‘Less is more’ must be true, because inside of six months
the hot rods and the bikes were history and I was driving a pickup
truck and buying all the rusty iron I could afford.

That’s been nearly 30 years ago now, and I have never
regretted it for a moment. – Ted

I guess my son got me into this madness. About four or five
years ago we were at a show near Pittsburgh, where my cousin was
showing some of his engines. My son spent practically the whole
show starting a little Maytag and watching it run. My father bought
a Briggs WMB for him and I bought him another little Briggs.

The next spring we went to a six-week 4H small engine class -we
were hooked. Most of my engines are small air-cooled ones, but this
past fall we bought a Cushman Model 21 and a Novo AG to play with
next summer. -Leonard

In 1994 I was walking along a riverbank after a flood on the
Koyukuk River (175 miles north of Fairbanks) in an abandoned mining
town called Old Bettles. I tripped, and when I looked to see what
had caused my feet to falter I found a spark plug sticking out of
the ground. A little digging and I had a Sears 5 HP Motor-Go made
in 1924. I put it in the boat and took it home. Two days later I
had to make a trip to deliver dog food and fuel to a village 90
miles down river. When I walked up the bank I came face to face
with a 1919 4 HP headless Witte, and it was all downhill from

It took two years to get the engine into town, and it’s
still stuck, but it is one of this spring’s projects as soon as
the snow goes away. Since then I have found 15 more engines, and it
just goes on and on. – Al

SmokStak is an engine conversation bulletin board with over
15,000 messages on file and is part of the Old Engine series of web
sites that started in 1995 as ‘Harry’s Old Engine.’
Harry Matthews is a retired electronic engineer and gas engine
collector from Oswego, N.Y., now residing in Sarasota,

‘When I walked up the bank I came face to face with
a 1919 4 HP headless Witte, and it was all downhill from

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Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines