A SAD CASE

By Staff
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Courtesy of Wesley Hammond, York Road, Leicester, New York (SEE STORY)
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Courtesy of Wesley Hammond. York Road, Leicester, New York (SEE STORY)
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Courtesy of Western Canadian Pioneer Museum, Wetaskiwin, Alberta, Canada Circa 1916 Chase Gas Tractor

York Road, Leicester, N.Y.

I have a collection of old farm type engines and two drag saws
that I restored and each of them was in terrible condition when I
got them. The challenge presented in attempting to make a hopeless
looking piece of junk run and look similar to what it did when it
was new gives me a greater feeling of satisfaction then securing
one which is ‘just like new’. Recently I secured an engine
which presents not only a challenge but a down-right discouraging
situation. This engine has such an interesting background that I
feel I must attempt to restore it to the best of my ability and I
hope that some one of GEM’s readers can help me with
information, a picture or knowledge of one like it which I can
visit and see.

One of my hobbies is amateur radio and with its use I have been
able to talk to many people on the ‘air’, make many new
friends, and meet many interesting people. When one first meets a
new friend on the ‘air’ it is customary to break the ice by
talking about the equipment each has, where they live, their name
and etc., but after this first contact other topics are presented
in order that each may get better acquainted. One amateur radio
operator I met in this manner lives in Wanakena, N.Y. and I found
that he has been a guide in the Adirondack Mountains and has lived
in this area most of his life. We talked about fishing, hunting and
canoeing and then I started talking about ‘Old Engines’ and
in the course of the conversation he told me he knew of an old one
cylinder marine engine which was buried in the Oswegatchie River
still in the original boat and had been there for some 52 years.
The old engine sounded interesting to me but I passed over it
quickly for it was apparent that it would be nothing but rust and
dirt by this time. As time went on I talked to my friend, Herbert
Keith, many times and we quickly became very good friends. In later
talks we discussed this old engine and Herb told me some of its
history and then wrote a letter telling me all about it.

My friend, Herb, told me that in 1909 or 1910 the Rich Lumber
Company cut and sawed up the trees found in the forest around
Wanakena and the Oswegatchie River and at that time had a master
mechanic working for them who, along with other duties, built boats
for the officials of the company to use on the river. This
gentleman’s son, who is now in his seventies, lives and works
in Black River, N.Y. at this date and is himself a master mechanic.
The Oswegatchie River as it forms and runs into Cranberry Lake is
really rather small as rivers go, is narrow, crooked, contains many
rocks and shallow rapids, but, especially at that time, contained
some mighty fine trout. Since it was quite a job to paddle
up-stream to where the good fishing was the officials of the
company asked this Master Mechanic if he would or could build a
power boat for use on this river. Since he was a true craftsman he
said he would try. At first it was thought the engine, which this
story is concerned with, was purchased at that time new from the
manufacturer, but it has been ascertained that the engine was used
when it was installed in this boat. We can find no history of it
back further than this date however, it was made by the Truscott
Boat Mfg. Co., St. Joseph, Michigan and has a serial number of
2065. The mechanic had the problem of designing the boat so it
could operate in shallow water, over rocks, and through shallow
fast rapids so he built it with a tunnel in the bottom for the
propeller to operate in. This tunnel was covered with iron straps
so the propeller was protected at all times. It appears that any
useful rudder he devised would easily be torn off the boat so he
decided to steer the boat with pike poles. The boat was heavy and
the river very crooked so it was a hard job to steer it up and down
the river and it wasn’t long until the men who did the work on
the boat named it the ‘Beast’ and the name was painted on
her bows. Penny postcards were made up of this boat and sold as
souvenirs. It wasn’t used very long and was left tied up at the
landing on the river called Inlet until it finally sank. When the
lumber company finished their lumbering and moved out the whole
thing was left right there in the river in the year 1912. For a
number of years when the water was low in the late summer one could
see the round top of the engine sticking up out of the water. In
the 1930’s when my friend Herb Keith and a fellow guide and his
friend, Wilford Morrison, were guiding on the river they discussed
that someday they were going to get that engine out of the
river.

When I talked to Herb about engine restoration and we discussed
this particular engine in the fall of 1964 he became interested in
recovering it so he, along with two friends of his, went looking
for the engine and what was left of the boat. They found the
engine, lassoed the cylinder with a rope and tried to pull it up
into the boat but found they couldn’t move it at all. The next
day they all went back with ropes, chains, block and tackle, and a
‘come-a-long’ determined to get it out. They used a large
white pine tree on shore for an anchor point and with the equipment
began to pull. Soon this engine which had laid underwater, in this
boat, since 1912, came ashore. When the engine came up out of the
water enough oil came out of it so the oil showed on the water and
. the men could smell old oil as well.

The men took the engine back to Wanakena, made a bed for it and
began to look it over. The flywheel would turn over and the engine
looked, generally, like an engine though the push-rod and steel
parts were pretty well gone. Some of the ignitor was eaten away and
the mixing valve was missing. When the next spring, 1965, arrived
my friend gave me the engine and 1 brought it to my home. I wrote
to the engine company in St. Joseph but of course my letter was
returned so then I wrote to the Chamber of Commerce of that city
and they were kind enough to answer my letter but told me they
could be of no help for the company had been out of business so
long they had no information about it. Mr. Bob Hux-table of
Lansing, Michigan told me that the company went out of business in
1920

I set the engine up on the bench, started to work on it, only to
set it back on the floor many times, for it seemed to be a hopeless
case. This spring I got more courage and really began, in earnest,
to work on it and now feel hopeful as far as the basic engine is
concerned. The cylinder and crankcase castings are good as is the
head and flywheel. I have ground the crankshaft and its connecting
rod throw and made new main bearing bushings. The connecting rod is
in good shape but will have to make a new wrist pin for the piston.
The piston is good and quite shiny and has two rings each three
fourths of an inch wide. Yes, three quarters of an inch wide. The
water pump which is a piston type can be repaired and the cylinder
can be honed. The mixing valve and ignitor present problems. The
moving part of the ignitor is gone completely and I don’t even
know what it looked like.

I am hoping that some kind engine fan can help me and any help
would be greatly appreciated. I feel the history of this engine
creates enough interest so it deserves to be brought back to life,
if at all possible.

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