National Cathedral Engine Running!

By Staff
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In the December 2000 GEM, on page 35, there was a request from
the National Cathedral for help getting their engine running which
they used to pull an 1860 carousel. I called Patricia Cate, the
contact in the article, and exchanged several e-mails with her and
Bill Patterson, facilities services operations manager, and with
several ‘engine minded’ friends. From the e-mails and
attached photos, it was obvious that the engine was not nearly as
old as they thought, but was a flat head Wisconsin V-4, our guess
of ’50s vintage.

On December 11, 2000, we went up and checked out the engine. The
model plate was missing, but it was in good condition. The
forwarded e-mail below is a recap of what we found, did, and
recommended. John Donley, Tony Hawker, and I were from the Dale
City/-Woodbridge, Virginia area. Jim Gray and Clem Clements,
members of the local A Model Club, were from the Burke Lake area.
All of us got a piece of the action and were very satisfied to
leave the engine in good running order.

I have included pictures of the engine perhaps someone can
identify the model for us which would help in acquiring the parts
to convert it to electric start.

Forwarded message from Harold H. Howard ( to on Mon, 11 Dec 2000.
Subject: V-4 Wisconsin Recap

Patricia, Bill,We all had fun getting the Wisconsin running
today. As we had hoped it only took a few minor adjustments to put
the engine in good running order. Wanted to recap what we did for
you, how we left the engine, and Tony’s work on the

General condition of the Engine.

1. The engine is in very good condition. All the cylinders have
good compression and overall it shows very little wear. There is
nothing wrong with the fuel pump or carburetor, and the magneto is
putting out a good spark.


What made it hard to start and run rough on the last run.

1. The primary reason it was hard to start was because the fuel
pump had been allowed to become empty of fuel and it could not pump
fuel to the carburetor. No fuel to the carb/no run.

2. The secondary reason for hard starting and the primary reason
for rough running was that the sparkplugs were gapped too close
(around .020′ rather than .030′), and this had caused one
plug to ‘bridge’ carbon across the gap and short out. That
cylinder then did not have any spark/was not firing, so the engine
was running on only three cylinders, rather than all four.

3. A secondary reason for rough running, at low speed, was the
carburetor low speed mixture/jet was out of adjustment, so the
mixture of air and fuel was not right for best combustion at low

Correction of problems.

1. By putting gentle air pressure on the fuel tank, we forced
fuel up the line and filled the fuel pump. Once the pump was full
of fuel, it would pump and fill the carburetor, as you witnessed
when the engine ran (and it ran nice and smooth).

The fuel pump has a one way valve which prevents the fuel from
running back into the tank (at least for a long time), so once it
is full of fuel, it will restart normally day in and out.

2. We regapped the sparkplugs to 0.030 of an inch, and adjusted
the carburetor low speed mixture.

Recommendations to keep the engine in good starting

1. The key is to keep the fuel pump, lines, and carburetor full
of good fuel. However, you cannot let it sit for six months this
way, as the fuel will get old and gum up the parts/not work.

2. RUN THE ENGINE FOR FIVE MINUTES (until up to normal operating
temperature) ONCE EVERY TWO WEEKS. This will keep the pump and carb
full of good fuel.

parts store or Walmart and ask for a fuel stabilizer. Stabil is the
usual brandinstructions are on the can. This will keep the fuel
from aging.

4. Change spark plugs once each year.

5. Continue to change oil as you have been.

Electric Starter

1. Tony is looking for the parts necessary to add an electric
starter. It will take some time to find them, especially since we
do not have the actual engine model number.

2. The starter is not a necessity, but it will make it more
convenient to restart the engine when it is hot. If the pump is dry
of fuel, like we found it today, don’t expect the electric
starter to make it start better. That pump has to work hard to
raise fuel close to 24′ from the tank to the pump, and dry it
does not pump at all.

3. So you won’t be surprised, the starter will add more
routine maintenance to the engine. The battery to power it will
have to have its charge maintained. The best way is to have a
trickle charge going into the battery all the time (charger will
need to be plugged into 110/120 V outlet.) At least the battery
should be charged every time the engine is started on the bi-weekly
basis mentioned above. It shortens the life of a lead acid battery
to not keep it fully charged.

4. Also, you will need to find a place to put a battery
box/container on the cart.

Hope this helps put things into perspective.

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