For the love of restoration
I spent a couple months in the fall of 2005 recovering from damage done by Hurricane Rita; but by winter, I really wanted another engine to restore. It had been a couple of years since I restored my last flywheel engine, as I had been concentrating on other projects. In fact, after finishing my 16-inch Sprout-Waldron grist mill, I pretty much hadn’t done anything for about six months. At the same time I did not want to turn loose of a lot of cash. I knew that a friend of mine, Raymond (Buzz) Bradley had a Fairbanks-Morse Z Style D that he wasn’t really attached to. So, I asked him one day if he would sell it to me. He agreed. Though it was not that challenging of a restoration, at least I had another engine to work on.
Buzz also had a Stover CT-2 that I was interested in. Long before I had completed the work on the FMZD, I asked him if he would be interested in selling it to me. He kind of hesitated, but said if I really wanted it he would sell it to me. He quoted a price and it was good, but a little more cash than I wanted to part with at the time.
Though I have a meager collection of flywheel engines, I get most of my pleasure not necessarily out of owning engines, but out of restoring them; I’ve restored and sold a number of engines over the years. So after a day or so, I called him back and asked him if he would simply let me restore the Stover for him. I explained the possible costs and he agreed. So, suddenly I had a second engine to restore.
The next day he called me back and told me if I just wanted an engine to restore, he had another one he would much rather I restore for him, a Holland 3 HP. In fact, he told me he would give me the Stover for restoring the Holland. The next weekend, both engines made their way to my shop. We were both happy.
Holland is kind of a rare breed of flywheel engine, not to be confused with the New Holland. The Central Massachusetts Steam, Gas and Machinery Assn.’s website states:
“These engines were built by the Brownwall Engine & Pulley Co., which was established around 1911 in Lansing, Mich. The company also made governor pulleys for cream separators as well as 1 and 1-1/2 HP air-cooled engines and 1-1/2, 2, 2-1/2, 3, 5 and 10 HP water-cooled engines. In 1914 the company moved to Holland, Mich., and at that time the 1 HP air-cooled engine was discontinued. All of the engines made in Lansing have lettering of the name and town cast into the flywheels. Most of the engines made in Holland used a brass plate or a decal instead, but at least one has been found with Holland, Mich., cast into the flywheels.
“The Brownwall Engine & Pulley Co. went bankrupt in 1924 and was taken over by the Holland Furnace Co., which continued to make engines under the ‘Holland Engine Co.’ name. These engines would be even more rare than the Brownwall engines.”
The story, in Buzz’s words “About three years ago I was talking to Paul Daigle, my father-in-law’s neighbor, about old flywheel engines, and he said he would keep an eye out for one. About a month went by and he contacted me and said he’d found one. The engine belonged to his best friend, Bill Laughlin.
“It didn’t take long for me to make the trip to my hometown of Eunice, La., to take a look at the engine. The engine had no tag and was missing quite a few parts, but was by no means a ‘Leverite,’ even though it was frozen and missing the magneto, governor weight, igniter, igniter trip rod and lever, and one of the main bearing caps. Well, being a true engine enthusiast, this was no deterrent to trying to acquire it since it was a headless, open-crank, hit-and-miss engine, probably in the 3 HP range. The engine had been stored outside under an old tree for 35 years or so. Bill and I talked and he agreed to let me have the engine on the condition I bring it back one day running. That was a pretty tall order I hoped I could live up to.
“As soon as I got the engine home, I started soaking the cylinder with PB Blaster and looking in Wendel’s big book. No exact match. The next week I took it to a local club’s show to show off my new-found treasure. Some of the guys said it looked sort of like a Brownwall. OK, I was making some progress in identifying the engine.
“About three weeks later, Bill sent word that his son had spotted another flywheel engine about five miles from their home. I was told it was in front of a small country restaurant called G.J.’s. Once again, Paul and I set out on another quest. We found the restaurant and the flywheel engine. Upon inspection it seemed to be an exact match to the one I already had. This one, also froze up, had an original brass tag, a froze-up igniter, the camshaft lever and both bearing caps. Voilá! I had a complete engine between the two of them. Now to try to acquire the second engine – could I be this lucky?
“This acquisition turned out to be a much greater challenge than the first. The engine was found in the Atchafalaya Basin, a large swampy area between Henderson and Grosse Tete, La. In 1990 the Corp. of Engineers drained part of this swamp in the Henderson area. Gary Fruge, the owner of the restaurant, had a camp at Henderson for over 40 years. When they drained the area, he spotted the engine in an old boat. His effort to recover the sunken boat was unsuccessful, but he was able to retrieve the engine.
“My next question was, would he part with it? He said it wasn’t for sale. I said I really needed some of the parts. He came back with, ‘You don’t understand, it’s not for sale!’ I said, ‘You don’t understand. I’m not leaving without it!’ Well about an hour later, after a lot of negotiating and some trading, he said, ‘If you can get the engine in the back of your truck, it’s yours.’
“Off to Westlake, La., to pick up the trade engine and back to Gary’s to load up my new treasure. Well, enough suspense. The tag identified the engine as a 3 HP Holland. (Holland Pulley & Furnace Co. of Holland, Mich.) The rest is history, and it seemed I’d be able to live up to the promise of bringing back a running engine.”
