6190 Keller Avenue, Newfane, New York 14108
When I was growing up, there was a kid named Jerry who lived on the farm up the road. Jerry was one of those kids who did not inspire friendship. He was amazingly accurate in an apple fight. He was light-fingered and knew more swear words than a 10-year-old was allowed to know, let alone say! I tried to avoid this kid like the plague! Despite my feelings, my father would always say, 'Davey, you can never have too many friends.' It is truly amazing how a parent's words can affect a person in his formative years! Now I find myself saying the very same thing to my wife and family and neighbors. You see, I collect Friend sprayer engines and that is exactly how I feel. A person cannot have too many Friends.
Let me tell you about my newest Friend. Just before Christmas, a human friend called me up. A friend (human) of his had been hunting deer in a swamp back of his house and had stumbled upon an old engine. My friend (Bob) asked me if I was interested in it. (Does a bear. . .?) Of course, I was!! That Saturday before Christmas, Bob and Wayne and I mushed our way a quarter mile back into the swamp to have a look-see.
We approached what had obviously been a farm dump, inactive for many years. As soon as I saw it (my vision is 50/20 uncorrected, except where engines are involved, and then it's 20/20 or better.) I recognized the profile. Single flywheel, gas tank brackets semi-circular, gas tank missing as usual, Schleber carb all this spelled a new Friend! The engine was mounted on iron-rimmed running gear with wheels well submerged in frozen soil. All that remained of the wooden sprayer tank was the semi-circular end pieces. The old orchard sprayer was covered with grape vines and several young ash trees were growing up through the bed pieces of chassis. One tree had grown up and around one of the angle irons that formerly had supported the tank. It was love at first sight! In fact, it was a beauty!
On closer examination, I noticed that the engine was stuck which was no surprise. I could tell that the engine was made in the late twenties or thirties because it had a magneto bracket. The engine tag was in place and fairly readable. Having forgotten paper and pencil, I memorized the serial number for exact dating. The oiler base was still in place but the glass and top were missing (later to be found on the ground). Most importantly, the hopper and water jacket did not seem to be cracked. Friend engines have two chronic problem areas-cracked hopper/water jackets and cracked bases. This one looked okay on both counts, but there was no way to examine the internal cylinder wall, and no way to be sure on external cracks until the engine was home and cleaned up. Before I could think about getting it home I had to think about owning it.
I found the owner the same day I first saw the engine. She was willing to sell the old piece of junk, and agreed to let me cut down just enough trees to remove the rig from the hedgerow that bordered the swamp. A couple of solo treks back into the swamp with chainsaw and axe (not a bright idea) permitted me to clear a track out to the nearest field. As I was cutting the trees out of the chassis, a happy thought struck me. If I left the trunk of the tree attached to the angle iron of the bed, it would give people an idea of the condition in which these old engines and spray rigs are found. So it is that this Friend spray rig has a three foot piece of tree trunk still attached to its rear end.
With the trees and vines out of the way, I contacted Wally. Wally agreed to pull the rig out of the swamp with his little bulldozer. It could navigate the rough ground and the snow quite well. In early January, Wally cranked up the dozer and we set off for the swamp. The original tongue of the spray rig had long since rotted away. Using a fresh-cut three-inch sapling, I improvised a new tongue. Screw-type strap radiator hose clamps, big ones, held the sapling to the iron stub of the original tongue. Wally attached the other end of the sapling to his dozer with several wraps of a chain. The rig, its iron wheels growling in protest, heaved itself out of the earth and we were underway. Nearing the end of our trek, the dozer began to pull the rig up the increasingly steep incline of the ridge. It suddenly dawned on me that walking directly behind a thousand pounds of spray rig attached to a dozer only by two hose clamps and a wrap of chain might not be a good idea. I made a rapid lateral move. Visions of disaster appeared. If the hook broke loose, we would have a runaway. My new Friend would be heading back to the swamps pronto! There wasn't much I could do except worry-so I worried. My worrying worked as everything held together. We reached the crest of the ridge and Wally parked the old sprayer by the roadside.
There is a man in our town who, if engine-finding and restoring was a religion, would certainly be headed for sainthood. Chuck helps everybody who comes to him with an engine problem. He finds parts. He keeps a memorized catalog of who has what and who needs what. Those of us who are very good at finding old iron but not very good at figuring a way to get it home go to Chuck. I swear Chuck can tell by the way a person walks up his driveway that Chuck is being lined up for another transport job. 'Whadja git this time?' greets me at Chuck's door. I explain how this beautiful old Friend engine was forced on me and how lucky we are that it's still on wheels. Chuck saddles up his truck and trailer. Back to Wally's we go. A few hours later, my new Friend is parked safely across the road from my house. It will have to wait for warmer weather in order to get cleaned up.
