A new exhibit to the Pioneer Farm Days last year was the 120 HP, 257 RPM Fairbanks-Morse diesel engine. It is a type Y, style VA, s/n 613500, originally shipped to Gaithersburg, Maryland, on May 21, 1925. How the engine made it to Orangeburg is unknown. The bore and stroke is 14' x 17'-total weight of the engine is 17-tons.
The story and pictures show some of several stages of the moving of the engine and setting it on its new foundation of 23 yards of cement.
I had always been interested in old machinery and its restoration, but before the trip to Orangeburg I had contented myself with restoring old cameras and furniture. I had met Lloyd McGowen on the job and he had talked to me about old farm machinery and engines. Well, one thing led to another and before you know it I am meeting him at 4 a.m. on a Saturday and heading to remove a Fairbanks-Morse 17-ton monster from its peaceful retirement in an old cotton gin outside of Orangeburg, South Carolina. When we arrived at the scene we met Ernst and Norman Durham, Norman's son, Marcus, Jake and Kevin Harbin, Ross Dover, and J. B. Clark.
We were supposed to start the engine one more time for the owner, 85-year old Mr. Fogle, but had to give that up after several tries due to an air valve malfunction. The easy part of the day was suddenly over as now we had to get serious about moving the engine. First, we had to tear out the end of the building as it had been built around the engine after it was originally installed. Then the clutch and pulley assembly was unbolted and removed with the great help of a very large backhoe generously provided and operated by Mr. Fogle's son, Albert. The stack was then unbolted and lifted through the roof with the backhoe. The air tanks, compressor, and oil filter were the last of the small items, if you can call 300 lb. air tanks small, to be loaded.
The engine itself was next, and not seeing a large crane around, I wondered how in the world this thing was going to get from its foundation to the low-boy trailer outside. Well, folks, the job was done with one hydraulic jack, 4 dollies, and a small gasoline winch on the trailer. Of course there was some help from something I hadn't thought of in many years-the science of physics-the guys that built the Pyramids may have thought this up. First, the anchor nuts were removed, then the flywheel end of the engine was jacked up about half an inch and a wedge was placed under it at the center of each side. The jack was then released and when the flywheel end came down, the other end raised up about ? inch. This process was repeated until the engine was high enough for Ross, a wild man with a cutting torch, to cut off the anchor bolts. After that the dollies were placed under the engine, steel beams were run from the foundation to the trailer and the monster was simply winched on board. Of course this 'simple' work took 8 hours and almost wore out everyone concerned. And then we had to build the end of the gin back!
All in all, though, it was a great day, a new experience, and a whale of a change from tinkering with old cameras.