I recently recovered two Stover engines from my wife Mary’s family ranch. The ranch has been in the family since her great-grandfather, Joe Montgomery, homesteaded it in 1905. In 1924 another adjacent ranch was purchased because of its good water and incorporated into the ranch. Sometime in the next year or so these two Stovers were purchased. One, a 1926 2 HP Stover Style KA was used to pump water at a well. The other, a 1919 10 HP Style U Stover engine, is the gas engine this article is about.
Both engines were purchased by my wife’s great-grandfather sometime between 1924 and 1927 from Findlaters Hardware in San Angelo, Texas. The engines were then brought to the ranch which is south of Fort Stockton, Texas. What puzzled me was how could he have purchased the Style U engine between 1924 and 1927 when it was made in 1919? Upon obtaining the shipping records from Joe Maurer, it seems the engine was first shipped to the Crane Co. of Chicago in 1920 and then went back to the factory only to make its way to Texas in June 1925. Mystery solved!
This Style U engine was used to pump water that was in a large stock tank next to the engine, approximately three miles in distance and 400 feet uphill to another section of the ranch where there was not a good supply of water. The pump’s final location is unknown. It is our best guess that the engine was used until 1956 when electricity came to the ranch and the engine was replaced with a submersible pump. Some of the piping on the engine is galvanized and this helps support the theory of its use until the 50s. Unfortunately my wife’s grandfather, who would have been the last person in the family to use the engine, passed in the 1990s before there was interest in the engine’s history. I have been unable to find any purchase receipts or records from Findlaters Hardware.
Bit by the engine bug
In the past, while at a friend’s house, my friend’s father Clyde demonstrated his hit-and-miss engines for me. I thought they were interesting but like most guys my age (35) I had very little interest in them. On a trip out to the ranch I noticed one of these engines by chance and asked if I could have it to restore. This engine was the 2 HP Stover KA. It was rusted solid and missing everything that was brass. I took it home, proceeded to disassemble it and only broke one minor part.
While I’m decent with my hands, doing work on cars and things mechanical, there were several things that needed machining. I didn’t have the resources or knowledge to do this. It was then that I was introduced to Bill Becker who is a master machinist. Bill helped me restore the Style KA engine to tip-top shape and we became good friends in the process. If it wasn’t for Bill’s help and Clyde’s inspiration I wouldn’t be in this hobby.
Well, we all know how you can’t just have one engine. Back at the ranch there was one more engine. I asked my mother–in-law Beverly Landgraf if I could have this engine as well. She must have thought I did a good job with the first engine as she said yes. I’ve been told that several people have attempted to purchase it over the years. As these engines are part of the family history I don’t consider myself the owner of these engines, but rather their steward as they are currently on their fourth generation of the family.
Stover U recovery
As you can see from the photos, the engine was on its side still attached to the concrete block base. It’s unknown how the engine got in this state but the smaller engine was also on its side in the same manner. The flywheel on the ground was completely covered in dirt and could not be seen.
I’ve been planning this recovery for the better part of two years. When I recovered the KA my brother-in-law, Chad, and I just heaved it up into the back of my van. This was not going to happen with this big of an engine. I got my brother and two friends, Karl and Mike, to come out and help me recover the engine. They got a mule deer hunt for their efforts and said they got the better part of the deal.
Previously, with the smaller Style KA, I was brand new to the hobby and didn’t take any pictures of where it was. I could kick myself for that. When recovering the Style U I had my brother Doug, an amateur photographer, take around 100 pictures of the process. My brother even climbed up to the top of a windmill to take pictures.
The day before my crew got there I dug the flywheel out of the ground. I had previously shown pictures of the engine to the three guys (all mechanical engineers) that were there to help me. There was talk of using an A-frame to lift it. When everyone got there and looked at it my brother had the best suggestion: bolting a temporary wooden skid to it. He then suggested we back the trailer right up to the engine and winch it up sideways. The trailer is a tilt trailer so this helped greatly. My only reservation to this was putting too much stress on the sub base mounting bolt holes. To help with my anxiety we put a high lift jack under the water hopper and gently used it to help with the righting process. Because of the ample help the entire process took only two hours. I had previously spent probably 100 hours thinking about how it would be recovered. Go figure!
Rescue to restoration
The Style U engine was recovered in November 2008 and I’m sad to say not much has been done on it yet. The big thing is it is out of the elements and in my dry garage. The engine was exposed to the elements for its entire life and has been in non-running condition for the past 60 years or so. One good thing is the engine is almost entirely complete with the exception of the magneto, which originally had been a Webster but was converted at some time to WICO EK.
I’ve been soaking the engine with penetrating oil. I removed the bearing caps and the babbitt looks good, but the crank has some rust and pitting. The rocker arm was broken but I did find both pieces. It has a previous repair but broke in a second place so I will have a new one cast.
The engine was equipped with a wipe oiler for the crank. This is probably the only reason the crank guard was still there.
I plan on finishing the Style U engine like the Style KA with a light “painting” of transmission fluid.
I’m finishing up restoration of my 1981 South Bend 13 Lathe. Someone previously used it for woodworking so I had to disassemble it completely, clean and repaint. With the lathe and a future mill purchase I hope to start working on the Style U engine shortly, hopefully now better equipped to do so. I do have three kids, ages 4, 2 and six months, so it may take me a few years to finish the restoration. Look for an update in the next few years.
Contact David Krebs at 5130 Mulberry Grove, Kingwood, TX 77345 • firstname.lastname@example.org.