So now Buzz had two 3 HP engines with enough good parts to make one. Little did we know that farther down the line the second engine would become a key contributor of parts.
The restorationBuzz did a considerable amount of work on the engine before it came to me a couple years later. It was in fairly good shape when I got it. In fact, it had been run with a battery and coil. The Webster magneto was weak and the trip finger on the magneto was worn so badly it wouldn’t operate correctly, so it had never run on the magneto. There was also a problem with the hit-and-miss governor. Just looking at it I could not figure out the problem. So, I got on the Internet and did some research.
I found very little information on the Holland, but I did find Art Lora, who owned a complete and running 3 HP Brownwall. He was kind enough to send me a series of photos of the governor. From these I was able to determine the detent lever was bent causing misalignment of the other parts of the governor. I would have never known that without the photos. The only other problem with the engine was the crankshaft gear. Buzz was able to get another gear made by a friend of his. In fact, while he had the mill set up, he made three of the gears.
The engine was a breeze to disassemble. Managing some of the heavy parts was a little more difficult: I’m not nearly as young as I used to be. Buzz took the flywheels and crankshaft to his shop and removed the governor side flywheel and gear. I placed the crankcase on a pallet outside my shop and continued with the work on it. The water hopper is the only area smoothed out with Bondo. I did this not only to pretty up the engine a little, but also so the decals would stick better.
The gas tank is cast into the base. There are two freeze plugs that we removed so I could pressure wash the inside of the tank. Though I was able to get it pretty clean, I encouraged Buzz not to use the built-in tank for two reasons. First, there was no way we would ever get the tank completely clean through those two small freeze plug openings. Second, I figured this engine would run most of the day on a quart or two of gasoline. Using the built-in tank we would probably have to put a substantial amount of gasoline in it just to raise the level enough to run the engine. Chances are we would always have residual gasoline left in the tank. The way gasoline sours these days, we didn’t think that would be a good idea. So we decided to mount an auxiliary tank under the skid and plumb the mixer to it.
Everything else was just a matter of sandblasting, painting and reassembly. The rings were in good shape. All of the babbitt was in good shape, and Buzz had already found replacement valves and had ground them and the seats.
We encountered one major setback, though. Buzz had removed the governor side flywheel so I could replace the crankshaft gear. Since he had not encountered a problem doing that, I asked if he would remove the other flywheel simply to make it easier for me to clean and paint them. Unfortunately, the other flywheel wasn’t as cooperative and the hub broke in the process of removing it. We both nearly cried. At this point we were quite a ways into the restoration and the whole project was in jeopardy. Unfortunately, the same flywheel from the second engine also had a cracked hub, but the other governor side flywheel didn’t. However, the hub was an inch or so longer to accommodate the governor. Buzz ended up cutting off the excess of the flywheel hub and squaring the new surface. Though it was not exactly original, the difference would be covered up by the pulley and not visible.
Both the magneto and igniter required some serious attention. The magneto was effectively dead. The magnets had lost their magnetism and the armature shaft was badly worn. The shaft of the moving electrode on the igniter was also badly worn. Bob Legnon did all of the machine work on the magneto and igniter, including building up the armature and igniter shafts and turning them back down to size. He also installed new bushings in the magneto base.
In the meantime, we had a friend who could recharge the magnets for us. But, at this point I felt it was time for me to own my own magnet charger. I ordered a copy of David Gingery’s book, How to Build a Magneto Magnetizer, and decided to build one for myself based on his design. This in itself ended up a rather significant side project I figured would not only assist in the restoration of the Holland, but would also be a fine addition to my collection of tools.
I learned a valuable lesson with the Webster magneto. When I disassembled the magneto I didn’t pay any attention as to how the armature came out, thinking it wouldn’t make any difference which way it went back in when I reassembled it. Wrong. The first time I reassembled the magneto, I put the armature in backwards and was able to obtain only the weakest spark. I posted a message on www.smokstak.com and somebody clued me in to the fact that the armature had to go in a certain way. I checked, and sure enough I had it in backwards. I remedied that and got a hot spark off the igniter.
In my research, I found the engine painted several different colors. It seems many of the engines had come from the factory in a “ship deck gray” color. I also found them painted kind of a rusty brown as well as a light green and light blue. Buzz decided on Model T engine green with black accents and yellow decals and pinstripe. He also decided on hammer tone aluminum for the flywheel faces. He designed and had the decals made in yellow vinyl. The engine was pinstriped in yellow by Marc LeFevre.
As we approached finishing the engine, it was obvious we needed a cart to carry it. Buzz made the wheels and trucks. The skids are black walnut.
RunningFinally, on Saturday, May 27, 2006, the engine was all back together and ready to start. As with any restoration, hope was high that the Holland would kick right off. I had already made the engine pop a few times using starter fluid, so I was fairly confident it would run. I also checked and double checked the hit-and-miss governor to make sure it was working right. To make a long story short, it didn’t kick right off and run. But with just a little bit of adjusting on the needle valve and some adjusting of the tension on one of the governor springs, the engine was off and running. What a beautiful sight and sound.
Saturday, June 10, 2006, was a special day. Buzz and I took the engine back to show it to the original owners. What a joy it was to see the glow in their eyes at the sight and sound of the newly restored Holland.
Contact John Bailey at: (337) 855-6072; firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact Raymond (Buzz) Bradley at: (337) 491-9563; email@example.com