10732 Cranberry, Boise, Idaho 83704
In August 1985 our family went to the Western Idaho Fair. The main attraction for us are the exhibits. One of them was conducted by an old gentleman with about fifteen old gas engines. I fell in love with the sound of them running and decided to get as much information about them as possible. I am sure the old gentleman was glad to see me leave, as I must have asked 300 questions about his engines.
Last year while visiting a rancher friend of mine in southeast Oregon, I asked if he would keep his eyes open and spot some old engines for me. Sure enough, about one month later he called me and asked if I would be interested in two or three engines!
The next evening after work, my wife Mary and I drove 94 miles to Mike Hanley's ranch, arriving about dark. Mike said the engines were seventeen miles down a gravel road into remote Owyhee County, Idaho, where an old ranch was for sale. When we arrived it was really dark and the temperature was around 30 degrees. We approached a fence line behind an old rundown machinery shed, and lo and behold, there was a good sized engine embedded in the ground, in the middle of a big bunch of briars and wild rose bushes. In looking it over, I knew it was almost complete, but because of the darkness I couldn't tell much more.
Mike said the other engine was in front of the machinery shed. Yep, there it was, smaller than the one in the fence line and covered with some boards. We were able to move it some, and my mind started racing ahead. We went to the ranch of the people selling the old place and purchased the engines and any attachments for them for $100.
Mike, Mary and I then went back out to the old place, arriving about 10:30 p.m. The 'problem' was how to get the smaller engine into my 1963 Volkswagen Bug. We removed the passenger seat, then all three of us dragged, groaned and lifted the engine to the VW; with much slipping and running, we rolled the engine onto the passenger side floor of the little Bug. Mary and Mike crawled over the engine and piled into the back seat. The highest gear I could get going back was third, because the engine was flopped over to one side.
We dropped Mike off at his ranch and Mary and I returned to Boise tired, cold and happy. The next day upon examination we found the engine to be a Fairbanks-Morse 1-1/2 HP Type Z. Two weeks later I went back down and picked up the other engine with a tractor and a truck.
This one is a 6 HP Fairbanks-Morse Type Z. While both engines were complete except magnetos, the 6 HP was stuck and the head had been repaired.
A fellow engine collector, Bob Thrupp, has the little 1-1/2 HP running. The 6 HP has been donated to the Owyhee County Historical Society, as that particular engine had been used to power a sawmill that cut timbers for the mines in the early years of Owyhee County.
While the engines are a great find, the most valuable gift was the new friends we made while searching for these engines. With Bob Thrupp's skill and patience I hope to learn more about these magnificent engines from the very historical years of this area.