A New He for an Old New Era

By Staff
1 / 6
The shop building today; John Rex's truck in foreground.
2 / 6
Interior of the shop.
3 / 6
Sharon Adams holds the original patent model.
4 / 6
The New Era engine, electric motor at right.
5 / 6
Tanks built in the shop.
6 / 6
The engine plate

P.O. Box6 Wilmington, Vermont 05363

About the year 1880, in Wilmington, Vermont, Henry Adams, a
farmer, maple sugar maker, and carpenter, designed and built a
wooden tank to hold maple sap. A neighbor, Clinton Haynes, provided
money to obtain a patent and start a manufacturing business known
as Adams and Haynes. Other types of tanks for holding liquids were
designed. A tank designed to gather maple sap was called a
‘Tomahawk.’

The first patent was issued on November 15, 1880, and a second
on July 8, 1884.

Henry Adams, assisted by his two sons, Walter and Leslie, built
the tanks in a shop attached to the farmhouse. The lumber was sawed
and planed at nearby water powered sawmills.

I had the privilege of knowing Leslie Adams, who told me that
his father had a ‘boy powered’ bench saw that he used to
cut the parts for the tanks. Leslie and Walter would sit on bicycle
seats, and via bicycle pedals, run the saw while Henry made the
cuts.

About 1900, Walter Adams took over the farm and business from
his father.

In 1910, a new shop was built, separate from the house, and new
equipment added. This shop was powered by a two horse treadmill.
The shop with the original equipment, including the attached shed
that housed the treadmill, still stands.

Later, a jointer was added to the shop equipment and a 5 HP
Galloway engine was installed to replace the horse treadmill.

As business increased, the Galloway engine was replaced with a 5
HP New Era engine. Although much effort was used to install this
engine properly, including pumping water from a nearby well for
cooling, mounting the wet cell batteries needed for the ignition on
the wall in the shop, and running the exhaust outside under the
eaves, the engine was a disappointment. It was apparently difficult
to start.

The Galloway engine that had been sold was re-purchased and
installed in the shop again. This engine continued to run the shop
until 1928, when a 7 HP electric motor was installed. The shop is
still run by this motor, via the original system of line shafts and
clutch pulleys.

In 1924 Walter Adams’ son, Lewis, assumed the operation of
the farm and business.

As it became more difficult to purchase the quality of pine
lumber needed to make the tanks, Lewis set up a sawmill in 1928.
The mill was first powered by a Lincoln car engine. In 1937 a
Superior diesel engine was installed. This engine continues to run
the sawmill which is still in operation.

Over the years, demand for wooden tanks declined. The last ones
built, on special order, were made in 1946 and 1947.

The New Era engine remained in the engine room in the shop,
where it had been ‘shoved’ when the dependable old Galloway
had been re-installed.

Lewis Adams raised a family of five daughters and two sons,
Bertram ‘Pete’ and William, ‘Bill.’ Pete is my
‘partner’ in collecting old gas engines, and has a plumbing
business in Wilmington. Bill followed the family tradition and took
over the operation of the farm from his father, including the shop
and sawmill.

In recent years Bill attempted to start the New Era engine
without success. Last summer, he asked if I would help him start
the engine, as the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association were
planning a meeting at the nearby Mount Snow Conference Center. They
were going to tour the shop as part of their program, and he wanted
to have the engine running for this tour.

Now on a scale of 1-10, my interest in gas engines rates about a
12, but my experience and knowledge with this type of engine will
hardly push a 3.

I have had the pleasure of meeting John Rex of Chelmsford,
Massachusetts. John repairs engine magnetos, collects engines, and
advertises in GEM. I have purchased a rebuilt magneto from John and
he repaired one for me that I thought was hopeless. At one of the
engine shows where I met John, I told him about this New Era
engine, and he expressed an interest in seeing it. I contacted John
and asked if he could assist in starting the engine. His immediate
reply was that he could and would.

July 20, 1992: John Rex to the rescue!

John and I drove to the Adams farm where both Bill and Pete were
waiting. John had brought a coil and batteries. Although the
original wet cell batteries are still in a box on the wall of the
shop, no coil for this engine was ever located.

The engine is of side shaft design with make and break ignition,
but could be converted to hot tube ignition. The carburetion is of
fuel injection type. A measured amount of fuel is dropped into the
combustion chamber. The governor is hit or miss and it has a ported
exhaust.

John examined the engine as an emergency room physician would
examine an unconscious patient. He determined that the points were
operating correctly, then primed the engine. Bill and Pete turned
the engine over using the flywheels and the engine fired for the
first time in over 70 years. This was repeated several times with
the engine firing as long as the priming lasted.

After lunch the engine was ‘plumbed’ with Pete’s
assistance with a fuel line and return, cooling water from a hose
and an outside exhaust. The afternoon was spent running and
adjusting the engine. Although he has the original sales literature
and manuals that came with the engine, operating instructions are
vague. On August 1, 1992, the day of the tour by the Vermont Sugar
Makers Association, the engine was running flawlessly.

The future for this engine? Bill has plans to use again it to
run the shop. Recently he built several of the tanks, using the
original plans. The shop equipment is used for various construction
projects.

Several years ago Pete found the old Galloway engine ‘over a
stone wall’ where the last owner had abandoned it, stuck and
rusted. He has been rebuilding it and has it about ready to run and
take to the shows.

Gas Engine Magazine
Gas Engine Magazine
Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines