Gasoline Engine Advantages

By 1903 the gasoline engine was already recognized for its obvious benefits

| October/November 2003

When E. W. Loganecker penned this article for the April 1903 issue of The American Thresherman, the true potential of gas engines in agricultural applications was just beginning to be recognized. Outside of traditional beasts of burden, steam had been the farmer's best option for power. But portable and traction steam engines were generally large, expensive units, and they were traditionally hired out by their owners to farm cooperatives or individual farmers for threshing and plowing duties. Of obvious utility on a large scale, they weren't particularly suited to small farm operations. Enter the gas engine. 

That the development of the gas engine fundamentally altered how work was done on the farm is beyond question. A relatively inexpensive, efficient source of power, it freed the small farmer from reliance on outside sources, and in so doing forever changed the face of American agriculture. - Editor 

Many persons needing power and, in fact, many power users of today do not understand the advantages of the gasoline engine. This is perhaps due in a great measure to the fact that they have had no opportunity to study its merits. It is the purpose of this article to point out some of them, referring more particularly to its use as a farm power.

We might well begin by saying that a gasoline engine is one-manpower. That is, it is a power that one man all alone can operate to good advantage and do the work of two or three men with other kinds of power. If grinding feed, he starts his engine, then attends to feeding the grinder and sacking the ground product. The engine supplies the power and takes care of itself for a full half day at a time. The man who saws wood with a gasoline engine does not attend to the engine. He "keeps still and saws wood." He can work at it just as hard as he wants to. The engine is giving him plenty of power all of the time. If he doesn't move pretty lively, he is letting a lot of power go to waste.

Shredding or cutting fodder is most advantageously done with a gasoline engine. I have in mind a farmer and his son who shredded and husked sixty acres of heavy corn last fall, using a gasoline engine for power. It was done with practically one hauling of the product. The engine and shredder were set in position with the blower chute run into the fodder bin, and a wagon with a large box set under the corn elevator. A load of fodder, unhusked, was brought from the field, the engine started and the farmer fed the bundles into the shredder as they were pitched to him from a load by his son. As soon as the load was run through, the engine was stopped and at the same time all fuel expense stopped, until the next load was brought in. In this way they cribbed about one hundred fifty bushels of corn per day and did it quite economically. They used about eight gallons of gasoline per day at ten cents per gallon, a fraction over a half cent per bushel. They employed no outside labor. They cribbed their corn and put the shredded fodder into the bin ready to feed at an actual money expense of a little over a half cent per bushel, or eighty cents per day. This performance stamps the gasoline engine as even better than a one-man-power.

With comparatively little care of the right kind and at the proper time, the gasoline engine will run many a day from morning till night with practically no attention from anyone. In driving pumping machinery, that needs no special attendant, it can be set to work after being oiled and properly adjusted, and left for hours without the care of an attendant.