Big and Small Lightning Engines

Marvin Hedberg's 10 hp Kansas City Hay Press Lightning Balanced Engine and its quarter-scale replica.

| February/March 2016

  • Marvin Hedberg's 10 hp Kansas City Hay Press Lightning Balanced Engine.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • The 10 hp Kansas City Hay Press Lightning Balanced Engine as it looked when Marvin Hedberg acquired it.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • Marvin was also able to buy the hay press that was originally powered by the Lightning engine.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • Marvin’s quarter-scale Lightning is a faithful replica of the original.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • A close-up of the scale Lightning. The pistons are visible, both at the end of their throw.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • Serial number 9 on the replica build plate honors Marvin’s friend Morris Blomgren.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • A close-up of the real Lightning. Notice the valves under the cylinder.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • The Lightning and the hay press running together after 75-plus years sitting outside.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • Marvin with the Lightning at the 2015 Butterfield (Minnesota) Steam and Gas Engine Show.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • Marvin holding molds he made for the scale Lightning Balanced Engine.
    Photo by Bill Vossler

Circa-1903 10 hp KC Lightning
Manufacturer: Kansas City Hay Press Co., Kansas City, MO
Serial no.: 9 (added by Marvin Hedberg)
Horsepower: 10 hp @ 250 rpm
Bore & stroke: 7in x 6in x 2
Flywheel: 3in x 42in
Ignition: Low-tension igniter
Governing: Flyball, hit-and-miss

Marvin Hedberg grew up in the 1950s on a farm near Moose Lake, Minnesota. Now 72, Marvin’s farm memories include the threshing circle of seven to eight families that moved from farm to farm with the threshing machines, and a neighbor who had a 6 hp International Harvester M engine on a rig to saw wood for the stove. “On a real cold winter day, you could hear it sawing wood a mile away,” Marvin says.

Marvin moved away from the farm, following a career as a machinist, but he never forgot threshing or the sound of that old IHC M. “Twenty years ago, I saw an ad for a threshing group and started attending,” Marvin says. “I was also able to buy a 6 hp M engine at an estate sale. I mounted it on an F14 tractor chassis, making it an F6,” he jokes. Marvin then found a 1-1/2 hp IHC M engine, which he installed in a half-size F12 chassis he built himself. “That way, I could drive the engine and show it.”

That was fun, but then he started noticing scale engines. “I figured they would be a lot easier to carry around and handle,” Marvin says, “so I got interested in building those. Being a toolmaker with machinist equipment available, I could do that.”



Starting small

Marvin’s first kit scale engine was a Wyvern from England. “I wanted to build an engine based on how the English made them – a throttle-governed engine where the sideshaft operates both the intake and exhaust valves.” Although Marvin was advised to start with something simpler for his first engine, with his machinist background he wasn’t afraid to tackle the Wyvern. He finished the engine, even adding his own touches. “That engine didn’t come with a governor, but I made a flyball governor for it that works just fine,” Marvin says.

The next engine was a half-scale IHC M. The detail was very good on the kit, but it was missing a few parts. “I measured the breather, rear cover and thumb screw of a big one, and made scaled-down versions for the model,” Marvin says. He corrected the muffler on the scale, made water fittings for the pump jack and did some detail work on the governor system. “I also made a hand crank and crank guard.”