Gas Engine Magazine

Circa-1918 Emerson-Brantingham Model U

By Staff

Circa-1918 Emerson Brantingham 6 hp Model U

Manufacturer: Emerson-Brantingham Co., Rockford, Ill.
Year: 1918
Serial Number: 12196
Horsepower: 6 hp
Bore & stroke: 6in x 9-1/2in
Flywheel: 32in x 3in
Ignition: Igniter w/battery and coil
Governing: Hit-and-miss w/weight on flywheel
Cooling: Water-cooled w/hopper

Engine collectors are fortunate that Glen Westphal chooses to bring different engines to shows. Like his rare circa-1918 6 hp Emerson-Brantingham U.

“About the time I was born in the 1960s,” the Elk River, Minnesota, man says, “my dad, Ronald Westphal, started collecting engines and tractors. I grew up with the engines on our hobby farm, and didn’t really realize that other kids didn’t have engines around, or go to shows, until I got older. That was partly because the shows were done during our three months off in the summer. These days, I’d love to have those three months off to go to all the shows I’d like to attend!”

Besides his dad, nobody else in the family was very interested in engines, but that was OK with Glen. “It gave me time to develop a special bond with him, riding many miles with him in the pickup, going to shows, helping with whatever needed to be done like loading and unloading them, greasing and oiling the engines, starting them. I also got to drive tractors in the parade, and met many people I’ve now known all my life, some in their 70s-90s and still see at shows, while some have passed away,” Glen says. “It was exciting going with Dad to the shows, driving a tractor or helping with the engines.”

Some engines Glen helped with included an 8 hp IHC screen-cooled engine, a 12 hp Root & VanDervoort, and a pair of 15 hp Fairbanks-Morse engines, one a screen-cooled engine and one a pumping engine. “Those went with us to the shows the most,” Glen says. Fortunately, Glen built that bond with his father early, because his dad tragically passed away when Glen was only 12.

But Glen‘s interest in old iron continued. “I kept playing with the engines when I could. Most of my school friends had no clue what the engines were or what you might do with them. They thought, ‘Engines. OK, you farm with them,’ but they really had no clue.”

In the 1990s he visited a few shows, and by the early- to mid-2000s he was exhibiting in eight to 10 shows a year. Last year he exhibited in 12 shows, including exhibits at the Minnesota State Fair where a friend runs the engines, giving him time to attend other engine and tractor shows.

The Emerson-Brantingham Model U

The Emerson-Brantingham Model U engine belonged to Glen’s dad, and was acquired from his mother. “That engine intrigued me because there aren’t a lot of them around, and it’s one I want to keep in the family. My siblings support what I do, but aren’t interested in the engines. If they come to a show, it’s generally to visit Mom and/or me, so for the past 20-30 years, I’ve been trying to keep whatever I can in the family, and keep fixing them. I don’t hunt, fish or snowmobile, so tractors and engines are my hobby,” Glen says.

Three years ago, when Glen heard the Rollag (Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion) show was featuring Emerson-Brantingham engines in 2017, he pulled out the E-B U. “I checked to see what I might need to get it running. So the winter before the Rollag show I thought, ‘Let’s see if I can get it going,’ and that’s what pushed me to get it done, the Rollag show.”

Glen pulled the head to see what it looked like inside. “It wasn’t too bad, but loose rust had to be cleaned from the carburetor, which was a minor deal.” He had to get the fuel pump working, but there was nothing seriously wrong with the engine. “After that it needed a gas tank, a little bearing work, and some exhaust work. I built a gas tank, using four-by-six steel tubing, capped the end, and fit it up under the base so you never see it, like the original. I made it way heavier than it needed to be, so it will outlive me.”

Though the engine is a century old, Glen says the U still has good compression. “I had to play with the timing to get it to run well, adjusting a few times, and really, I was just guessing. I had to adjust the carburetor to make sure it wasn’t running too rich or too lean. Now it starts relatively easy. The first or second time it hits, it usually fires, and it’s really a pretty easy engine to run.

He did most of the work on the Emerson himself, though a few friends did come over at times to help. “They also helped with ideas, like how to do some of the plumbing, and some other stuff. The skids were mostly rotten,” Glen says, “so some friends helped take them off, and clean parts. The paint looks fine, so I didn’t repaint it. I’m more interested in how engines run than what they look like, most of the time.” Though not original, the paint is probably close in color. “I don’t know if it’s correct, because engine companies sometimes change things. And there’s not a lot of history about this E-B U, or other E-B engines, for that matter.”

