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I thought G.E.M. readers might be interested in Power Plants of the Past which is a project that began about 3 years ago when my brother, Kenneth, agreed to restore a truckload of engines for display in my old Reo truck. It was supposed to take about a year but wasn't actually ready for display until the third summer after we started. Even now there is more to do but, at last, we can enjoy showing our engines. Our first showing was at the Antique Power land Annual Steam-up near Brooks, Oregon. We fit 24 engines into our display and can run each one without moving it although the air gets a little blue if too many are run without outside exhaust connections. We tried to select a variety but found the choices difficult because Kenneth's main collection at Engine Haven in Vale, Oregon, includes about 200 engines.
When on display, the back of our truck opens up to form a platform with reception area and a stairway. Another stairway at the right side near the front of the truck provides an exit so that visitors can enter, tour the display, and exit without backtracking or being crowded. The truck body is about 8' by 16' with 6'6' of headroom. I insulated and panelled the inside, so it is quite comfortable even on hot days. We used fluorescent lights and carry a little light plant in case no outside source of electricity is available. The truck is John Deere green with John Deere yellow trim and lettering and makes quite an impressive sight. It is home at California Avenue School in Riverbank, California, because I am principal of the school and live on the grounds.
The Riverbank News authorizes Gas Engine Magazine to reprint the article, 'Old Engines Restored, Make Comeback as Collectors' Items,' from the November 26, 1975 issue.
In an era when the term 'power plant' generally calls forth images of PG&E generating plants or nuclear reactors, much simpler power plants, old engines, are becoming collectors' items.
The hobby, which involves the collecting and restoring of old steam, gas and kerosene engines, has a growing number of enthusiasts. One such devotee is Lloyd Jones, principal of California Avenue School.
This summer Jones and his brother, a resident of Vale, Oregon, completed work on a van display of 24 engines ranging in age from about 30 to 75 years. They have titled the exhibit 'Power Plants of the Past.'
These engines are just samples of a total collection of about 200 gathered by the brothers from various parts of the country over the years. 'Some people collect animals,' commented Jones, 'We collect engines.'
The display unit is currently housed in California Avenue School.
The engines range in horsepower from one half to six HP and weigh from 50 to more than 750 pounds. Samples of both air and water cooled typed are included in the display.
'Most of them are general purpose power plants,' explained Jones. 'However, some are specialized, that is they were used to power washing machines, water pumps, drag saws, milling machines and such. All were quite common in their day and were used for turning anything which might use an electric motor today.'
Each engine has been taken apart, cleaned, repaired and restored to its original condition. Wherever possible they have also been repainted in their original colors.
'All the engines in this group run on gasoline or kerosene,' said Jones. 'We don't have any steam engines. We start them periodically when they are on display and to keep them in good order. They won't stay clean when used because they throw off a certain amount of oil while running.'
The engines recall a variety of manufacturers from the early days of the engine building business. Included are such names as Fairbanks and Morris, Sandwich, Galloway, Alamo, Alpha, Lawson and many more.
The truck which houses the engines is also something of a collectors' item, noted Jones. A 1952 Reo F-22 Gold Comet, it was built by Olds mobile and was known for its high quality, as well as its high price, when compared with its counterparts from Ford and Chevrolet.
Although the collecting and restoring of old engines is just now gaining momentum as a generally recognized hobby, its been a livelong activity for Jones.
'My brother and I grew up working on engines,' he explained, 'We were supposed to be farmers, but we put in a lot of time on the engines. During World War II you couldn't buy tractors. We had our own machine shop, so we built them.'
Jones noted that his brother also collects tractors. 'He has about 60 or 70 displayed on a lot in Vale near Ontario in eastern Oregon. Its referred to as Engine Haven - you can spend all day there just looking at engines.'
Lloyd Jones, principal of California Avenue School and antique engine buff, shows off one of his rare possessions, a Galloway engine dating prior to 1920. It is just one of 24 engines included in Jones' traveling display titled 'Power Plants of the Past.' News Photo
While the average engine rusting in a junk yard or back lot isn't worth much in that state, it may be worth several hundred dollars when restored to working order, said Jones. But the restoration process itself costs considerable both in terms of time and money. In many cases replacement parts are difficult or impossible to find.
'Often you either have to have the part specially made or make it yourself,' said Jones. 'I know a lot of people with engines sitting on their lots who talk about restoring them, but its hard to find the time.'
The Jones add engines to their collection in a variety of ways. People who know of their interest are always passing along tips, and the brothers
spend much of their spare time conducting their own scouting expeditions. 'At first a lot of people say they don't want to sell them,' said Jones, 'but we check back with them year after year.'
They recently purchased an engine from an old mine. Built around 1916, it weighs several tons and is a display in itself, said Jones. It had been standing idle since about 1937.
Completed last summer, the van display had its public unveiling at the Great Western Steam Up, held each summer in Oregon. Jones hopes to take it to county fairs and other area events such as the Lodi Grape Festival. He will also exhibit it as specialized displays where other engine buffs gather to show their work.
The display made its Riverbank debut in front of Cardozo School. Donations for touring the exhibit will go to fund school projects. Jones also plans to open the display to Riverbank students during the year.