There was a warm spell in late January. The new Friend got its hopper and water jacket cleaned out and some of the exterior grease and grime removed. With chagrin, but not surprise, I found a short freeze crack in the water jacket just below the spark plug hole. Also, the base was cracked just below the point where the heavy cast iron pump bolts onto the base of the engine. These are common problems encountered on Friend engines. The heavy unsupported pumps seem to have placed, in some cases, more strain on the engine base than it could stand. About one-third of the Friend engines that I have in my collection had severe freeze cracking. Often the hopper is cracked at the point where it bolts onto the water jacket of the engine block. The water jacket of the engine block is also a common place for cracking. The Friend is a headless engine. The water jacket and the cylinder are all cast as one piece. So another place of fatal cracking is the actual cylinder wall. I knew I was in trouble on one engine when I poured oil in the spark plug hole to have it come out the water jacket drain-, cock. Disassembly and examination showed a two inch square chunk cracked out of the cylinder wall and lodged at the bottom of the water jacket.
I do not think that Friend engines were any more susceptible to freeze cracking than most other engines. These single flywheel engines were, for the most part, also single use engines. The opposing end of the crankshaft was awkward and not well suited to mounting a belt pulley. In fact, the very heartiness of these engines contribute to the odds of finding a cracked Friend in the fence row. Before the engine wore out, I think that most of the rest of the sprayer had worn out too. The Friend engines I find are often still in place on the remnants of their own spray rigs. Obsolete, their owners simply towed them back into the farm dump or into the fence row to rust away. The original owner of the Friend in this story parked his old Friend on top of the farm dump next to a side delivery rake, a corn binder, and a seeder. Ever conscientious, he even left the draincock on the water jacket open so that water wouldn't accumulate. The best laid plans of men are often subverted by mice. When I flushed out the water hopper, wasp nests, field grasses, leaves and twigs, hulls of nuts and wild cherry pits all came out. All of these things conspired to keep rainwater and snowmelt in the hopper until freezing winters forced a crack. No longer needed to dissipate the heat of countless explosions, the hoppers were damaged or destroyed by the gentle ways of small rodents and insects.
On the other hand, some of these insects are none too gentle. While I am on the topic of water hoppers on old engines, I would like to propose an 'engine law' for all to follow:
'Thou shalt not stick thy hand into an unknown water hopper lest thou should get severely stung by its tenants.' (KJV)
The water hoppers of old engines that have set outside for awhile are universally loved by wasps, hornets, and bees as places of superior design for homes. They greatly resent an exploring hand intent on cleaning the hopper out. I have seen men, young and old, show hand movement more rapid than the Amazing Kreskin upon feeling the stinging ire of a wasp protecting his cast iron condo.
Friend Manufacturing Company sprayer number 15584, formerly residing in a swamp five miles north of its birthplace, was built in 1936. It started its existence as a DXA Skid Model, built so that a fanner could place it on the bed of a wagon he already owned. Engine and pump together weighed 728 pounds. The engine was rated at six horsepower. Its companion pump developed 400 pounds of pressure and delivered fifteen gallons of spray material a minute. Internal lubrication depended on a closed crankcase and oil splash to oil the cylinder walls and all bearings. Schleber carbs were standard as well as WICO magnetos and both were found on this engine. The original tank was made of cypress wood. Records show that this sprayer was sold to the Jefferson Plant Farm of Albany, Georgia on March 20,1937. This is where this engine becomes mysterious. If it was sold to a farm in Georgia what is it doing in a swamp near where it was made? Did it go to Georgia and return? Did a Friend Manufacturing Company clerk make an error in recording numbers? This unsolved, and probably unsolvable mystery adds to the enjoyment of acquiring a new Friend.
Friend Manufacturing Company started in Gasport, New York well before 1904- Its founder was George Hull. His sons are credited in Friend sales literature with inventing the first gasoline powered sprayer. It appears that commercial production of engine-pump sprayers began in 1904- In 1916, the Hull brothers invented the first spray-gun for use in conjunction with a gasoline powered orchard sprayer. Friend Manufacturing Company was also flexible in meeting the needs of orchard growers. Not only did they market their own engine, they also sold sprayers equipped with Stover gas engines in the late twenties and perhaps before. One local source states that Friend would make arrangements to equip sprayers with Ford Model A engines upon request. From my point of view, of course, these are not true Friends, nice engines but not true Friends! The Friend Manufacturing Company is still very much in business in Gasport and still making agricultural sprayers. Parts for their old one-lunger single flywheel gas engines are no longer available, however.
If any of you GEM readers have a question about your Friend engine, you are welcome to ask me. I am not very knowledgeable about these engines but I am learning. I own several Friend sales catalogs and a few parts lists which are a wealth of information. I would like to hear from Friend owners about the serial numbers of their engines. I would like to find out how many still exist and get an idea of when design modifications took place. In return, I may be able to help you date your engine. If you GEM readers do write, please enclose a stamped self-addressed envelope. I like having a lot of friends but the Friends I've got cost me enough as it is!