A BEAST THAT STILL SPEAKS

By Staff
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Roger Schuller’s 1934 125 HP Buckeye is a beast of an oil engine that weighs 15 tons and is 17 feet long. Schuller, along with his father, father-in-law and brother-in-law rescued the Buckeye from the basement of a Grabill, Ind., grain elevator. A close look at the flywheels shows that the engine is in motion.
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Roger Schuller’s 1934 125 HP Buckeye is a beast of an oil engine that weighs 15 tons and is 17 feet long. Schuller, along with his father, father-in-law and brother-in-law rescued the Buckeye from the basement of a Grabill, Ind., grain elevator. A close look at the flywheels shows that the engine is in motion.
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The Buckeye engine sitting in the elevator building. “Two million dollars worth of liability insurance was necessary for the three-day removal because a dust explosion could have destroyed everything,” Roger says.
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The 125 HP Buckeye running with Mark Schuller’s 1-1/2 and 2-1/2 HP Buckeyes.
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The Grabill, Ind. grain elevator.
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John Nahrwold, John Michel Nahrwold, Oscar Schuller and Roger Schuller loading the Buckeye.
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Oscar Schuller in the hole.
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The front page of the Buckeye instruction manual.
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Heating the glow plug with a propane torch in preparation for starting the Buckeye.
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A closer look at the nameplate on the Buckeye.
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The original Buckeye engine water pump. Originally driven off the small pulley on the Buckeye crankshaft, it is now run by an electric motor.

Buckeye

Manufactured: Salem, Ohio
Horsepower: 125
Year: 1934
Length: 17 feet
Weight: 15 tons
Normal RPM: 200
Show RPM: 100
Bore: 19-inch
Stroke: 23-inch
Flywheel diameter: 78 inches
Notes: 2-cycle diesel with no valves; used a large water tank for
coolant while in operation in grain elevator.

My father-in-law, John Nahrwold, told me he could hear
the Buckeye on his farm 8 miles from Grabill, Ind.,” says Roger
Schuller, current owner of the 125 HP Buckeye oil engine. “When my
father-in-law was in town he used to go down in the basement of the
elevator and watch it run.”

Every morning, from 1935 until 1947, the engine was started and
run for the day and everyone in town must have heard it. Once in
awhile, there would be a miss-fire and the engine would have a
double load of fuel, and the windows in town would rattle when it
fired again. The exhaust pipe was around 12 inches in diameter and
went up to the height of the building. From there, the sound would
travel for miles.

In 1935, a large fire destroyed the Grabill grain elevator. The
owners wanted to rebuild immediately so they contracted with the
Buckeye Engine Co. in Lima, Ohio, to buy the Buckeye, and a
440-volt generator. The flywheels, each weighing several tons, were
shipped separately and installed on the engine after it had been
mounted on the base. The engine and generator were used as the
power source for the Grabill grain elevator, and a nearby small
factory, from 1935 until 1947.

“The owner of the elevator told me that they had to stop using
the engine after the governor went wild and the engine pulled out
the bolts holding it to the floor,” says Roger. “Since 440-volt
electricity was available in town by that time, they decided not to
repair the Buckeye. The elevator operator had felt that there was
nothing much wrong with that engine, however, it was never used
again and sat in the basement for 32 years gathering dust until
1979.”

Rescuing the Buckeye

“My father-in-law had heard that the Buckeye engine was going to
leave the town,” says Roger, “so the four of us – my father-in-law,
brother-in-law, my Dad and me – decided to buy it from the original
owner. I knew the engine was big, but I was not prepared for what I
saw walking down the steps into the basement for the first time.
This was the biggest single-cylinder engine I had ever seen; the
engine itself was 17 feet long and the two flywheels were 6 feet in
diameter!” They completed the deal with the owner; he said he could
only give a weekend in August to get it out because the Amish used
the elevator to grind their feed and the move had to be completed
by Monday morning.

“We had figured out that there were concrete blocks in a section
of the wall that were put there so that the engine could be taken
out after the blocks were removed,” said Roger. By the last week of
July, they were ready for the move. On the appointed Friday
afternoon, they started digging the hole outside of the wall with a
backhoe. “It was kind of interesting,” continued Roger, “because
after the fire, the owner had decided he did not want to lose
another Buckeye engine, so the walls and the ceiling were concreted
with just an opening left for the concrete blocks.”

Late that evening, they completed the digging. Early the next
morning, the cement blocks were removed. “We used a White
semi-tractor and brought over the trailer that my father-in-law had
built out of an old wrecker. For additional power, we had two 1100
Massey Ferguson 90 HP diesel tractors.”

