When Lyle Dumont does something, he does it in a big way. Like the time in 1969 when he bought more than 400 antique gas engines in one fell swoop.
“I was born and raised on a farm,” the retired Sigourney, Iowa, collector says. “I worked as a mechanic for a while and always had an interest in that old iron, because when I was a little boy my uncle would say, ‘Lyle, you’ve got to get a hobby, you’ve got to get a hobby.’ And that’s what happened.”
During high school, Lyle started collecting antique cars, and then after three years in the Army he began collecting tractors. He was attracted to the tractors his dad had on the farm and he had driven when he was younger, but then his collection expanded to engines even older than that.
During the 1960s, the now 75-year-old bought and sold more than a thousand tractors (and still has a hundred or so in his Dumont Museum near Sigourney) “I really went crazy, buying and selling tractors and fixing them up and selling them at auctions,” Lyle says. “The most I had at one time was over 300 tractors in my collection.”
Moving from tractors to gasoline engines seemed like a natural next step. Lyle remembers his first engine being a small IHC or John Deere. “After that, pretty soon, away you go,” he says. “I had a few more by the time I got acquainted with a real character who found the estate of a collector who had died in Joplin, Mo. The estate had three engines that this character wanted, but he couldn’t afford to buy them,” and he wanted Lyle to buy them for him.
It turned out those were three of more than 400 engines, so Lyle decided to buy not just those three, but all 400-plus gasoline engines from the estate. Included in the trove were a number of very rare engines, including an entire set of the square-tank headless Witte engines, a Falk, a couple of rare screen-cooled International Harvester Moguls, an upright Monitor that stood over 6 feet high and many others.
Also included were difficult trips through timber, weeds, snakes, underbrush, long walks lugging engines and a great deal of hard work.
The fabulous 400
What Lyle saw the first day he examined the 400 engines was a disarray of machines amongst trees in hilly timber, set in car and van bodies, all in a mish-mash order. “That had to be the top of the list of difficult places to find anything,” Lyle says. “Usually you’ll find one or two engines at a time at an auction or private sale, but not like this.” The engines ranged from the smallest, a 3/4 HP Mogul Jr., to a very large 16 HP Witte.
To get to many of the engines, small trees and brush had to first be cut. The son of the late owner of the estate had a tractor and loader that they used to carry most of the engines. “Some of the little ones were in areas where we couldn’t get the tractor in, so they had to be carried out by three or four guys,” Lyle says. “A couple of times that meant a mile or so, but we got them.”
Over a period of three months, Lyle and friends took six trips with a truck, pickup and trailer down to Joplin, 400 miles away, loaded up some of the engines and brought them home to Lyle’s father’s acreage where Lyle had other machines stored.
As a finder’s fee, Lyle’s friend, who started the entire ruckus, asked for the three engines he wanted. And Lyle let him have them.
After all the engines were home, Lyle set about restoring some of them. “I kept only the engines that were in good condition and fixed those up and sold the others at auctions and privately,” he says. “That was a necessary part of the deal, because I had to get rid of some of them to pay for the collection. From then on, there were always some engines on the bill whenever I had an auction for my tractors or other antiques, like farm toys, and all the different collectible things I was involved with.”
As a professional sandblaster and painter, Lyle and his shop employees did that part of the work as well as some mechanical work, but he had help with most of the mechanical work from some friends in Prairie City, Iowa.
“Over the years I had so many nice engines from that group from Missouri, and I eventually sold them,” Lyle says. “That was a once-in-a-lifetime deal.”
All the Moguls
After Lyle bought his first Mogul engine, he fell in love with the International Harvester machines. His first was a 1915 10 HP screen-cooled Mogul, serial no. 596, that weighs in at 3,658 pounds, which he bought from a good friend in Little Falls, Minn. “I bought a lot of stuff off this man, but when I heard that Mogul run, I realized I had to have more of them,” he says. “They’re just so nice, so I decided to find some more.”
Two more of Lyle’s screen-cooled Moguls came from the Joplin collection, a 1915 4 HP, serial no. BZ 586, and a 1914 6 HP, serial no. OZ 586.
