Restoring rare engines is a lot like putting together a jigsaw puzzle that you know is missing pieces. The best you can do is work around the holes and hope to fill them in as accurately as possible when the time comes.
That was pretty much the line of attack John A. Burgoyne, Ft. Worth, Texas, took with the restoration of a 3-1/2 HP vertical Northwestern that he bought from a Ft. Worth estate sale.
Other than the tag near the base of the engine that reads “‘Northwestern’ made by the Northwestern Steel & Iron Works, Eau Claire, Wis., U.S.A.,” the limited information John has about the engine came from C.H. Wendel’s American Gasoline Engines Since 1872. From Wendel, he discovered the engine was boldly advertised as the “the king of all farm engines,” and that his engine was likely made between 1905 and 1910. Wendel made no reference to a vertical model in his brief mention of the line, which leads John to believe that his engine may very well be one of a kind. The engine has often been mistaken for a Novo, so to show the differences, John displays them next to each other on his trailer.
To an experienced collector of old iron, lack of information simply means more fun when it comes to restoration. “It was fairly incomplete when I got it,” says John, “but with help from my friend Jerry Toews, Goessel, Kan., we put our heads together, looked at the design features and figured it out from there.” John saw that the drive for the magneto ran off an eccentric and remembered that similar engines he’d seen utilized a flipper magneto. The pair also recognized the mixer was homemade and decided to replace it with a Schebler carburetor, which John thinks is about 90 percent correct to the time period of the Northwestern. “That would have been one of the few, in that era, that would have been a float type for a gravity-fed fuel tank,” says John. The engine has a 4-5/16-inch bore with 7-inch stroke, an unusual advance and retard feature on the trip mechanism, and also features a Berling magneto, which is a collectible in its own right.
Contact John A. Burgoyne at 3024 North Sylvania Ave., Ft. Worth, TX 76111 • (817) 838-6731