After first cutting the bolts that held the engine to the pad,
rollers and jacks were used to move it over and forward to line up
with the wall opening that had been made by removing the cement
blocks. The trailer was backed into the hole and then, using the
trailer winch, the engine was slowly pulled on to the trailer.

“It was a slow process,” says Roger, “it was a lot of jacking,
blocking and pulling, but the engine was finally out and bolted
down. Of course, quite a crowd had gathered by this time! We
proceeded to pull the trailer out using the two tractors and the
White semi-tractor and about halfway out, we ran out of power. My
father-in-law thought that was kind of funny and then he realized
he had forgotten to release the air brakes on the semi-tractor. As
he released the brakes, the tractors jumped and we almost launched
the Buckeye!”

They started closing the hole and got about 4 or 5 rows of
cement blocks completed before quitting for the evening. Just after
they started again in the morning, a rainstorm came up. Luckily,
the blocks held back the water from running into the basement. They
pumped the water out of the hole, finished laying the blocks and
then filled the hole with dirt.

“My wife had called the local newspaper,” says Roger, “but she
was told they were not interested in the engine. However, about two
hours later, a reporter was there. The story came out on the front
page of the second section of the newspaper and was really quite
interesting.”

Background on the Buckeye

According to Roger, the Buckeye engine was made in Lima, Ohio,
and the factory building is still in existence, though no longer
used for anything like building engines. General Motors bought out
the Buckeye Machine Co., but it eventually went out of business.
This engine was made around 1934 and cost approximately $6,400 new.
The engine weighs 15 tons and is 125 HP, it is a 2-cycle diesel
with no valves, and the flywheels are 6-1/2 feet in diameter. It
has a 19-inch bore and a 23-inch stroke and originally ran at 200
RPM, but at the show it runs at 100 RPM, until such time that it is
bolted down to a permanent cement pad. The engine was sitting
outside for approximately 18 years then it was moved into the
“engine building” on the show grounds. “We have the original
electrical control panel here, but the 440-volt generator that came
out of the elevator is still sitting at my farm,” says Roger.

“Ron Gruss, a good friend of ours from Rockford, Ohio, was over
one day and said, ‘I’ll start that thing.’ He is very knowledgeable
in diesel engines, and thought he could start it with or without
any written instructions. There were several knowledgeable people
around, so they went ahead with the first attempt at starting the
Buckeye. Once it started, they just planned to shut off the fuel to
stop it. He got it going and I couldn’t even see the engine for
smoke!”

The Buckeye today

Today, the crew starts the Buckeye by belting the flywheel to a
tractor or an engine, and the glow plug at the front of the engine
is heated with a propane torch until it is red hot. At this time, a
pump is started to run water through the engine for cooling. They
start turning over the engine with the external power source, then
the injector is opened to allow fuel into the engine; usually by
the second revolution the engine starts.

Starting the engine with the original factory procedure that was
used in the Grabill elevator involved the use of a gasoline
engine-driven air compressor. A bar was placed in the holes in the
flywheel and the engine turned over to line up a mark on the
flywheel with the engine oiler. Opening an air gate valve in the
head of the engine allowed the air pressure from the compressor to
drive the piston backward making the engine turn over; you open the
air gate valve on every second revolution and shortly the engine
will start. “One day, when we have the Buckeye bolted to a concrete
foundation, we will do it that way,” says Roger.

“Through the years, we have gotten information from different
people. One man, who had worked for a company that had a Buckeye,
was here and provided us with a lot of the old literature. At one
time, we didn’t have an instruction booklet and now, thanks to
these various individuals, we have three.”

Roger’s engine crew consists of Steve Maxwell; Jerry Yagel; Lynn
Klingaman, who is a diesel engine expert, from Columbia City, Ind.;
his son Mark; and himself.

“There is at least one other Buckeye 125 HP running, but our
engine is certainly the largest in this area. We hope you enjoy
seeing and hearing it run.”

The Buckeye oil engine can be seen during the annual show at the
Maumee Valley Antique Steam & Gas Assn. show grounds located in
the Jefferson Township Park, New Haven, Ind. The 2008 show dates
are Aug. 14-17. Visit www.maumeevalley.org for more
information.

Roger Schuller can be contacted at: 3728 Webster Road, Woodburn,
IN 46797.

Don Voelker is a freelance photographer and writer in Ft. Wayne,
Ind. Contact him at 5511 Kimberly Road, Ft. Wayne, IN 46809 •
www.voelkerphotography@comcast.net

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