Eventually, Lyle had all six of the screen-cooled Moguls: 4 HP, 6 HP, 1917 8 HP (serial no. G 834), 1915 10 HP, 1915 12 HP (serial no. HB 613) and a 15 HP. “Those are sideshaft engines, with the throttling governor that just runs very nice,” he says. “There are a few of them around, but they’re still a rare engine. They were made from 1911 through 1917.”
The 10 HP, which Lyle got from his Minnesota friend, didn’t need any work. “Mechanically it was A-OK, but when I bought the 4, 6 and 8, even though they were OK, I had a friend of mine take them apart and make sure that the connecting rods, wrist pins, valves, rings and everything else was OK. If they weren’t, we replaced the parts.”
Eventually, Lyle had all 16 Mogul screen-cooled and hopper-cooled engines up to the 15 HP. “That was a real rarity,” he says. “It is extremely difficult to get the entire set like I had, and when people saw them, there were always a lot of comments about them. People may not know that much about gas engines, but when they see that entire lineup of them, they begin to wonder how rare they are. Anybody who knows a little about engines knows that finding the entire set is very hard to do. It took me 30 years to get the entire set.”
The most difficult one to find was the 10 HP hopper-cooled Mogul. “I could not find it any place, until I ran into a guy in Minnesota who had six Mogul engines,” Lyle says. “But he wouldn’t sell me only the 10 HP. I had to buy all of them to get the one I wanted, so I did and sold the rest.”
He says the screen-cooled Moguls are more difficult to find than the hopper-cooled, but that of the hopper-cooled, the 8 HP and 10 HP are hardest to find while the smaller ones aren’t that difficult to get. He adds that the Moguls don’t really have any unusual aspects or run in an unusual way. C.H. Wendel notes in American Gasoline Engines Since 1872 that the Moguls were known for being heavy-duty, dependable and “the ultimate in design and service.”
Lyle says he enjoys the hunt for engines the most. “It was almost like digging for gold,” he says. “You keep going and going and going and trying. It got to be an obsession to get all those critters, and all at once, you realize you’ve got them.”
Lyle doesn’t count the Mogul engines larger than 15 HP, basically because they are the same as those in Mogul tractors. They were also made into stationary power units. “They are also not a sideshaft engine, and are a 2-cylinder, and since what I really like are the sideshaft and single-cylinder ones, those are the ones I collected,” he says.
He has sold his 15 HP screen-cooled Mogul and has 10 others on a gooseneck trailer that he plans to sell. “There isn’t space for them in the museum any longer, and they’ve been there long enough,” Lyle says. “I can’t start those engines any more because of my back, so I’ve decided to sell part of the Mogul collection. The other four screen-cooled Moguls are not for sale.”
When all is said and done, Lyle says the four sideshaft screen-cooled Moguls on the trailer are his favorites of all the engines he’s ever had. “Especially the 10 HP because of the circumstances of getting it from a good friend, and it starting the Mogul collection,” he says. “There were a lot of engines on that lot in Joplin, just about every brand of engine you could think of. Some of them became parts engines, and a few had to be scrapped because they weren’t anything much. But those Moguls ended up being my favorites of all of them.”
Lyle says he doesn’t think people generally realize the scarcity of sideshaft screen-cooled Mogul engines. “The diehard engine collector does, but some engine collectors probably don’t realize that the value of these engines is higher than other engines,” he says.
One point of pride for Lyle is restoring his old iron to impeccable quality. “If I have something that’s been around here for a while but we’re not getting it restored, I get rid of it,” he says. “I don’t like to have unrestored stuff around. I’ve discovered that people like the quality of the work, so I have always felt it’s better to have excellent quality and not as much quantity, so that’s what I strive for.” Some people would say he has both.
“It’s been fun and a challenge, going to places in the United States and Canada where we would never have traveled before, meeting people we would never have met, some that are still good friends today. It’s just a fantastic hobby.”
Contact Bill Vossler at Box 372, 400 Caroline Ln., Rockville, MN 56369 • firstname.lastname@example.org