| June/July 1989

  • 1894 Otto gas engine

  • 1894 Otto gas engine

  • 1894 Otto gas engine
  • 1894 Otto gas engine

4206 Lemar Road Mercersburg, Pennsylvania 17236

In a small town in Pennsylvania, Norman C. Piper and his sons have been avid engine collectors for many years. When Norman, my father, heard a large one-cylinder antique gas engine was for sale he thought, 'just another engine to be restored!' Little did he realize it would take many years of work and patience before this engine would explode to life again.

In May, 1978, my father caught wind of a rumor that there had been a large horsepower engine willing to part ownership. Norman, along with a friend, made a trip to Cumberland, Maryland. Here he discovered a large grist mill. The mill, which at one time roared with activity, now lay dormant. The owner wanted to dismantle the mill for the many walnut timbers. In a small wooden shed behind the old mill an 1894, 21 HP sideshaft OTTO was housed. The engine, still belted to the 23 pulley lineshaft, remained the same as the last day it operated.

After several weeks of reckoning, a final price was agreed upon and the engine belonged to my father.

The task of rescuing the Otto from it's cobwebbed grave wouldn't be easy. We were told the engine had been bought originally by two Germans. They assembled the engine part by part and then constructed the building around the engine. After several weeks of thought, my father decided upon his game-plan. Early one morning in June five stronghearted men, Norman Piper, Dennis Piper, Stephen Piper, Lester Risser and Jack Hawbacker, started on the journey of rescue. It took an entire day but the job was very rewarding. Several trees had to be cut down. The walls of the engine shed were torn apart, board by board. This had to be accomplished very carefully so the roof wouldn't collapse onto the engine. We disassembled the Otto into three pieces including the belt pulley, cylinder base, and 64 inch flywheels. Each part was carefully loaded onto the logtruck and chained down. The three pieces, weighing 5150 lbs., rode very smoothly home. After arriving home the Otto was unloaded into my father's shed.  

The Otto sat motionless for three years while several events took place. A carriage had to be constructed. An old wire tie hay baler was scrapped and the undercarriage, reinforced with extra steel, filled the order. Ten by ten oak skids were cut and bolted to the wagon. The engine base was bolted first. Then the flywheels were rolled up planks and dropped into the main bearings. The Otto was timed along with a new gas tank and wiring. After four years the engine had been reassembled and ready to run.


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