Rescuing a 12 HP Olds Engine

12 HP Olds engine lives on after disastrous accident.

| October/November 2013

If anybody would end up as a collector of old iron, it would be Ole Elden, who grew up surrounded by vast collections that his father put together. “My father collected tractors, steam engines, threshing machines, had a saw mill on the farm built from parts that he brought back from Norway, a museum with more than 2,000 small articles, and of course about 30 gas engines. We grew up with old stuff in sheds all over the place,” the 64-year-old Thief River Falls, Minnesota, collector says.

The museum was open every Sunday from May 15 to Oct. 15. “But we were kind of off the beaten path, so we didn’t get a lot of people coming out to see it,” Ole says. “My parents didn’t charge enough to keep the lights on. A lot of the items were in my dad’s family, and there was a joke about how his side of the family came from a long line of pack rats. They never threw anything away.”

Ole’s father, Alf, also held the Red River Steam Threshing Bee on the family farm from 1955-1972, exchanging old iron items with the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers’ Reunion at Rollag, Minnesota, for the chance to have some handmade steam traction engine models at his show.

Unfortunately, after Alf died in 1978 and farming became more difficult, most of the old iron had to be sold to keep the farmland in the family. Ole made the decision to keep a few special items, like a 1936 Farmers Union CO-OP No. 3 tractor that his father bought new, a 1941 Minneapolis-Moline GTS that his father and uncle bought new, and a 1912 Model F Rumely OilPull that his grandfather purchased new in 1912. “They have been in the family all the time,” Ole says. “So we have a few memories around.”

Olds 12 HP gasoline engine

One of those memories includes a rare 12 HP Olds gasoline engine, manufactured in 1910 or 1911 by Seager Engine Works, Lansing, Mich. Nameplate information identifies it as Self Contained Olds Engine No. 6 Type A 12 HP Shop No. F 5346, which has the latest patent date of April 6, 1909. The engine came from Mekinock, N.D., about a dozen miles west of Grand Forks. It had been used on a feed mill in the grain elevator there.

Some time in the late 1960s an elderly man told Alf about this 12 HP Olds. “People knew Dad collected stuff, so they would ask if he would be interested, and he was in that engine,” Ole says. “It was an unusual engine, quite rare around this part of the country anyway, and we hadn’t seen one before.”