| April/May 2001

Rock Island Engine

The 'before.'

Langhuisterweg 45, 9076 PL Sint Anna Parochie, The Netherlands e-mail

In the early spring of 1998 we were visiting a collector who just had gotten a fair couple of engines home from Canada. When wandering around the engine shed, our eyes fell on a small attractive-looking engine. With closer inspection we learned that it was a Rock Island, serial #4341, and that it was in a very bad condition. A list of damaged parts : connecting rod had been broken and welded; the cylinder head was broken; the piston had a hole almost as big as the diameter (someone tried to tap it out). Nevertheless, it was a very nice looking engine despite its poor condition. We didn't buy it at the time, though.

Later that evening at our house we took the Big Yellow Book, and looked for Rock Island. We learned that Rock Island never made any engines but just sold other engines under their brand name.

This particular model was made by the Jacob Haish Company of DeKalb, Illinois. Rock Island sold these engines between 1912 and 1914. We decided it would be a nice engine to work on, although it would be a big challenge to get it back in top condition again. I called the guy and we talked about the engine a little. I told him we were interested in the engine and asked him the price; well, that was far more than we were willing to pay! We knew it would cost quite a lot to have all new parts cast that were needed to bring it back in running condition. I told him that his price was too high. After a while haggling about the price, it was obvious we wouldn't come to an agreement. It took about six months until we came to an agreement, and we got it home in early August 1998. By that time he had taken it apart so it only was a pile of parts. It was looking even worse now!

When we unloaded it at home, we both thought it wasn't the smartest buy we ever did.

A catalog of parts that needed to be cast for it includes: the piston (the piston's head was completely gone; after inspection we noticed this piston wasn't the original anyway, as it was much too short); new connecting rod (the old one was made longer to give the engine at least some compression with the wrong piston); main bearing cap (the old one was cracked); the cylinder head (there was a large piece broken off the head, presumably because someone tightened the head too much); and finally, the governor weight bracket.