2121 Gageville Rd., R.D. 2 Ashtabula, OH 44004
The fifth annual show of the Ashtabula County (Ohio) Antique Engine Club was held July 5th and 6th, 1986 at the farm of Mr. and Mrs. Don Dillon in Wayne Township. Five years may not seem to be much as milestones go, but to the members who formed the club and guided its growth and success over those five years, it was reason enough to make our 1986 show a special occasion.
Another reason for doing something extra was also at hand. 1986 marked the 175th anniversary of the founding of Ashtabula County, Ohio. Celebrations and historical displays were being held throughout the county all summer. During the year Ashtabula County Genealogical Society compiled and published a 650 page updated history of the county. Local newspapers were running historical articles and sketches throughout the year. There was an atmosphere of history and tradition in our county all year long, and we in the Antique Engine Club wanted to be a part of it.
In the months preceding our show dates, committees were formed and members appointed to them. Ideas were presented, discussed and voted on and plans finally took shape. All of these preparations are familiar to those of you who have helped put together an engine show.
The first decision we made was to do something a little different with our brass exhibitor placques. Our plaques have always been attractive, but this year we wanted them to be extra nice. The 1986 plaques were done in a special three-color design and pictured an Aultman & Taylor water wagon.
Because of the heightened interest in things of an historical nature, we expected a large turn-out of people at our show. Since our showgrounds are mostly unshaded, it was further agreed that we would provide an area where people could get out of the sun for a while if they wanted to and rest for a spell. This feature took the form of a large canvas canopy located midway along the display rows. Chairs and a water cooler were also provided in what came to be called the hospitality center. Interesting historical memorabilia were displayed in the hospitality center and space was made available for the genealogical society to sell their county history books. Club members were always on hand there to answer questions or be of other help. This addition to our show was well received by everyone, owing to temperatures in the low nineties on both show days. We hope to make it a regular part of our shows in the future.
Another first time happening at our 1986 show was an antique tractor pull. Tractor owners and spectators alike agreed it was great fun. The tractor pull was held on Sunday only, but the committee in charge would like to make it a two-day event in 1987.
Tying the county anniversary celebrations with antique engines was no problem for our club. We are fortunate to have had two gas engine manufacturers here in the past. The first was the Raser Gas Engine Works around 1905 (see page 406 of American Gas Engines). Unfortunately, no examples of this engine are known to exist. The second was the Bieder (pronounced Bee'der) or Home Power engine from 1908 to 1912 (see pages 58 and 233 of American Gas Engines). A number of these engines have survived and are owned by club members. Both of these engines were made in the city of Ashtabula. The Bieder-Home Power engines are always referred to as 'Ashtabula Engines' by our club members. So it was decided by the club that we would feature the Ashtabula engines at our 1986 show. We were determined to gather as many of them as we could find in our area for a one time only 'rally.'
Dimensions for these 1 HP vertical air-cooled gas engines are as follows: bore and stroke-3?' x 3?'; height-24' to top of cooling fins; flywheels-15?' diameter with 2' face; weight-185 pounds; ignition- spark plug with battery and coil. Speed control is by hit and miss governing with two governor weights in the flywheel. No RPM rating is given on the nameplate. The running speed of these engines is usually a matter of friendly one-upmanship among our club members to see who can get theirs to run the slowest. The Ashtabula engines are very quiet and smooth-running little engines. They would be desirable engines to have even if they weren't made in our county. The fact that they were made here makes them doubly appealing for us.
Aside from the county anniversary festivities, there was another, more personal reason to have a display of the Ashtabula engines and that was to pay tribute to one of our departed members who had worked diligently to preserve these engines. This member was Ralph Daniels, who passed away in the fall of 1985. Ralph's stable of engines numbered approximately 50, but his three complete and restored Ashtabula engines were his favorites. Ralph was a familiar sight at engine shows in our area as he arrived in his vintage 1949 Ford pickup with a load of engines. No matter which engines he brought with him to a show, you could bet he had at least one Ashtabula engine on board. Ralph tirelessly pursued the smallest clue which might lead to another Ashtbula engine or to parts needed to complete one he was working on. Ralph's enthusiasm for our hobby was contagious. His friendliness and good humor made him a pleasure to be with. It was with sadness and with affection that we dedicated this special engine display to the memory of Ralph Daniels.
The month of June, 1986, was one of the wettest on record in northern Ohio. Streams and rivers overflowed their banks, basements filled with water, and more importantly, farmers suffered substantial crop losses. The rains were so severe that a section of I. S. 90 in Ashtabula County washed out and was closed for two weeks while emergency repairs were made. As our show dates approached, apprehension rose with the water. After all the planning and work that goes into hosting an engine show, it's disheartening to have it rained out. But, a couple of days before show time, the skies cleared and wet gave way to hot. No one was exactly thrilled with the heat wave, but there were few complaints.
Our engine show came off smoothly and with no complications. During the two days a total of 125 enthusiasts displayed equipment that covered almost the whole spectrum of the antique machinery hobby. There were displays and demonstrations of gas engines, steam traction engines, portable steam engines, model engines, tractors, antique cars and trucks, and much old machinery being powered by the engines to show how they were used in the past. During the two days, over 3,000 people came through the gates to view the exhibits. Good food was amply provided by club members and their spouses, and the warm weather made the cold drink concession a popular attraction.
Our display of the Bieder-Home Power engines was one of the highlights of the show. We managed to collect ten complete examples of these engines and one that is awaiting some replacement parts. If that doesn't seem to be very many, it must be remembered that they are rather rare engines. The ten complete engines included the three that were owned by the late Ralph Daniels. Ralph's family kindly allowed us to borrow his engines for the show. All of Ralph's engines have since been sold at public auction.
Also included in the Ashtabula engine display was a very early and rare single flywheel Bieder engine. In place of the other flywheel is a gear reduction box for turning slow running machinery. The gear reduction was cast integrally with the engine frame and was not added later.
This single flyweel engine is equipped with the original Bieder design carburetor. Later engines used a Lun-kenheimer type carburetor. Our engine show marked the first time this engine was seen on display anywhere. In fact, few people knew that this type of Bieder engine existed. It is interesting to note that Ralph Daniels had known of this engine's existence and whereabouts and had negotiated unsuccessfully to purchase it from its current owner. The engine is still not for sale, but the owner permitted us to add it to our display. He also assured us that if he ever did sell it, it would be to a member of our club.
Once again the Ashtabula County Antique Engine Club owes a debt of gratitude to Don and Edythe Dillon for allowing us to hold our annual show at their farm. There aren't many people who would permit the crowds and the noise and the disruption of an engine show to take place on their property. The Dillon farm is an ideal place to have a show from the stand point of easy access as well as pleasant surroundings. Don is our club president and one of its founders. His leadership and guidance are two important reasons why our club has been successful.
In wrapping up this show report, we send out a call to anyone in the gas engine hobby who has information concerning the Raser gas engines or the Bieder-Home Power engines made in Ashtabula to share that information with us. Our club secretary-treasurer, Francis Day, has done extensive research on the Bieder-Home Power engines (see accompanying article). His research is on-going and he welcomes any additional information he can find. We would also like to determine how many Bieder-Home Power engines still exist. If you have one of these engines, please contact me or Francis Day. When we find out how many of the engines have survived, we will make the information available to anyone expressing an interest.