Good Friends and Old Diesels


| November/December 1989

4, Box 518, Easley, South Carolina 29640

This article is about determination, hard work and friendship and how, together, these characteristics have restored a forgotten old diesel engine to working order. In July 1987 my engine friends and I went to Orangeburg, South Carolina to look at some old Fairbanks Morse diesel engines. One of these happened to be a single cylinder, type Y, style VA, 60 HP, 257 rpm, SN582402, and built in 1924. This engine was a real eye-catcher because of the unusually large flywheel, which measured 15 inches wide and 89 inches in diameter, weighing 6.5 tons according to the FM recorder. Everything else about the engine was a turnoff because of its poor condition. The engine was last run in 1943, and the piston was stuck about one-fourth of the way down the cylinder. When you have a piston 14 inches in diameter and 38 inches long stuck, then you really have something stuck!

The crankcase showed some evidence of rust and deterioration due to condensation over the past 45 years. Only a rough assessment of the condition of the engine could be made on the first visit, since on that hot July day the wasps were so mad and plentiful we could not even keep them back with a spray bomb. Plus, the all tin building made it seem even hotter. Examination of the engine room and engine turned up all the missing parts. During a second trip in October. Mr. Harris Valentine, the owner, agreed to let us remove the head and check the condition of the cylinder wall from that end. Well, there were no surprises, because there was rust just like we expected. This pretty much turned everyone against the idea of trying to move a very questionable engine that weighed about 12 tons 130 miles.

Well, as you engine fellows know, there is something mysterious about old rusty machinery and iron that keeps you dreaming about them- they haunt you for just one more chance to run. I just could not take it any longer and decided to call the owner again and see if he would set a reasonable price that would at least make the engine worth moving, even if it could never be made to run again. To my surprise we came to agreeable terms. I also decided to take the project on myself and put the engine in my back yard. That meant I would have to work out the costs for loading and moving on my own. Fortunately, my good engine friends, Ernest and Norman Durham, agreed to haul the engine home on their large trailer in trade for a 37? HP Fairbanks Morse semi-diesel that I had owned for some 20 years but had never restored. Another good engine friend, Reid Eason agreed to make his boom truck available to remove the cylinder and piston together with the subbase.

With these plans and a lot of determination we decided to try to move the engine on a cold day in February. I went down to Orangeburg early Friday and tore one wall of the building out and loosened all possible nuts and bolts, so that the large clutch pulley would be ready to remove early Saturday morning.

Mr. Lawrence Fogle from Orangeburg made his large crawler-type backhoe available for lifting anything really heavy. The big loading problem was getting the engine to the side of the engine room so that the backhoe could lift the engine and set it on the trailer. Moving the engine to the outer wall was accomplished by using two large steel beams and four dollies. We were afraid the large flywheel would cause an unstable condition such that the engine would tip over, but fortunately this did not occur. Having moved the engine to the outer wall, we were ready to load it on the trailer and head home. Well to everyone's surprise, the backhoe could not lift the engine. During the lift attempt the large steel beams kicked out from under the engine, allowing everything to drop to the ground. Well not knowing what to do next, we tried several different hook-ups to the backhoe, but without success. We soon determined that the backhoe could partially lift the engine with the flywheel on the ground serving as a pivot. With this technique we were able to position the trailer under the base of the engine, lower the engine, then lift the flywheel and slide the whole assembly over the trailer bed. By the time we got the engine loaded late Saturday afternoon, everyone was cold, hungry and tired, and still the wall of the engine room had to be put back up. While Norman and I reassembled the wall, Ernest and the crew tied everything down, only to discover that the trailer wheels had settled down in the soft pasture ground around the gin. We were stuck! To our good fortune, Mr. Valintine used his large John Deere tractor to pull the truck and trailer together to firmer ground. Being very late in the day we decided to stay in Orangeburg another night and leave early Sunday morning. This really made the wives back on the front happy, if you can say 'seeing red' makes one happy.


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