Ben, Don and Otto


| March/April 1979



10 HP Otto

First, as an introduction, we are a couple of farm boys, in our 50's, but young at heart, Ben and Don - Ben Romich of Cherokee Farms, Creston, Ohio, and Don Irvin of Irvin's Model Shop, Creston, Ohio. Twenty years ago, or more, we started playing with an old engine or two, and haven't been able to get the grease and rust out of our systems since. This story has to do with the challenge of adding one more old engine to the collection.


The lead
In the summer of 1977, Ben Romich's son, Tom, who is employed at New York University in New York City, happened to spot what looked like an old engine on a barge on the Hudson River. He had been sailing with a group of friends and went ashore just to let one member of the group off to catch a train back to the city. The spot they chose to dock was beside an old wooden barge, moored permanently and used now as a clubhouse by the Hudson Valley Yacht Club. For some odd reason, the door had blown open on the top deck exposing what looked like an old 2 flywheel engine, that turned out to be an Otto. Tom mentioned this interesting sight to his dad in a letter home.

Well, Ben, being an old engine nut, got to wondering about the engine 500 miles away, and asked his son to please find some way to get more information. Time went by, but by mid 1978, Tom had arranged permission to look closer at the engine, and sent his father a description complete with measurements and details of the location. More time was spent in correspondence and telephoning and finally a deal was made for the engine as is, where is. A deal like this could turn out to be anything between a rare piece of machinery and a piece of junk. So now a little planning needs to be done.


The preparation
With the corn crop harvested in good time this year, thanks to the better than average weather this fall, it worked out best to make the trip before Thanksgiving as we are due for our big snowstorm each year about that time. In phone conversations with the Commodore of the Yacht Club, we were offered the use of their pile driver to lift the engine down off the upper deck of the barge. Also offered was a Case tractor to help move it on dry land as it had to be moved 100 feet from the barge to the other side of the railroad tracks, and then loaded on the truck. Even more than the equipment was offered help in the form of 8 or 10 club members who would be there on Saturday to help as needed to carry pieces across the tracks and load onto the truck. Seems like everything is working out beautifully at that end-now let's get things ready at this end.

The old 1-ton truck that we planned to use needed some attention. You see it had already lived its natural life working for the gas company, and when retired from that job, took up a part time job on the farm hauling grain and feed for the past 7 years. It almost always made it to the mill and back, a distance of seven miles round trip, without problems.

This trip would be a little different. A second used spare tire and wheel were purchased, and front wheels balanced. New points and plugs were installed and oil changed. In order to keep the mud from the front wheels off the windshield, a gallon of roof cement, along with bolts and screws and pieces of tin, were all applied to the front fenders and inner shields. Handfuls of insulation material were dipped in paint and poked into holes in the bottom of the cab with a stick to keep out the dust and cold air. Another piece of carpet was added to the floor. One wheel cylinder was rebuilt in hopes of making the brake system work better, and it did help some. I found later on that sometimes we had brakes on the first pump, but always had them by the second or third pump. The alternator had been replaced recently, with a second-hand one, and just to feel safe, another spare alternator was taken along. A better looking battery was found for $3.00 and installed. As the truck engine had recently had a little trouble with bent and broken push rods, a half dozen extra push rods were taken along, as insurance. Also a case of oil, some welding and remodeling was done to the bed, and finally some paint was sprayed here and there to cover up rust and she looked pretty good. We loaded up pry bars, log chains, tool boxes, hemp rope block and tackle, and we were ready for the trip.