By Staff

P.O. Box 6 Wilmington, Vermont 05363

As I was born on a farm in Tunbridge, Vermont in 1925, I should
have grown up with one lung engines. By this time, these engines
were perfected to the point of being a dependable source of power.
Almost every New England farm had at least one, to be used for
sawing wood, filling silo, threshing grain and pressing hay. Others
were employed on farms to operate water pumps, cream separators,
milling machines, butter churns, washing machines, electric light
plants, and any other use where wheels had to be turned. Many
larger engines were being used to turn the wheels of industry.
After the disastrous flood of 1927 in New England, which washed out
many mill dams, many mill operators purchased engines to power
their mills, rather than rebuild the dams, that in many instances
were dependent upon the amount of rainfall for power.

Unfortunately, my opportunity to gain experience with engines
was severely restricted, as my father, although farm born and
raised, had no interest in any form of power that did not burn hay
for fuel and have the exhaust removed with a shovel. I did receive
a lot of experience in the proper removal of his type of

My first experience with an engine was at my paternal
grandfather’s farm where I had been born. In 1929, we were
living there again for a time while my father changed jobs. My
grandfather had a 6 HP Jumbo engine that supplied power for sawing
wood, tilling silo, and turning a grindstone. (See ‘The Search
For My Grandfather’s Engine’ on page 23 of the October 1994
issue of GEM.)

The farm buildings were all connected in the typical New England
manner. The buildings enclosed the barnyard on three sides. The
engine sat on a concrete pad, just outside of the woodshed, that
was on the end of the house, where it could be belted to a cord
wood saw inside the woodshed, and via a system of belts and a jack
shaft to a grindstone that sat beside the engine. During this brief
stay, I can remember the engine being used to saw wood. Being four
years old at the time, I was confined to the house, but could see
and hear the engine through the kitchen door.

In 1935, our family returned to the farm for a year, while my
father was on another venture. My brother and I were old enough to
assist in the farm work. The engine was used for sawing wood and to
fill the silo, running a Blizzard ensilage cutter.

For a few months in early 1936, we lived with my maternal
grandparents on a farm in Andover, New Hampshire. The water system
consisted of a large pressure tank in the basement of the house,
which was supplied from a well in a field in back of the house.

There was a windmill at the well; however, it had not been used
in years. There was a house over the well that housed a pump and a
3 HP International Model ‘M’ engine with low tension
magneto ignition.

There was a pressure gauge over the kitchen sink. When the
pressure dropped, a trip was made to the well house to start the
engine. The magneto was weak, so a hot shot battery was connected
to the magneto. Also, the fuel pump did not work. A five gallon gas
can with a spigot on the bottom was suspended over the engine. When
the engine was run, the spigot was opened slightly, which allowed
gasoline to run into the opening in the mixing valve. I assume that
any surplus gasoline ran into the gas tank via the return line. I
do not know how surplus gasoline, if any, was removed from the

My grandfather said that this engine had also been used for
sawing wood. It only pumped water while we were at the farm.

My grandmother passed away in 1936, and the farm was sold.

After I became interested in collecting old engines, we visited
the farmstead about fifty years after our stay there. The buildings
were in excellent condition, but where there had been fields in
1936, there were woods. Pine trees had been harvested for lumber
around the old well site. We followed an old road that had passed
through the farm yard, past the well, to a lake that abutted the
farm property. The windmill tower was lying on the ground, covered
with vines and brush. The well house was gone, but some boards
covered the well. Under the boards were some electrical wiring and
insulation. Obviously, the well was still supplying water to the
house. I have no idea what became of the engine.

Getting back to the history of the old Jumbo engine. My
grandfather passed away in 1940. The engine was purchased at
auction by a neighbor, Phil Rogers. My father acquired the farm,
and we returned there to live in 1942. My brother and I worked on a
farm that summer where Phil was employed. The engine was set up to
saw wood. We used it a couple of times that summer.

Phil found the engine impossible to start alone in the winter
time, so he traded it for a 4 HP Woodpecker. Within a year, the
person he traded with traded the engine for something in the next
town north of Tunbridge. The last time that I saw the engine, it
was on a wagon pulled by a team of horses, enroute to its next

Phil Rogers changed his employment that year, and had no use for
an engine. My father had purchased the saw rig at the estate
auction. It was still set up in the woodshed. My brother borrowed
this 4 HP Woodpecker engine. The engine was in a very worn out
condition. It had practically no compression. There was a large
piece broken out on top of the piston skirt.

