My First Engine


| August/September 1988



317 Hunting Lane, Goode, Va. 24556

It was the fall of 1983, and I was attending the Ferrum Folk Festival in Ferrum, Virginia. This is an excellent show put on by Ferrum College's Folk Life Division. Much of the college grounds are filled with arts, crafts, and food cooked in the old fashioned tradition. Some of the activities that visitors can enjoy include mule jumps, horse pulls, chain-sawing contests, antique automobile displays, coon dog races, tobacco twisting, and country and folk music.

I had attended several events and was on my way to watch the coon dog races, when some strange sounds caught my attention-mechanical hissing, coughing, burping, sputting and spitting sounds. My curiosity headed me in the direction of these fascinating sounds. Nearing the area, I noticed some large, slowly turning flywheels, and saw puffs of smoke rising. I had come upon a collection of running antique gas engines and was amazed at the sight. The old engines had all kinds of levers, flywheels, cams, cogs, trippers, and other working parts that showed amazing ingenuity. The rest of my day was spent in this area. I had been bitten by the bug, and decided that I must have one of these old engines.

After I returned home I began to ask everyone if they had any idea where I could find a hit-and-miss engine, but most people had no idea what I was talking about. Then one day a friend called and said he thought he knew where there was an old engine. I called the place, and sure enough, the man who answered described exactly what I wanted. I got in my truck and drove about thirty miles to view the treasure. Upon arrival I jumped from the truck, and entered his place of business. There sitting on the floor was what was left of a 2HP hit-and-miss engine. It looked as if it had been dipped in a thick black paint at some time during it's long life, and was rusted so bad that not one part would move. I tried to bargain with the owner, but we could not agree on a price. I left empty-handed.

Some months later I attended the Grease, Steam and Rust Association meet in Pennsylvania. There I saw an engine just like the one I had tried to buy. It was a 2HP Economy, and was sitting there just 'hitting and missing'. I was elated. I talked with the owner for some time, then told him about the engine that I had found. Not realizing the actual condition of the engine, he suggested that I try to get it at any reasonable cost, for old engines were getting very hard to find. He said he would be glad to rebuild the magneto at his cost.

Immediately upon my return home I contacted the owner of the old engine. He wanted to swap something for the engine, so I ended up trading an antique maple school desk, and a mini-bike that I figured was worth about $65. I later learned that he sold the desk for $100.