SPARK PLUG OF THE MONTH

By Staff
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Courtesy of Joe Fahnestock, Union City, Indiana
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Courtesy of Joe Fahnestock, Union City, Indiana
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Courtesy of Joe Fahnestock, Union City, Indiana
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5 / 7
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Courtesy of David L. Hanselman, Sardinia, Ohio 45171
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Courtesy of R. Dayton Nichols, 6128 Route 5, Stafford, New York 14143

Dayton Daily News & Radio’s ‘Joe’s
Journal’

It was down Hogpalh Road, past the old cemetery and left at
Pearson to the corner at West High St. in Pleasant Hill, Miami
County, western Ohio, that we made our way in quest of the little
fellow with the big engine. ‘

Tom’s not here, but he will be Saturday,’ said the
kindly, bonnetted little lady of Old River Brethren Faith. ‘He
reads your magazines and I’m sure he’ll be very cooperative
with you,’ quoth she, betraying her Pennsylvania Dutch
stock.

Came the fateful day of Saturday and once again we found
ourselves winding down old Hogpath Road, our eyes drinking in the
verdant beauty of the majestic foothills that nestle Stillwater
River upon entering ‘P-Hill Village.’

Sure enough he was expecting me, for the little fellow had
already wheeled out his big 30 H.P. St. Marys engine right smack in
front of his workshop door — for to have its ‘pitcher
took’.

But wait! Before we snap the shutter, we must wait on little
Scott Murphy, five year old side-kick to ‘Uncle’ Tom Lewis,
who’s running over to get in the picture. For sometimes little
Scott’s avordupois, jumping up on one of the big spokes of the
mighty St. Mary’s flywheel, is just sufficient to help
‘Uncle’ Tom’s biceps to coax the big engine into
snorting.

It’s by far the largest gasoline engine that’s been seen
around gasoline alley at some of the midwestern reunions and it
took quite some maneuvering of the camera to focus in all the big
piston and double fly-wheels onto one tiny 2? by 3? film. But by
deftly stepping betwixt other engines, back-axles and other such
workshop paraphernalia, we were able to snatch our photo of
Tom’s prize without too many broken bones.

‘Where did you ever find such a huge engine? And how did you
ever get it here?’ parried I of Spark Plug, Tom Lewis.

‘Well, I discovered it in a wide place in the road — a
little village called Moulton, Ohio, near the edge of St.
Marys,’ explained Spark Plug Tom. ‘I bought it in December
of 1962– but had to wait till the ground became frozen before I
could go in and get it with a lowboy. Several days later, on
December 5th, I heard the weather report say there was going to be
a cold snap, so the next day, on my birthday, December 6th, we went
after.’ (What a big birthday gift it was!)

‘One old-timer standing around while we were loading it
said, when they used to deliver these big engines, new from St.
Marys, Ohio, plant, they merely secured the big piston onto a heavy
wagon and towed the engine on its own fly-wheels like a trailer, up
the country roads by team’ mused Tom. ‘Well, after all they
didn’t have lowboys in those days and that was about the only
way they could do it, and, as you can see, the fly-wheels do extend
well below the engine frame.’

‘It was only eight above and blowing like mad, but we loaded
it up and brought it home and dumped the thing in my front
yard,’ reminisces Spark Plug of the Month, Tom Lewis.

Yes, Tom Lewis finally had his mammoth birthday present on home
soil — right smack in front of his veranda — but what to do with
it from there on we’ll listen now to how he solved the
problem.

‘Well, with the help of a big jack, I got the three-ton
engine into my shop all by myself, mounted it on a set of wheels
alone and, with the help of the welding shop nearby we made the
truck on which I have been hauling it to The Darke County Steam
Threshers for the Tri-State Gasoline Alley Exhibit,’ says
Tom.

‘It’s always been an easy starter,’ claims Tom Lewis
— ‘If you once get it properly primed first.

‘Starting the, big St. Marys Engine, which looms like some
primordial mammoth over the rest of the gasoline alley engines, is
always a show of circus proprotions at the Darke County Threshers,
Greenville, Ohio. Like a diminutive spider weaving a web, Spark
Plug Tom climbs up onto one of the huge spokes, coaxing it into
motion, till his feet reach the ground, then bulging his biceps he
keeps grabbing for each oncoming spoke, like an old lady
manipulating an ancient spinning wheel. The mighty St. Marys gulps
then gasps like some gargantuan beast being aroused from its
slumber to the task ahead, while Tom primes the life-giving fluid
into its innards. With more heaving and ho-ing, as the heavy
fly-wheels gain momentum, comes the big, low ‘boom’ from
the exhaust — as the mammoth engine begins to fire. But, like
raising a monster from the dead, the breathing comes slow and
labored –and one wonders if the giant wheels will keep going till
the next big explosion, which they seem to do, letting you know
that Tom’s huge St. Marys Engine is running once again. But
when it’s not under load, old St. Marys does lots of breathing
and chuffing — the huge 11? inch piston travels its 16-inch stroke
many times between engine exhausts. And it takes several husky
strong-armed cohorts of Tom’s leaning heavily on wood beams to
drag the big fly-wheels down to ‘make ‘er talk.’

