French Find

Canadian engine sparks an enthusiast's restoration interests


| October 2006



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Jim Ellis’ Robertsonville Foundry engine from Quebec, Canada.

My wife and I made our annual trip from our home in Oregon to Quartsite, Ariz., to spend a few weeks in the winter sun while visiting relatives. The yearly antique engine show put on in Quartsite in January also seems to call me there each year.

While in Arizona, I looked up a man I met previously who had some engines for sale. He showed me everything he had and I chose an engine I had never heard of. The only identification on it was a large plate on the side of the water hopper that read, "Mfg. Par La Founderie de Robertsonville," which sounded like French to me - French Canadian. There's nothing to indicate horsepower or serial number, but judging from the physical size of the engine, my guess is that it is a 3 or 4 HP.

My plan was to take on the task of rebuilding the engine at some future time, but after only a couple weeks, I couldn't stand it. So I began to disassemble and clean each part.

I started with the magneto, which is a Webster with igniter. It was dirty and rusty with the nameplate corroded in two. I took the magneto apart, sandblasted it and painted the parts. I sent for a new brass nameplate and after reassembly, my Webster looked like new. I bench tested it, and to my delight it had a good spark.

The next thing was the head, and I found the valve guides to be badly worn. I took it to my friend Dick Hediger, who seems to have whatever it takes to repair anything. Sure enough, he had the tooling to resize the valve guides, and while at it, he ground the valves, also.

Next, I inspected the piston, which had part of the wrist pin boss broken and a crack in the other side. This made the piston unusable, so I began looking around for another to take its place. The task was more than I would have guessed and I couldn't find anything close enough to use. Wondering what to do, Dick came to my rescue with a suggestion. He said that I might clean the inside of the piston on my lathe, down past the wrist pin holes, then make a sleeve and insert it and re-drill the pin holes. I couldn't see why this wouldn't work, so I proceeded on with the repair job. Upon fitting the sleeve into the piston, I ran a weld bead around the skirt and re-drilled the pinholes and fitted a new wrist pin to it and it all looked fine.