Driving north on Pennsylvania state Route 36 in west-central Pennsylvania toward Coolspring, there are few indications of anything special just a few miles down the road. A gentle rise gives way to a peak in the road, and dropping into a lush valley carved by the Little Sandy Creek and Lick Run the first hint of what's to come becomes visible. Puffs of smoke rhythmically push up from the valley floor, and as the road descends signs of mechanical activity slowly come into view. This is Coolspring, Pa., home to Coolspring Power Museum.
Some 5,000 old engine fans descend on Coolspring every June, gathering for one of the great shows of the season. Launched in 1976, the annual Coolspring Summer Expo is a gas engine Mecca, an event drawing attendees and exhibitors to experience what must be the most remarkable collection of vintage engines in the world, bar none. With 125 full-time inhabitants and a few dozen modest, well-kept homes lining either side of the street, Coolspring overruns with activity as trucks and trailers loaded with engines pour into the Coolspring Power Museum grounds.
OriginsThe museum started as the personal collections of Paul Harvey, Coolspring, Pa., and John Wilcox, Columbus, Ohio, and has since grown into a permanent museum housing some 250 engines. The Coolspring Power Museum's roots as an organization date to 1976 with the formation of the Coolspring Hit and Miss Engine Society. Paul and John had been actively combining their collections, and several buildings were constructed in the late 1960s and early 1970s to house their growing hoard of engines. 'We knew that we wanted to start something that might lead to some perpetuation,' Paul says, 'since neither one of us had any heirs.' The goal in establishing the museum, Paul says, was to create a permanent organization to maintain the engines and keep them on site. The Coolspring Power Museum was chartered in 1985, and that same year received its nonprofit corporation status. The museum is located on the site of the Harvey family ancestral farm, and presently occupies about 20 acres.
The Coolspring CollectionThe collection ranges from Paul's first engine, a 1-1/2 Hercules he got in 1958 (now comfortably ensconced in the front window of the Coolspring General Store), to a massive 300 HP, horizontally opposed four-cylinder Miller made by Miller Improved Gas Engine Co., Springfield, Ohio. Housed in one of the museum's numerous engine sheds, the Miller is a particularly impressive piece of equipment, and the process of starting it has to be viewed to be appreciated, as volunteers conduct a silent, well-choreographed dance of activity culminating in the engine's perfect running. In between these two extremes are rare engines of amazing diversity. From a 15 HP 1908 Elyria to several White & Middletons, a 25 HP Swan, a 14 HP Backus, various Kleins, Springfields, Evans half-breed engines and an 1879 Crossley-Otto, the Coolspring collection has to be seen -and heard - to be appreciated.
Olds EnginesThis year's feature engines were the products of Olds Gasoline Engine Works of Lansing, Mich., and Seager Engine Works (also of Lansing), the successor to the Olds line. Coolspring Power Museum volunteer and Olds event organizer Bill Haxton said 56 Olds engines of various design were registered for the show, ranging from the museum's completely original 1893 vertical Olds (an engine originally shown at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893) to Rex Messner's circa 1911 6 HP Type A (which originally did duty in a Packard Wire factory in Akron, Ohio). Rex lays claim to owning 23 different Olds engines, five of which were at Coolspring, including his 12 HP Type A shown on the following page. Fronting the 12 HP was another of Rex's engines, a circa 1897 18 HP Type G Rex restored over a two-year period.
This many Olds engines in one place is probably unprecedented in recent times, and owners of the engines clearly appreciated this fact, hauling in their engines from surrounding states to be a part of this seminal event. Lloyd Osman, Nazareth, Pa., brought two engines, including a circa 1903 Type A featured in the March 2003 issue of GEM. Sitting next to the Type A was Lloyd's latest find, a circa 1908 3 HP air-cooled Olds. Lloyd has a long history with Olds engines, and indeed more than a few of the engines at this year's show have, at one time or another, gone through his hands.
Sam Harman, Tonytown, Md., had a stunningly original 1-1/2 HP Type A Rumely-Olds, complete down to its original Rumely decal on the front of the hopper and nameplate on the rear of the crankcase. William Schwartz, Pittsburgh, Pa., brought two Olds that appeared to be works in progress. Both engines, a 3 HP Type A and a 6 HP Type A, appeared complete and original, but it was unclear if they were in working order. Phil Antonio's tank-cooled 8 HP, an engine he brought in from Arcade, N.Y., was a beauty, and Todd Ryker had a very original 3 HP air-cooled on hand. Truth be told, they were all beauties, and walking the grounds trying to pick a favorite was almost pointless, as another wonderful Olds invariably presented itself with every turn of the grounds.
Other EnginesIn addition to the featured Olds engines there were hundreds of engines from other manufacturers, ranging from well known makers such as Hercules to more obscure offerings from companies like Deyo-Macey. Tom Voellm, East Moriches, N.Y., and Dieter Lund, Port Jefferson, N.Y., brought a pair of 8 HP 1908 sideshaft Deutz-Ottos featuring counter-balanced crankshafts. Dieter's (no. 63268) is still undergoing restoration while Tom's (no. 63290) ran steadily for most of the show, it's octet of oilers standing almost as sentinels on the engine's back side.
Besides his Olds engines, Rex Messner also brought a 7 HP Reeves vertical (one of only two known) and a circa 1910 4 HP Star sideshaft from Star Manufacturing Co., New Lexington, Ohio. Don Junkins, Redline, Pa., had an extremely nice 2 HP Reeco, a recent acquisition for Don and one he was displaying for the first time. Don's Reeco (Reeco stands for Rider-Ericsson Engine Co., a firm originally known for its hot air engines) was made by Domestic Engine Co., Shippenburg, Pa.
Paul Penik, Crownsville, Md., had an amazingly original 6 HP Associated Six Mule Team mounted on its original cart. Showing serial no. 607518, Paul's Associated probably dates from the mid-teens, and Paul says it originally worked at threshing duties around Williamsport, Pa. Equally interesting was a Harley-Davidson stationary belonging to Louie Bari, Aylmer, Ontario, Canada, an engine he bought at the show. A 6 HP to 8 HP unit, the engine was clearly designed for stationary, not motorcycle, duty, evidenced by its factory-equipped rope start and belt-driven cooling fan.
Oil field engines were fairly plentiful, and there were more Myrick engines than you'll usually see in one place. Kenny Uplinger, Kittanning, Pa., had his early 1920s 15 HP Reid hooked to a Fithian reversible clutch (an absolutely mesmerizing device to watch in operation), and Paul Gray, North East, Md., had a 3 HP Myrick set next to a 7-1/2 HP National Transit, an engine that literally barked with every fire.
There is, frankly, too much to take in at Coolspring in one visit, which goes a long way toward explaining why many old iron fans have turned this into a regular pilgrimage. With so many outstanding engines, the first visit simply whets the appetite for many more to come.
Richard Backus is editor of Gas Engine Magazine. Contact Coolspring Power Museum at: P.O. Box 19, Coolspring, PA 15730, (814) 849-6883, or on the Web at: www.coolspringpowermuseum.org