Gas Engines and Brotherly Love

How do you get two brothers to connect with each other? Gas engines, of course! That’s how it worked with the Churchill brothers.


| October/November 2016



Brad

Brad Churchill with the Churchill brothers’ circa-1914-1915 Keller 1-1/2 hp engine.

Photo by Bill Vossler

Call it brotherly love, because when the Churchill brothers of Hager City, Wisconsin, were younger, they didn’t get along all that well, says younger brother Brad, 55. They grew up together on a dairy farm, and Mark, 63, says they both inherited their grandfather’s love of old iron.

“My grandpa used to collect steam engines,” Mark says, “and about my junior year in high school, my uncle had a John Deere engine that I wanted to buy, but he didn’t want to sell it. He said I could take it to ag class and repair it, but I said I’d rather buy one and keep it.”

This led to the first engine in Mark’s collection, a 2-1/2 hp Aerometer with a fluted hopper, which he bought in 1971. At that time, their grandpa was attending steam engine shows, and Mark would help. “That’s where I saw those small portable engines, and I started collecting them.”

Brad attended shows with Mark “before I discovered girls in high school,” he laughs. “He [Mark] gave me a 1-1/2 hp Lauson engine with the solid disk flywheel, and I got it up and running. So he got me started in gas engines.”

Soon they were attending shows and auctions together, and buying gasoline engines. Some individually, some jointly. “When both of us liked an engine, we each paid half, and owned the engine jointly,” Brad says. “For me, it meant paying less money,” Mark says, “but I still got the fun of working on it.” Today, they have 24 shared engines.

Brad lives in a rural area, and originally all the engines – Brad’s, Mark’s and those bought together – were stored in a shed there. Mark lived more than an hour away, so on weekends he drove to Hager City to work on the engines with Brad, staying overnight.