Behind every engine lies the potential of a unique and interesting story. The challenge lies in our ability to discover and substantiate an engine's history. This particular engine is unique in that it's believed to have been in our family since new, and as such its story certainly warrants documenting for the enjoyment of other old engine collectors.
About 35 years ago this engine, after a long term of service, sawed its last log and was put in a storage garage. Everyone in my wife's family knew the old engine was in the storage garage, but none of them had any real interest in it.
Fast-forward to the late 1990s when I married the current owner's daughter - and also happened to catch rusty engine fever.
I pulled the Waterloo Boy out of storage and carefully brought it into our shop so I could get it running. I say carefully because it sat on two sets of very rotten and cracked wood, allowing the engine to actually lean to one side. I was concerned the engine would fall over from the vibration and torque once it was running. I did get it running - that was in 1998 and then it sat while 1 fixed up some other engines, a couple of old garden tractors and a large two-cylinder John Deere tractor.
The winter of 2001-2002 seemed like a good time to complete the project. The engine was moved to a more appropriate shop of ours with the equipment to handle a heavyweight such as this. One of the reasons it sat for three years was getting some reasonably priced hardwood for the skids.
In the fall of 2001 while participating in the Hanford Mills Engine Jamboree, I had a conversation with the mill foreman about making some skids for this engine. After giving him the dimensions of what I needed he told me it was no problem and quoted a reasonable price. He also told me he had some seasoned ash logs waiting to be put to use.
Close up shot of the Witry mixer on Bob Naske's Waterloo Boy. When running, fuel is drawn from the horizontal supply line to the left of the vertical air intake pipe. Four small orifices in the supply pipe bleed fuel into the intake air stream.
Hanford Mills Museum is a 150-year-old working sawmill, wood shop, grist mill and museum. The sawmill and wood-working equipment is powered from a large waterwheel through flat belts and line shafts to each machine. A walk through the main building presents an amazing array of line shafts, flat pulleys and belts. There is also a museum on the premises that shows the history of the village and the mill. It exhibits many artifacts from its many years of existence. One of the pages of the company ledger from about 1910 shows the sale of a Badger engine to a local resident, and the museum also owns several engines. One is in the house that belonged to the Hanford family - the original founders of the mill that ran it into the 1940s. For anyone interested in this type of history and wanting to see some of the old ways of wood working, it is certainly worth visiting. It is located in the northwestern Catskill Mountains of New York in the village of East Meredith.
A visit to the mill in early January to pick up the six-foot long skids set the cart restoration in progress. Getting the high-wheeled cart back to safe operating condition was the primary concern since I had had the engine running previously. One of the wheels was bent, but our hydraulic press with a 40-inch opening easily took care of that. The steering platters needed straightening, and of course all the rotten wood was removed. The new ash skids were supported and leveled on both axles with black walnut given to me by a local engine friend. Such is the camaraderie amongst many engine collectors - helping each other out.
The lettering was done from a stencil I made on my computer, so there is some modern technology associated with this restoration. The gas tank was custom made to my specs, and one of Edgar Shofestall's fine oak battery boxes from Pennsylvania completed the unit to make it self-contained, as it would have been when new.
Work previously done on the engine to get it running included freeing up the stuck exhaust valve and rings. The cylinder bore was good, so lapping the valves, unsticking the rings and installing a new head gasket brought the compression back to normal. The babbit bearings only needed some maintenance. The igniter body was warped, so I had a local machine shop mill it flat to keep it from blowing out its gasket. The springs on the gear-driven governor needed replacing, as they were all pulled very tight, causing the engine to run too fast. I suppose when they were sawing wood they wanted all the power and speed they could get!
Amazingly, the original starting crank and very old and working Detroit low-tension coil with cloth-covered wire were still in a small toolbox that managed to stay with the engine all these years. There is a well-worn leather carrying strap on the toolbox that proves it wasn't made yesterday.
In 1998 I wrote to the John Deere Collectors Center in Moline, III., seeking information on this engine. According to their records this engine is a 4 to 5 HP built on Oct. 17, 1911. Fortunately, the original brass ID tag was still attached so they could research this particular engine. Some original gray paint is still on the engine, along with traces of the original 'shield' or 'crest' type of decal on one side of the hopper. Additionally, the original mixer assembly with its unique cast iron primer cup is intact and operational.
For those readers who have never seen the insides of this style of Witry mixer, there is a small, horizontal pipe with two sets (four total) of very small holes in it projecting into the vertical intake air supply pipe. Fuel is drawn out of the small holes by the suction created by the fast moving intake air. A unique, right angle check-valve holds the fuel in the line above the primer cup, which is gravity fed with its own shut-off valve.
It's amazing to think that this engine sat unattended and forgotten for almost 35 years before being brought back to running form once again.
The cart restoration and mechanical repairs that I have done are all this engine should get. I found out from my father-in-law that this engine has been in their family for three generations - four if you count his daughter and the restorer - so it will be left an original as possible. That this engine was bought new by our family cannot be proven, but it is certainly possible. A family member (now deceased) did some research on this engine back in the late 1970s. We have a postcard sent by him to the second-generation owner after his visit to John Deere, briefly stating he got a lot of information and good pictures. He also stated that according to the pictures the cartwheels were part of the original portable unit. Unfortunately, we have not been able to locate this information.
Yes, it does show signs of a hard life. Some of the wood I removed was charred from a fire, and two cracks in the block have been repaired in the past. Since it also had a bent wheel we wondered if the whole rig fell over at some point in time. The two sets of skids it sat on brought it up quite high - probably to belt it up to the saw table that was with the engine but not attached to the same cart.
It is now a good running engine, safe to move around and we are proud of its heritage. It won't saw any more wood, but it won't be put away in a storage garage, either.
Waterloo Boy Gasoline Engine
No 37246 HP 4
Waterloo Gasoline Engine Co.
Aug 7 1900, Dec 3 1901, Oct 7 1902, Aug 6 1907
Waterloo Gasoline Engine Co.
Contact engine enthusiast Bob Naske at: 2059 State Hwy. 29, Johnstown, NY 12095.