From One Friend To Another

By Staff
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Engine #11584 parked beside Ridge Road shortly after it was retrieved from the swamp. The Schleber carb has been removed. Note section of tree trunk attached to the frame at left.
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When new, Friend engine #15584 with chassis #S387 resembled this photo of a DXA Skid Model appearing in a Friend Manufacturing Company sales catalog. The buyer supplied his own running gear for increased savings. (Photo provided with permission of Friend

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!

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