LIKE A COUPLE OF SPIDERS CLIMBING A WEB-Scott Murphy clambers
aboard one of the big spokes, as ‘Uncle’ Tom Lewis grabs
‘a-holt’ of the big fly-wheel on his giant 30 Hp. St. Marys
Engine-one of the largest seen at midwest reunions. Getting the big
wheels started is always a task.

SPARK PLUG TOM LEWIS’S LATEST HEART THROB IS THIS 1928
General Purpose John Deere Tractor. Tom looks ‘er over while
Scott Murphy yanks happily on steering wheel.

‘This old engine has pumped in the oil fields around St.
Marys, all day and all night, for many a year since it was made
around the turn of the century,’ explains Tom Lewis. ‘I
suppose, when I brought it over to Pleasant Hill, it was the
longest trip it ever took.’

‘I’ve never had the cylinder head off or the piston
out,’ says Tom. ‘Once I did remove the connecting rod to
check it over and found it in good shape, the main-bearing caps and
everything as good as new. It was that well made.’

According to Spark Plug Tom Lewis, the big St. Marys Engine has
never backfired or even threatened to. It’s not that it’s
too lazy — but, like most big beasts of burden that are
well-trained, it’s sort of kind and gentle — ‘easy
going’ is the word.

INSIDE SPARK PLUG HAVEN-Scott Murphy and ‘Uncle Tom
Lewis’ look over old International Famous horizontal, 2?
horsepower and rare– vintage of 1908. Spark Plug Tom has re-worked
and re-rung it completely. In background corner can be seen old
Jaeger (Hercules) that is power-plant for workshop line-shaft.

My home made tractor and mower Model A Ford transmission and
rear end and steering wheel and gear. Wisconsin engine ENL 9,2 Hp.
@3600 RPM. Tires 6.70-15 rear, 4.80-400-8 front. Seat from Oliver
70.36 in. wide over the tires and 66 inches long overall. Took
about one year of spare time to build.

Only once, when trying to start it I didn’t quite get the
big wheels to turning completely over and it kicked that time,’
muses Torn.

But the big St. Marys Engine, fond as he is of it, is not the
only engine or contraption that ‘Uncle’ Tom Lewis has
gathered into his workshop ‘nest’.’ For instance
there’s that 2? horsepower International Fatuous horizontal– a
rare 1908 product of which Tom is one of the few to own. Then
there’s the 6-horsepower Fairbanks Morse which Spark Plug Tom
put in good working order last summer and which he uses to buzz a
little wood now and then. Altogether he has some twenty-three
engines of various horsepowers and vintages– including a
4-horsepower Foos and a 6-horsepower International which he stores
at Tri-State President, Woody Turner’s home near Portland,
Indiana.

In his backyard workshop, ‘Uncle Tom’ also has his
stockpile of old engines and engine parts to draw from for future
projects– which includes such odd assortment as a 1?-horsepower De
Laval, an old Economy Engine and an ancient Wogerman Engine
manufactured in Greenville, Ohio, years ago.

It’s always fun for nephew Scott Murphy to run across the
backyard and watch ‘Uncle Torn ‘ Lewis run his workshop
lathe, belted to an antiquated over-head line-shaft, powered by an
old Jaeger Hercules Engine bolted to the floor in a dark corner of
‘Spark Plug Haven’.

Geo.D. Pohl’s 10 Hp. Hand clutch manufactured first at Ava,
New York and later moved to Vernon, New York. Running June 11, 1967
at Wm. Graves’ Gas-up at Camden, New York. Member of Pioneer
Gas Engine Central New York Chapter of Pioneer Gas Engine
Ass’n.

For there are signs that Spark Plug Tom Lewis is even working,
between daily chores at the local gravel pit and his gas engine
projects, to complete that Westinghouse-type steam boiler which he
built from scratch and to which he has connected a 4 x 4 engine
from off a steam pump.

‘I’ve already sawed wood with this steam outfit,’
says Spark Plug Tom, ‘And I am now making it self-propelled to
take to some of the shows.’

The latest ‘heart-throb’ of Tom Lewis, however, happens
to be an old General Purpose John Deere tractor of 1928
vintage.

‘Bought it over at North Hampton, Ohio, this past
winter,’ explains Tom.

‘It’s not restored — that’s next winter’s
project — but it does run good.’

It all stems from young Tom’s working on his Dad’s old
De Laval engine which used to pump water down on the Lewis family
farm, years ago.

‘I was only ten years old when I began working over
Dad’s De Laval. That was the spark that started me loving
engines,’ reminisces Lewis. ‘Then for a-while we moved to
Michigan and as a boy I watched them sawing lumber with gasoline
engines.’

Living with his saintly little mother ‘She’s 88 years
young,’ says Tom– Spark Plug Tom Lewis, with the help of
little nephew, Scotty Murphy, is doing what any uncle can in
passing the grand old knowledge of yesteryear on to the younger,
budding generation. And that, in our book, is the supreme project
of ye Spark Plug of any Month.

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Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines