190530 Carter Canyon Road, Gering, Nebraska 69341.
In May of 1992, I had just returned from a trip to Colorado visiting my sons. I got a phone call from a neighbor, who knew of my interest in antique engines. He asked if, upon my arrival home, I noticed anything in front of my shop door. I told him I had not had a chance to go out to my shop as yet, and he said I would be pleasantly surprised when I saw what he brought me.
I immediately went out to the shop building, and saw an old 3 HP Witte just laying there waiting to be restored! I called my neighbor to thank him for the engine and to ask him what I owed him for this jewel of a find. He said he found it in a junk pile on a Western Nebraska farm, and that I didn't owe him anything, although there were some 'strings attached.' I wasn't sure what this meant, but in a few days I found out, when he came driving in with another old engine on his trailer.
This was a 1? HP Cushman 'X' engine. It had been purchased new by his grandfather, and had sat outside in a tree row on the family farm for many years. The 'strings attached' statement concerning the Witte, involved restoring the Cushman for him. It seemed to me that this was a fair price for the Witte (which according to C. H. Wendel, was made in 1918.)
I am relatively new in the antique engine business, and have restored only three or four engines. I have a number of engines waiting to be restored, but the Witte captured my interest and restoration of any other engine took a back seat to restoring it.
My first challenge was getting the stuck piston out. I put the entire water hopper assembly to soak in diesel fuel for a few weeks, and then rigged up a hydraulic jack to the connecting rod, and much to my surprise the piston jacked right out! I then proceeded to clean up all of the parts, have them sand blasted and readied for paint. According to an instruction book that I had obtained on this engine, a Bosch trip type magneto was available for purchase as an option on this engine when it was new. The engine had all of the hardware for this magneto, but the magneto itself was missing. Therefore I opted to set this engine up with a battery ignition. In doing this, I had to make some parts for the spark advance mechanism, and they seem to perform well. The main bearings and the rod bearings were in good enough condition that I did not have to pour new babbitt. After sand blasting all parts, making some new parts where possible, and buying other parts from outside suppliers, I primed and painted all parts. The engine was then re-assembled, minus the rod and piston!
Before trying to run the engine, I decided it should be on a pull cart, and therefore, I made a pull cart from scrap iron and some wheels that were found on old farm implements. Wood parts were simply made from fir material, stained and finished.
The assembled engine (minus the rod and piston) were then set on the pull cart. I purposely did not put in the rod and piston, as I wanted to spin the flywheels over to check the spring tension on the governor flyweights. This was done by simply belting the engine up to a restored John Deere 'E' l? HP engine and rolling the flywheels over at a predetermined speed to see how the spring tension on the flyweights reacted. Once I obtained the proper spring tension on the flyweights, I assembled the piston and rod in the engine. The engine now was ready to run!
My wife and I decided that starting the engine should be a time of fun, so we had a 'starting party.' We invited a few friends over (all of whom are also old engine buffs), put out some coffee and rolls and had our 'starting party'. Here, we did a little cheating, in that rather than cranking the engine over by hand, we again belted it up to the John Deere E engine. Once we got it spinning, the ignition was energized and to our surprise, the engine started right up. A little adjusting of gas mixture was required, and the engine smoothed right out. I have now learned to start the engine by simply rocking it back against compression. It will usually start on the first attempt every time.
Since the restoration has been completed, a number of friends have stopped by, and I cannot help but roll this engine out and start it up for them!
I am now busy restoring my neighbor's Cushman, and it should be ready in early summer. Who knows-maybe we will have another 'starting party.'