The E-B U doesn’t have a lot of frills. “I’ve got crankcase covers on it, so you don’t see the crankshaft moving. Because of its rarity, it’s not a run-of-the-mill piece. That’s what makes it odd.” From what he knows, Glen says the EB Model U came from west central Minnesota sometime in the 1970s.

Emerson-Brantingham Co. history

The Emerson-Brantingham Co. of Rockford, Illinois, started as an implement company in 1852, and began selling gasoline engines after their 1912 purchase of Rockford Engine Works, Rockford, Illinois. Early catalogs showed engines that were the same as the engines made by Rockford Engine Works.

According to C.H. Wendel in American Gasoline Engines Since 1872, Emerson-Brantingham U engines were introduced around 1915. Wendel says they “closely followed the original Rockford designs with a few added improvements. Webster low-tension ignition was standard, along with the totally enclosed crankcase. The vertical valve arrangement permitted easy maintenance without removing the cylinder head.”

EB engines came in horsepower ratings of 1-1/2, 2-1/2, 4 and 6, and Wendel says they were originally painted a deep red, with a green background on the hopper and yellow striping. In 1918, kerosene versions of the U were produced, including battery ignition. The 6 hp that year cost $173. J.I. Case purchased Emerson-Brantingham Co. in 1928, by which time engine production had already ceased.

On display

At the 2017 Rollag show, Glen discovered another Emerson-Brantingham U. “It had the same major parts, but the head was a very different setup from mine, which uses a battery and coil while the other engine had a magneto mounted to the head for the ignition. At that Rollag show, I heard a lot of comments about the U.” He adds that engine people at the Nowthen, Minnesota, Threshing Show, were happy to see him bringing the Emerson-Brantingham U. “A lot of people said they’d never seen one like that.”

Glen enjoys the camaraderie he has with other engine collectors. “Sometimes when I’m working on something, other people help me because I don’t have the knowledge or background that they do for some of this stuff. My background isn’t as deep as theirs.”

When doing a rebuild of an engine, if he can’t get a replacement of a missing part he has to make one. “That is where knowing great people helps. Sometimes some things are just missing, and in that case you just have to hope that you guessed right. I would prefer to have a pattern, but you don’t always. Friends have helped with oddball portions of the projects over the years; there’s no way I could do this much without help.”

When Glen thinks of taking engines to shows, he like to take one that he hasn’t seen around. “If someone brings four of the same thing, why would I want to bring a fifth one? I figure a different engine would be a good addition, because a different engine makes for a better show. Older people might say they remembered taking pictures of that engine years ago.”

Why does he collect? He says it’s because he doesn’t know any better. “I’ve never had any other hobbies, and I’m not hooked on other stuff. With engines, there is the fun of exhibiting and meeting people, and sometimes the challenge of whether whatever you’re trying to restore and run and fix is something that is different.”

A big problem with gasoline engines, Glen says, is the gasoline. “During the last 10 years, if you let something sit for long and don’t drain it, it gets gummy. I get so frustrated. I don’t display everything every year or take them all out each year, and then sometimes the hauling can be a problem too, and not fun. You can’t drive them on and off like tractors.” The oddest place he ever saw a gasoline engine was in Moscow, Russia, when he walking along and saw a gas engine sitting in a building. “It threw me a little bit.”

Although the Emerson-Brantingham U is currently his favorite, he likes his other engines, too. “I can sit and watch the 8 hp IHC or the 15 hp Fairbanks-Morse for a couple of hours, easy. They have a good sound to them. Another one that I like is a 6 hp IHC screen-cooled engine.”

A 50-50 deal

His engine hobby is 50-50, he says. “The engines are half the fun of the hobby, and the people are the other half. The people you meet and visit with become friends, and if I didn’t want to meet the people, I could just stay at home and run the engines myself. If half of it wasn’t the engines, I could just go to the shows and visit people. But for me, it’s both. I try to exhibit different engines, and don’t necessarily do what others do. You do whatever you enjoy for your hobby, and even if it’s not in my labor or love of an engine, that’s okay. It doesn’t matter if it’s a common engine or not. I say if it’s their pride and joy, and they like to show it, I tell them to have at it.”

Contact engine enthusiast Bill Vossler at Box 372, 400 Caroline Ln., Rockville, MN 56369;

  • Published on Jul 10, 2018
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