Nelson Bros. 'Jumbo Line' High Speed Engines

With the Introduction of its Line of Air-Cooled Singles Nelson Bros. Moved in a New Direction


| June/July 2003



Air-cooled vertical VA

Some years ago while shopping for a sump pump at an old, local business, I noticed an International LA engine sitting in a pile of junk. The company had been one of the first manufacturers of chain saws, and their site was a sprawling maze of old buildings. I asked if they were interested in selling the IHC (they were glad to be rid of it), and if there were any more engines on the property. 'Probably,' one of the owners said, 'but you'll have to ask Ollie,' a retired, former employee of the company who knew everything about what was in the old buildings.

Ollie often stopped by the company, and the next week he took me on a tour of the company grounds. What a bonanza. The old patterns and jigs for making chain-saws were still in an attic space, and I saw three pallets of new-old-stock (NOS) Delco generator parts (they had also been a Delco generator dealer) being palletized for shipment to a collector in Florida.

In an old barn I found some old Kohler generators, along with a few air-cooled engines that were so dirty I couldn't tell what they were at first. They turned out to be Nelsons, and I learned the company used 2 HP Nelson engines to run milk coolers they manufactured for local farmers. They switched to Fairbanks-Morse engines after Nelson Bros, went out of business.

I also found various NOS parts for the Nelson and F-M engines they had used, and I went there many times, filling my car trunk with old equipment, odd piston pumps, a magneto charger, NOS spark plugs, NOS small engine parts, some old literature I found in a box labeled 'antique engine literature,' and two Nelson engines. That box is where I found most of my rather limited source of material covering the Nelson Jumbo Line of air-cooled engines.

Nelson's 1/2 HP air-cooled vertical VA featured an open Maytag-style flywheel with integral cooling fins. Cylinder heads on these engines tended to suffer from ineffective cooling.

Nelson's 1/2 HP air-cooled vertical VA featured an open Maytag-style flywheel with integral cooling fins. Cylinder heads on these engines tended to suffer from ineffective cooling.