Murphy Diesel Engine Restored

By Staff
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This is the smallest engine of this design that Murphy built.
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The restored Murphy Diesel.
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The Murphy Diesel before restoration.

A few years back, I mentioned on the ATIS (Antique Tractor Internet Services) forum that I would like to have a Murphy Diesel engine. When I was young I worked as a mechanic for S. M. Christhilf & Son Inc., a construction equipment dealer in Maryland. Christhilf sent me to the Murphy factory in Milwaukee for service training courses four or five times. Murphy Diesel engines were the main product I serviced; I traveled the Middle Atlantic States working on Murphys in various settings.

I got an email one day from Tom, who lives in Susquehanna, Pa. He had gotten a 1952 Murphy Diesel engine out of a Northwest #25 crane that was being scrapped. The crane had been used as a pull shovel.

I had some friends and my wife, Rose, go with me to get the Murphy Diesel engine the first weekend in November 2011. It had been sitting out in the open for 15 years. Luckily, the exhaust and intake had been covered.

We had a hard time loading it on Brian Ellingsion’s gooseneck trailer. A large part of the crane revolving frame was still attached and was filled with gravel as a counterweight. It took a large Michigan loader on one side and a big skid steer loader on the other to lift it on the trailer. My wife met Tom’s wife, who was gracious enough to serve us a hot meal before we traveled the long ride home.

This engine was built in 1952, and it did not require heavy dismantling. The injectors gave me the most problems, so I had to disassemble them and adjust the settings. I worked on the Murphy in my spare time, and I was able to get it to fire up by Thanksgiving morning 2011.

This is the smallest engine of this design that Murphy built. These were used for many different applications: rock crushers, oil well drills, marine propulsion, generator sets, electric locomotive power, irrigation pumps, etc.

Considering my work as a Murphy Diesel mechanic more than 30 years ago, this engine was a great reward for me. I took the Murphy to eight shows last summer.

Her perspective: Rose’s story

Pulling up to Tom’s house was an interesting sight, with horseshoes holding up the rain spout and lots of “good junk” in the yard. I thought, “Well, here is someone who can understand my husband’s love of engines!”

As we drove by the rusted old Murphy Diesel engine, it looked like a big bucket of rust that was going to take a long time to load — and it did. I made friends with Tom’s wife, and we waited to eat until after the boys got the Murphy loaded.

I could not imagine why it was like getting a Christmas present to Jim. He was so excited. When the Murphy came home, he worked on it faithfully until he got it to run. I have never seen him so happy that an engine ran. After he got it to purr so pretty, he had to work on making it pretty, which lead to painting and fixing the grill. Then I suggested that he show his new toy at a show we attend annually, the Mason-Dixon Historical Society Steam and Gas Round-Up in Westminster, Md.

Someone offered to buy it, but I told Jim to enjoy it for a while, at least until he finds the next engine that will thrill him as much as restoring this Murphy.

Contact Jim Hilgartner at 715 Maplehurst Lane, Hereford, MD 21111 • (410) 357-8508 • • See video of the Murphy.  

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