Roadside Riches: Rescuing Old Engines

By Staff
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The four engines Gary Berlin picked up in Canada, from left: a Fairbanks-Morse 7-1/2 HP Model ZC, two International Harvester 3-5 HP LBs with clutch and a 2-1/2 HP LB. The engines are all from the mid-1940s.
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Gary’s Fairbanks-Morse 3 HP Model Z direct gear drive typhoon pressure pump assembly. He is looking for a manual and the serial no. is 26115. Someone replaced the crankshaft with a straight shaft and pulley to allow the pump to be driven from a trac
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As Gary became more interested in the hobby his purchases became more varied, as seen in his Ottawa Buzzmaster with cordwood saw.
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A Maytag engine Gary picked up to replace the ones his father, with permission, disposed of in the 1960s.

My introduction into restoring old engines
started in Berwick, Pa., way back in the early 1950s. My twin
brother Larry and I lived near the Susquehanna River and would hike
and play for miles along the river banks. We would visit a hermit
who lived several blocks from our home. This man collected
everything he could get his hands on. Some of it was valuable and
more of it was simply junk. Buried in the brush and vines near his
house was an old Fairbanks Z engine, probably a 3 or 7 HP.

As 12 or 13 year olds, the engine became an irresistible stop
every time we were in the area. We would stand there and turn the
flywheel for long periods of time, and when we had a new friend
with us, we would initiate him by having him hold onto the spark
plug wire while we turned the flywheel.

When we were about 15 we purchased 10 old Maytag engines for $1
each. Some of the engines were not complete, but there were enough
parts to make up a few good engines. This allowed us to have some
great kick-start fun.

The next engine we rescued was a Wisconsin V4 taken from a piece
of farm machinery that had been in a barn fire. We lugged this
engine down the narrow basement steps of our home and stripped it
down completely. We were sure that we could get this engine
operating. Unfortunately, the babbitt bearings had melted out
during the fire and we could not find anyone with the knowledge to
pour new bearings. We put this project aside, hoping to work on it
when we got the money.

Shortly thereafter, my brother and I started working and dating,
and our interest in engines was put on the back burner. We
graduated from high school and started college. I took a mechanical
design course and my brother, still having the engine bug, took
courses in diesel mechanics and automotive repair.

Eventually we married the women of our dreams and moved away
from home to start our families and careers. About 10 years later
Dad called us and asked if we wanted the Maytag engines. He said he
had decided to clean out the basement, and we had more there than
he had collected in 40 years of marriage. Don’t believe him; he was
a child of the Depression and he saved everything, down to the pull
strings from the old ceiling lights that had been replaced in our
home. He trained us well in saving old things.

My brother and I said we had no need for the engines and told
him to get rid of them if he wanted – we told him to throw out six
operating Maytag engines. Boy, do I wish I had them now. Well, Dad
did clean out the basement and discarded everything, except for the
cylinder block for that old Wisconsin V4. It was simply too heavy.
Dad passed away and my nephew bought the home with the cylinder
block still in his basement. It has become a family heirloom.

Larry started his carrier working on diesel engines at a truck
repair shop. He then started teaching automotive repair at a local
high school. He moved to New Jersey and was asked to set up the
course for an adult diesel mechanics school. He became the director
of what is called Engine City Tech and continues to work with
marine and industrial engines, and trains customers in their
operation and repair. I started working at Dewalt Tools as a
technician and am now vice president of sales, celebrating close to
40 years in the humidification industry. This is not an industry
that has a great use for engines and my interest in them has been
very minimal.

In 1994 my brother and I were on a fishing trip in Canada. On
the way home we were travelling through Kazabazua, Quebec, a small
village about two hours north of Ottawa. Sitting along the road
were four old flywheel engines. My brother slammed on the brakes
and turned around. Sitting there were two International 5 HP LB
engines, a 2-1/2 HP LB and a 7-1/2 HP Fairbanks ZC. We talked to
the owner and he wanted $300 Canadian for all the engines. At that
time this was about $175 U.S. Being loaded down with fishing gear
we took the guy’s card and told him we would call. He said they
would probably still be there because they had been there for about
10 months and we were the first to stop.

As we drove home my brother kept saying “we need to find a way
to get the engines home.” Four years went by and each year we would
pass the engines at 2 a.m. on our way to the lodge. On the way home
we would stop and talk to the owner and the price went up $100 each
year.

In 1999 my brother found an International M that he could not
resist. He got it running and would run it every so often when I
would visit. I did not realize it at the time, but that disease
called “old rust” started to get to me.

I often visited our company’s office in Ottawa, but I would fly
in for every visit and never thought about the engines. Then, in
June 2000, I had to make a trip to Ottawa and decided to drive. As
I was getting material around for the trip, I accidentally found
the card from Jacque in Kazabazua. I called him and asked if he was
tired of mowing around those old engines in front of his home. He
said, “Are you one of the guys from Pennsylvania?” I said yes and
he said, “they have been waiting for you.” I set up a tentative
time to meet him on Thursday morning and he said the price would be
the $300 Canadian he originally quoted.

Now, what was I to do? I had a Dodge Caravan, so I took out all
the seats, cut slots in a piece of plywood to access the seat
brackets in the floor to attach tie-down straps, and away I went.
After completing my meetings in Ottawa, I called Jacque and
confirmed that I would be there in the morning. Once there, he
asked how the two of us were going to get them into the van. Well,
a couple of 2-by-4s and some 2-inch pipe, and they were loaded and
strapped into the van in about a half hour. Believe me, the van was
sitting a little low.

