Collecting Unusual Vertical Engines

A rare Ellis engine found at the 2017 Albany (Minnesota) Pioneer Days Show tops a trio of vertical engines owned by Craig Solomonson.

| October/November 2018

  • Solomonson's 1912 Ellis 3-6 hp engine.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • The flywheels on the Ellis feature finger holds for a better grip spinning the flywheels when starting the engine.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • The Ellis’ speed change lever controls engine speed by altering air ports.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • The Ellis’ ignition timing/reverse lever. The engine can be reversed while running at a low idle.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • The Ellis is equipped with a force-feed oiler, an unusual quality touch on a small engine.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • A glass reservoir makes it easy to see if the engine is getting fuel.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • Craig Solomonson’s IHC is badged simply “Vertical.” The “Famous” trademark wasn’t adopted until 1906.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • IHC Vertical Manufactured by International Harvester Co., Chicago, USA, Patents Pending, No. L2033, Speed 360, hp 3.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • Craig’s IHC vertical retains its original hand-operated clutch pulley.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • The plain crankcase inspection cover was only used on 1905 engines. Later engines had a cast cover with raised lettering.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • A 1909 2 hp Fairbanks, Morse & Co. Type T is another of Craig’s engines. Pre-1908 2 hp verticals were sold under the “Jack-Of-All-Trades” name.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • Fairbanks Morse & Co. Vertical, hp 2 manufacturer's plate.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • Craig’s Type T is very original, down to the decal on the cooling tank.
    Photo by Bill Vossler


1909 Fairbanks, Morse & Co. 2 hp Type T Vertical

Manufacturer: Fairbanks, Morse & Co., Beloit, Wisconsin
Year: 1909
Serial No.: 85240
Horsepower: 2 hp @ 400rpm
Bore & Stroke: 4in x 6in
Flywheel: 24in x 1.75in
Ignition: Igniter w/ battery and coil
Governing: Hit-and-miss w/ cam-mounted weights
Cooling: Water w/ evaporator tank


Although many engine collectors enjoy bringing near-dead engines back to life, Craig Solomonson isn't one of them. "I don't have the equipment, skills or knowledge to do a lot of engine work, so I've avoided it by concentrating on engines in near-running or running condition – complete engines without a lot of breaks and welds. And loose. If I had to unfreeze it, I'd be lost," Craig says.

Craig grew up in the small southwestern Minnesota town of Storden, where both his grandfathers were farmers. "I spent a lot of time on their farms," Craig says. "One of them had an old steam engine and threshing rig, so that got me interested in old machinery." But he got into engine collecting by accident. "In 1972, a friend told me about a barn full of old car parts near Bemidji (Minnesota), so I made a trip to check it out."

He found the car parts all right, but also the keystone to his future gasoline engine hobby in two hit-and-miss engines. "There was an Associated Hired Man and a Galloway. They looked interesting, and the next thing I knew, I had the bug!" Both engines ran, which was good by Craig.



After that, Craig started putting together a small collection of engines. "Engine restoration back then was sandblasting, and bright shiny painting with pinstriping," like with a McCleod engine he restored. "It came with all the green paint, decals, and in wonderful condition, but I sandblasted it, repainted it and put new pinstriping on it. Oh how I regret that now! Today it's just the opposite – keep everything in its original work clothes, if possible. I know people who will spend weeks picking off paint to get the engine back to the original paint."

As time's gone by, Craig's added "original condition" to his requirements. "I know which engine I want when I see it, especially if it's unique and early and original; that's what catches my eye."