For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, engine season is
over once again, but our friends on the ATIS internet mailing list
from Australia and New Zealand are getting into the swing of their
season now, and a subject came up which affects many who transport
their engines to and from shows.
Just curious if anyone has any proven methods for loading and
unloading engines from, say, a pickup truck. Brute force obviously
works, but the wife won’t want to be the provider of such force
too often! Right now my Jaeger is mounted on 3′ long 4×4’s.
I might go ahead and pop for some wheels and make it mobile, but
I’m not sure if I should trust 2×6’s hold it rolling onto
As usual with such a practical query which is relevant to
all makes of engine, this brought a good response.
I have two 2’x 12′ x 8′ treated ramps that I keep in
the back of my pickup. These work fine for my engines. You could
probably slide your engine on skids up the wide ramps, maybe with
just a little help. There’s always help to be had at engine
shows to take it out of the truck.
A method I have used for loading/unloading an Atlas Diesel
genset from a pickup is to use three long pieces of 2′ steel
pipe, using chain and making them into a tripod with one leg at the
tailgate of the pickup and the other two beside the truck just
forward of the center of mass of the Atlas. Then, a hand come-along
will lift the engine, and the truck can drive forward away from it.
By making the spots for the legs, you can use the same system for
loading by first lifting the engine, then backing under it. This
Atlas isn’t that heavy, maybe 650 lb.
You mentioned concern over the strength of 2×6 ramps. If you
provide some intermediate support for them, they will be much
I use my forklift to load and unload engines.
I have several methods. One is an engine hoist like you use for
pulling engines from cars-with it and some lifting straps I can
pick an engine up out of the truck and set it on a low rolling cart
or roll it into the shop right on the hoist. This is made easy by
my concrete pad, driveway and basement shop. My other method is a
pair of ramps made of heavy 4′ channel iron 7′ long and a
12 volt winch in the front of the bed. These ramps work well with
wheels or skids, or engines with nothing under them. For really
heavy lifting I have an 8′ I-Beam 20′ long spanning the
driveway into my basement garage with a 2-ton chain hoist on
rollers. I can lift the offending chunk and drive out from under
I have to work alone most of the time and have found that one
must learn to think like an Egyptian in order to move this stuff we
I decided a long time ago on channel iron-the wheels follow it
like a set of rails, and I have to do all my loading by myself.
When we had to load the vertical Famous at Portland we just tipped
it over and rolled it up on the flywheels. I used an engine
hoist/crane at home to pick it up and drive off.
The winch in the front of the pickup bed is the way to go. As
for ramps, making them too strong is better than an engine on your
toe. Using a 2×6 alone might be a little weak. One set of our ramps
is two lengths of 2?’ steel angle
3/16‘ with a 2×6 bolted in between.
They’re awfully heavy-aluminum would lighten them up and make
them more manageable.
Whatever you do, figure out a way to secure them to your
tailgate or pickup bed. Having the ramps slide out is no fun.
Since your engine is on skids, you might want to make up a few
dollies. Some lengths of 2′ pipe might also help. As you crest
the top of the ramps, the skids will do a wheelie and will tip
downward as the center of gravity comes over the top. The reverse
happens when coming down, but as long as you know what to expect
and plan accordingly, the engines remain in one piece and you
don’t have to visit the doctor.
You might be able to use my method. I got four wheel barrow
wheels, made four axles ?’ round x about 1′ long. Drilled
four ?’ holes in the skids of all my engines. When I go to lift
the engine I jack one end of the skids, fit the wheels and axles
into the holes drilled and repeat at the other end. There’s no
steering, but you can lever it around with a bar easily enough.
When the engine is put where you want it, take the wheels off and
use them for the next one you want to load up.
If you watch garage sales you can pick up old skateboards for a
couple of bucks. They have very tough wheels, good bearings and a
very tough laminated board on top that will move heavy loads
easily. I use them when moving stuff around the shop.
Wheels work great on ramps. 2×6 is okay for smaller engines. You
could screw/nail some edge guides for wheels which would also help
to stiffen planks. The aluminum plank ends that grip the tailgate
also are great. They sell folding aluminum ramps, but these get
pricey. I have seen small electric winches mounted in the front of
the body to help load and unload.
Finally, on a totally different subject, it’s THAT time
of year again, so here’s a little cautionary tale which
appeared on the list recently:
I have a friend who owns, among other engines, a 5 HP Hercules
EK with a Wico PR mag. When he stored it last fall, he let it drain
(head too) until the water stopped flowing, then closed the brass
cock again and replaced the pipe plug in the head. Early this
summer he pulled it out for a show and was horrified to find the
lower part of the cylinder water jacket split lengthwise. Further
investigation revealed a blockage of debris in the water jacket
just below the cylinder. Had he left the drain cock open, it might
have eventually drained out anyway, but because he closed it again
he now has a freeze crack. I drained my Here out at home just after
last weekend’s show. The drain cock remains open, and the pipe
plug for the head is in my toolbox, just in case.
Credit for this article must go to Ted Brookover, who came to my
rescue when my computer crashed, taking with it the mail files
where I had carefully stored this information-thanks, Ted!