1909 Root & Vandervoort A Lucky Engine

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Bill Bazyn, Chelsea, Iowa, applies himself to hand-painting the R & V's water hopper.
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Sight glass and nameplate on the front of Jerry's R & V.
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Show the R & V as found, pushed off to the side of an old barn.

Jerry Balvin’s 1909 Root & Vandervoort. Rated at 8 HP,
this sideshaft, volume-governed engine was one of R & V’s
finest engines. Engines in this class were available either with or
without a mounting base, and as either hopper-cooled or
tank-cooled. Jerry’s engine was originally equipped as you see
it here, complete with clutch pulley. These volume-governed engines
featured a volatilizer attached to the exhaust box and a heater
tray under the air intake pipe to ensure starting in cold

Some people are lucky. Some engines are lucky. This is a story
about both; Jerry Balvin and a 1909 Root & Vandervoort 8 HP
sideshaft engine.

Jerry is a farm equipment service technician in Toledo, Iowa.
During his farm calls, he’ll often ask about old engines that
may need discovering. Most leads are dead ends. However, he heard
about an abandoned farmstead and a rumor that an old engine had
been seen in the corncrib.

Jerry knew the place, it had been a premier grain and livestock
operation in the early 1900s, but had long since fallen into disuse
– 80 years of neglect had resulted in sheds falling down around
horse-drawn equipment with overgrown brush everywhere. After
securing permission to enter the property, he went to the corn
crib, opened the crib doors and found … nothing. That didn’t
stop Jerry. He thought back 80 years to what might have happened to
a stationary engine replaced by a tractor or electricity. Noticing
that the south end of the crib sloped away to a tree/brush
undercover, Jerry thought an engine might have been pushed out the
crib, left to roll down the hill into the valley and forgotten. His
intuition paid off, as 10 yards into the brush was the old engine
he been told about. But not just any old engine, this was a 1909
Root & Vandervoort sideshaft (lucky Jerry).

Closer inspection showed the farm wagon truck the engine sat on
had rotted away, leaving the unit partially buried. Jerry later
learned that the Root & Vandervoort powered a lineshaft in the
crib for a sheller and large gristmill for livestock feed. It was
also used to power an elevator in the fall.

Bill’s skills as a painter are clearly evident in the
finished product. Also clearly visible in the photo above is the
rotary-drive Wizard magneto that sparks the R & V.

There was only one living heir to the property, a lady in her
90s living in a nursing home. Jerry made contact with the power of
attorney, who was not very interested in selling anything. For the
next two years Jerry politely and persistently stuck to his goal of
acquiring the engine. He occasionally visited the Root &
Vandervoort, covering critical parts with a bucket and cans to keep
water out of the engine. Jerry finally persuaded the estate to sell
the R & V, expressing his intention that the engine was going
to stay in the community and not be resold or traded. A fair deal
was made, and the engine was his.

The sale made, Jerry anxiously arrived with a tractor and
trailer to claim his engine. One week earlier a severe windstorm
had blown down a huge walnut tree, missing the Root &
Vandervoort by less than 10 inches (lucky engine). Now add a chain
saw to the recovery. Arriving home with the engine, Jerry found
many parts missing; muffler, cam lever, coil and other small stuff.
Armed with a shovel, Jerry took another tour of the woods, and
digging down 18 inches around where the engine had sat he found the
muffler, cam lever, coil and other missing parts (lucky Jerry).

The restoration was fairly typical. Jerry has a wonderful
facility where he can perform mechanical restorations, but more
importantly, he has acquired a special skill set through his
experiences restoring 10 HP to 25 HP oil field engines from the
Texas oil fields. The hardest part of the process was removing the
head, as all eight head bolts had rusted solid. Applying the same
patient persistence he had in buying the engine, Jerry soaked the
bolts in penetrating oil and finally removed them. He carefully
removed the igniter (in the head), fabricating his own puller for
the chore. Once that was complete, the rest really fell into

Using C. H. Wendell’s book, American Gasoline
Since 1872, as a guide, he confirmed that his 1909 had
no sub base, was hopper not tankcooled, had a factory clutch pulley
and was of the rare valve chest design. The volatilizer, which
screws into the exhaust box cap, had a small crack that he welded.
The heater tray was intact. Jerry was lucky with having all the
parts except the magneto bracket. He designed and welded one that
looked like it would work and then had the piece cast to be exactly
accurate. All the detail and logo paintwork was done by Bill Bazyn,
Chelsea, Iowa. Bill was locally known for his beautiful,
hand-painted scenes on cream cans and saw blades, and he spent
special time with the Root & Vandervoort (lucky engine). Sadly,
Bill passed away before this story was printed.

A close look reveals an old wash bucket covering the R &
V’s water hopper, placed there by Jerry on one of his many
visits to the engine while trying to secure ownership.

Jerry’s collection of engines runs to 20, with engines
ranging in size from 1 HP to 25 HP. But even with all those
engines, this Root & Vandervoort, which spends its show life at
the power end of a hay press, will remain the feature engine in
Jerry’s collection. Jerry is looking forward to his 1909 Root
& Vandervoort’s return to the old Root & Vandervoort
factory site in East Moline, Ill, Sept. 12-14, 2003 for the
100-year factory reunion. Jerry’s engine will take its rightful
place in the Root & Vandervoort history, and I must say that
both Jerry and the engine are lucky.

Contact engine enthusiast Jerry Balvin at: 3344 Highway V18,
Chelsea, IA 52215, or e-mail: jcbalvin@hotmail.com

Root & Vandervoort Reunion in 2003

A Root & Vandervoort reunion is planned for Sept. 12-14,
2003. The reunion, which celebrates, albeit a few years late, R
& V’s 100th anniversary, is tied in with the 100th
anniversary of East Moline, home of R & V manufacturing. The
reunion is being held in conjunction with the 42nd Annual Atkinson
Antique Engine & Tractor Association Show in nearby Atkinson,
Ill., and it promises to be the largest gathering of R & V
engines since 1919, when the factory quit production of farm
engines. In addition to bringing R & V enthusiasts together,
the reunion will include a visit to the R & V factory and
grounds, much of which still exists.

William H. Vandervoort and Orlando Root started manufacturing
stationary engines in 1899, formally incorporating the Root &
Vandervoort Engineering Co. in 1900. In 1907 the company moved to
the grounds that exist to this day, building engines there until
1919. Company fortunes turned in major part on engine contracts
with Deere & Company, and so closely was R & V production
tied to orders from Deere that starting in 1912 all its output went
to Deere dealers. That changed when Deere bought the Waterloo
Gasoline Engine Co. in 1918, but by that time R & V had already
turned much of its attention to automobile production.

Dick Wells is the man behind pulling the reunion together, and
he says he was prompted into action after contacting R & V
registrar Peter Lowe in Australia while trying to date one of three
R & V engines he owns. Peter, upon discovering Dick’s ties
to East Moline, encouraged him to help launch a reunion.

Anyone owning an R & V engine, regardless of size or
condition, is encouraged to attend. Dick says he’d love to hear
from people early so he can decide if there will be enough people
attending to hold a banquet at the Radisson Hotel, located on the
John Deere Commons in Moline.

Contact Dick Wells at: 1954 12th Ave., Moline, IL 61265,
(309) 797-2642, or e-mail: WellsRichardC@JohnDeere.com

Contact R & V registrar Peter Lowe at: 9 Jamefield Dr.,
Maclean 2463, Australia, or e-mail: plowe@turboweb.net.au

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