A tale of two Fairbanks-Morse Model 45B engines owned by Mike Messner.
Mike Messner’s Fairbanks, Morse & Co. Model 45 diesel engines.
Manufacturer: Fairbanks, Morse & Co., Beloit WI
Year: Circa 1954
Serial no.: E1688 and E2316 (demonstrator)
Horsepower: 5-1/4 hp @ 1,800rpm
Bore & stroke: 3-1/8in x 4in
Ignition: Diesel compression ignition
Fuel consumption rating: 0.34 gal/hour
In American Gasoline Engines since 1872, C.H. Wendel says “although the Model 45 engines appear to be a very desirable item for today’s engine collectors, virtually none of them have surfaced.” The Model 45 is a single-cylinder, 3-1/8-inch bore by 4-inch stroke, 5-1/4 hp vertical diesel engine. The engine was made in the 1950s for a variety of applications.
I have ended up acquiring two of them. The first, which I found at an estate auction of a friend in Rice Lake, Wisconsin, is in its working clothes. The man had told me he had a little diesel engine, but I had not seen it until the auction. It had been buried in the back of a shed until the family uncovered it preparing for the auction. I was the lucky bidder.
I knew little about diesel engines and how they worked until acquiring this one. I have about 40 to 50 hit-and-miss and gas engines in my collection, but this was my first diesel. I had to rebuild the low-pressure fuel pump and I took the injector pump apart and cleaned it. I purged everything up to the injector, and with some starting fluid and some cranking I got it running nicely.
I took it to a neighboring steam and gas engine show for a number of years to display. A man approached me and talked about the engine. He said he had not seen one for a number of years and was very excited to see it. He told me of seeing them in Korea on generator sets in orphanages. He told me how they would shut them down once a year to change the oil, but otherwise they ran year-round. He also told me he had one just like the one I had. It had been a demonstrator in two branch offices of Fairbanks, Morse & Co., St. Paul, Minnesota, and Des Moines, Iowa. He also told me that as a teenager, one of his jobs was to move it in and out of the Minnesota State Fair for the Fairbanks-Morse display.
Over the years we would talk, and if I didn’t bring the engine to the show, he would ask about it. He told me at one time I should come and see him and he would sell me the demonstrator. This past spring I finally made it down to see him. He had told me there was a lot of chrome on the engine and it also had a generator. I found it to be in very good condition and the chrome was exceptional, even after all these years in his shed.
His family had purchased it from Fairbanks, Morse & Co., sometime in the 1950s. We agreed on a price and I purchased it from him. He also included the original owner’s manual. He had started removing the generator, but he had not worked on it for many years and it had some mouse damage to the control box. I have since finished removing the generator and I am working on getting it restored. The “Chromy” – as I call it – is now in good running order after going through the low-pressure fuel pump and cleaning the injector pump, which was slightly stuck.
In researching, I found very little information on these engines on the Internet. I did see one advertised for sale in Florida and I saw one in the background of a picture in a GEM article a few years ago. I was thrilled to get it running and will be excited to take the pair out to show as a display. I am hoping that by showing these off I may be able to learn more from other collectors.
Contact gas engine enthusiast Mike Messner via email at firstname.lastname@example.org