An ‘N’-ticing Old Engine

By Staff
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Richard Brown’s completed Fairbanks-Morse Model N
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The starting side of the engine showing the air pump and valve.
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The N before restoration.
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Richard Brown (left) with a 2 HP Fairbanks-Morse Model H throttler, and John Hall with the Model N.
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Each of Jim Diebler’s twin tractors are powered by a John Deere 1-1/2 HP Model E. Everything else is hand fabricated or borrowed from other implements.
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A beautifully crafted, notched front axle suspended by stout 3-inch channel iron frame
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pulling or pushing the lever to the driver’s right actuates a belt tensioner that slows or accelerates the tractor
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view of the cockpit, showing the fabricated gearbox enclosure, stirrups, and clever use of a gate valve handwheel

This is the story of my 1905 Fairbanks-Morse 5
HP Model N. The old engine was built in May of 1905, as it has
‘5-5-05’ stamped on the end of the crankshaft. The late
Harold Ottaway of Wichita, Kan., brought it out of Canada in the
late 1940s. It went from there to the John Hall collection in Cape
Girardeau, Mo., in the early 1960s.

I first saw the engine in 1998 when my son-in-law and I were at
John’s place for a visit and buying trip. To visit John’s
place was like stepping into a large museum of days gone by. At
that time, John wouldn’t even talk about selling the engine. We
visited and talked several times with the same results – no sale!
Eventually, my patience paid off. In 2002 I was able to buy the N
for my already extensive Fairbanks collection, as John decided to
downsize his operation. Acquiring this engine was like adding the
‘crown jewel’ to my collection.

The engine was pretty well all there, even the air start pump.
The cylinder had a freeze crack that had been repaired very poorly,
so I removed it and repaired it to suit myself. Surprisingly
enough, it wasn’t stuck, just snug. The 5-inch cylinder bore
and piston are of stock configuration. The piston is 7 inches long
and uses five 1/2-inch-wide rings, which I replaced with
reproductions from Dave Reed of Otto Gas Engine Works, Elkton, Md.
I then cleaned the rod and piston and reinserted it into the
cylinder. I welded up a broken governor weight by myself, as I
routinely did welding in my trade. The exhaust valve was the
biggest problem to confront me: It took many hours of soaking and
heat application to ‘defrost’ it.

I used DuPont Centari acrylic enamel, no. 74713A, in addition to
the Ultra hardener kit, to paint the engine. I also re-plumbed all
the fuel system lines and built the skids for it to rest on. I
built these from wood I obtained from my good friend Ted Cantrell
of Pioneer Wood Products, Palmersville, Tenn. The Cantrells are
also avid collectors and restorers of engines, tractors, cars and
steam engines. I had help fabricating the cooling tank from my
neighbor, Bob Kuta, who is a sheet metal worker by trade. We had no
dimensions to follow, so we just came up with a size we felt looked
right with the engine. This is the second cooling tank Bob and I
have worked on together, the other being for a 3 HP tank-cooled

Once all said and done, the engine started right up, and to this
day runs very well. Since its completion, it has made the show
circuit in Kentucky, Illinois, Tennessee and Indiana, including the
2003 Tri-State Gas Engine Show in Portland, Ind.

Prior to my ownership, this engine had not been run before it
was acquired by Harold Ottaway in the 1940s. It is a great feeling
of accomplishment to start it up and know it is probably just as
capable of performing its job now as it was back then.

There are several Gas Engine Magazine advertisers and suppliers
I would like to thank for their help and advice on this project:
Keith Billet, York, Pa. – for the beautiful reproduction air start
valve. A great piece of work, Keith! Dan Crist, Quinter, Kan. – all
hot tube castings and burner castings with prints. Lee Pedersen,
New York – pot muffler castings. All friends, neighbors and fellow
collectors from all over. Your help is greatly appreciated!

Contact engine enthusiast Richard L. Brown at: 175 Sonnet Lane,
Gilbertsville, KY 42044; (270) 362-4496;

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