To start it, I learned that it was necessary to pour gasoline
into the mixer, then turn the engine over so that contact was made
with the buzz coil, then rock the flywheels back and forth until it
fired, hopefully while it was just past dead center, in the right
direction. If not, the process had to be started all over again.
Once it started firing and turning in the right direction, it was
necessary to give it an assist by grasping the flywheels at each
compression stroke, and giving it a boost until it finally came up
to speed. The governor was the hit or miss type, but the only time
that it missed was when it misfired, which was often. When sawing
large blocks of wood, it was necessary to feed slowly into the saw,
then wait for the engine to return to speed again before making
another cut.

We did saw our wood with it that winter. As I look back, with
the experience that I have had since, I believe that a new spark
plug and possibly some fine tuning on the timing might have
improved the engine’s performance.

We were offered the opportunity to purchase the engine, but
declined. Phil sold it. I helped him load it onto a truck.

The next afternoon I received a telephone call from the new
owner. The conversation went like this: ‘Did you use that
engine that Phil Rogers had?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Well, how in
H – do you start the G- D – thing?’

I gave a detailed explanation of how I had started it. As World
War II was in full swing at this time, scrap metal prices were
high. I believe this engine was probably contributed to the war
effort as scrap iron.

Next, a 6 HP Simplicity engine that had been used to saw slab
wood at a local sawmill was acquired. The engine had been inundated
by flood water, and the Webster magneto damaged.

I removed the magneto, and took it to the LeFrancis &
Chamberlain Auto Service Shop in Rutland, Vermont, for repair. This
company was an auto parts supplier, and engine and electrical parts
rebuilder. When I picked the magneto up after rebuilding, the bill
was $18.00, with an admonition to ‘Keep it out of the

The person who was with me commented that that was an excessive
price for a magneto. Maybe so. At that time, engines were selling
for about $25.00 apiece.

I installed the magneto on the engine that was placed on the pad
where the old Jumbo had been. This engine had no gas tank. The
prior owner would place a piece of birch bark under the fuel mixer
and light it to assist in starting in cold weather. One time this
had ignited and exploded the gas tank. A piece of garden hose was.
attached to the gas line, and inserted in a gas can when the engine
was run. It worked.

While my father and I were sawing wood one day, the engine
stopped firing, but continued to turn over with a loud clatter. The
connecting rod had broken at the wrist pin and had driven the
piston up into the cylinder, shearing off the contact points.

A neighbor had an identical Simplicity engine minus the magneto.
We borrowed this and installed the magneto from the other engine.
This engine supplied the farm power until I returned from the
service in 1946. The disabled engine was sold for scrap iron.

Prior to entering the service in 1944, I worked on another farm
briefly. Power on this farm was supplied by three horses, a 1923
Fordson tractor, and three gas engines. One engine, a 6 HP Jumbo
identical to the one my grandfather had, was set up to run a drag
saw rig. We used it a couple of times while I worked on this farm.
One engine was part of a Delco 32 volt light plant that had not
been used in years, and the third engine was either a 1 or 3 HP
International Model M that was set up as an auxiliary power source
for the milking machine vacuum pump.

There was one power outage while I worked there. As the farm
owner was at home, he started the engine for the morning milking. I
never really did acquire the knack of hand milking, so when the
evening milking time came, I was determined to start this engine,
although the other hired hand insisted that we could do the milking
by hand.

I started to fuss with the engine. The exhaust was piped to the
outside and could not be heard inside the barn. I was sure that I
had made it fire at least once. The owner suddenly appeared and
verified that it had fired. He offered some suggestions for the
next procedure which got the engine running. Just then the power
returned, so we did the milking the electrical way.

I was released from Uncle Sam’s Army in May 1946, and took
over the family farm. The borrowed 6 HP Simplicity engine was still
in use. A neighbor had a 10′ Papec ensilage cutter, but no
engine. We made a swap for silo filling.

With the governor weights tightened down as far as practical,
and the spark advanced as far as possible, this engine could run
the ensilage cutter if one were careful feeding it.

I acquired a 1929 six cylinder Chevrolet engine that I made into
a power unit that supplied the farm power until I purchased a John
Deere MT tractor in 1951.

We returned the Simplicity engine to the owner, leaving the
magneto on the engine as payment for the use of it.

After becoming interested in collecting old engines, I thought
about this Simplicity. The owners had purchased a tractor, so
probably had no use for it. With luck, it might still be where we
had unloaded it that day long ago.

I visited these old neighbors and inquired about the fate of the
engine. I was advised that the engine had been used to saw wood for
heating their home and for their maple sugar operation. It had
always started and run well.

It had been loaned to a friend, who in turn had loaned it to his
brother, who had broken it up and sold it as scrap iron for beer

There is a place for people who do things like that. His was not
dug soon enough!

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