Taking it very careful on the road to Ottawa was my main worry.
Once there, the trip home would be only 400 miles on interstate
highways. While traveling to the border I realized I had to clear
U.S. customs. All the way I kept thinking what would they charge to
get the engines into the United States.

I crossed the border at Ogdensburg, N.Y., and the customs
officer asked the usual questions. Then he asked if I had any
industrial goods in the van. I said no but he may want to look in
the back. Opening the tailgate he asked what they were. I told him
they were old farm engines from the 1940s. He tried to move one and
said “They must be over 100 HP.” He was really puzzled when he
learned they were only about 5 HP. He said he had never seen
anything like that cross the border before and asked me to pull
over while he talked to his supervisor.

Well, I had my first engine show right there at the customs
house in Ogdensburg. Everyone in the building came out to see the
engines and turn the flywheels. Finally someone said, “Is there any
duty on these things?” Someone said, “Do you know how long it will
take to research this and I don’t think it will be much anyway.” I
showed them the specification plate on one of the engines and said
they were made in the United States and everyone agreed that duty
was not required. After about another half hour of discussing the
engines and turning the flywheels I was on my way home. I arrived
about 6 p.m. and decided to unload the engines in the morning.

I got up shortly after 7 a.m. and backed my van up to a small
hill in our side yard. Using a couple of 2-by-6s and the pipe, the
four engines came out of the van with little difficulty. Then the
problems started. I had no cart to move them and they would not
budge on the grass, even with my 300 pounds of twisted steel and
sex appeal pulling as hard as I could. I have always believed that
wherever there is a problem there is a solution. Removing the
plywood from the van I loaded one of the engines onto it and
attached a heavy rope. The engine was still very difficult to move.
I got the garden hose, wet the grass and bingo, away I went with
the engine towards the backyard.

I did forget one thing: I did not tell my wife about the
engines. I really thought I could get them into the back yard
before she got out of bed. Sometimes things just don’t work out
like you expect when it concerns the little woman. She got up
early, got dressed and came out back just as I was dragging the
first engine through the gate and into the back yard. This is the
first time I heard the question, “What are we going to do with all
that rust in the back yard?”

I took some pictures of the engines and recorded their serial
numbers. I did some research and found they were from the early
1940s and went on eBay to see if I could find manuals. Within a
week I had all the manuals.

Mid-July came around really fast and we were on our way to
Canada for another fishing trip. I had not told my brother I had
picked up the engines. About 2 a.m. as we were entering Kazsabuazua
I acted as if I was asleep. I heard my brother curse and I acted as
if I had just woken up and said, “What’s wrong?” He told me the
engines were not there. I said, “Maybe the guy moved them, we
should stop on the way home.” He grumbled all the way to the lodge
that we should have made a trip to pick them up.

Upon arrival at the lodge, we unloaded everything and I placed
an envelope of pictures on the kitchen table. Each breakfast and
dinner I kept waiting for someone to open the envelope and look at
the pictures. Finally, on Thursday night during dinner, my brother
picked up the envelope, looked at the pictures, put them back in
the envelope and said, “Nice picture of your backyard.” I said, “I
took them because we want to do some more landscaping.” Not a word
about the engines.

I was dying, but did not say anything. About 5 minutes later,
Larry got this look on his face, grabbed the envelope and pulled
the pictures out. “You got the engines. When? How? What did you
pay? I’ll buy two of them from you.”

I told him I did not want to sell them and was going to try to
get them operating myself. He laughed out loud and said that will
be the day. He grumbled to my brother and nephew, “What is he going
to do with them, he knows nothing about engines, let alone engines
of this age.” All the way home he grumbled and offered to buy
them.

A few weekends later I had finished the yard work and started to
look at the Fairbanks ZC. The gas tank had some pin holes and rust.
I decided to put some gas in the carburetor and gave it a crank. It
popped, and the next crank it actually fired several times. After
sitting for over 40 years in a shed in Quebec this engine was going
to run.

I removed the gas tank and cleaned the fill tube with carburetor
cleaner. I replaced the tank with a coffee can filled with gas.
Then I poured water in the hopper and found the crack in the bottom
of the head. Well, this engine was sitting outside in Canada for
who knows how many years, so I did a temporary Red Green Possum
Lodge repair with duct tape.

“I filled up the tape on his answering machine with the
sounds of my engine.”

Time to start the engine. It started on the second crank. A few
adjustments to the carburetor and she was running smoothly. Time to
make a phone call. I ran and picked up our cordless phone and
called Larry on my way back to the still-operating engine. I got
his answering machine. Well, if he was inconsiderate enough to be
away at a time like this, I felt I should make sure he knew what
was happening. I filled up the tape on his answering machine with
the sounds of my engine.

Two weeks went by and he did not call me. I started to work on
one of the LB 5 HP engines and found that there was spark. I
removed the gas tank and it was very dirty inside but did not have
any leaks. I cleaned it out, filled it with gas and turned the
flywheel crank; it fired. A few more tries and adjustments and she
was running. I cranked up the Fairbanks and ran for the phone. He
was not home, again, so I left him another message with the sweet
sound of both engines operating. That evening my nephew called. He
said Larry was really upset and I probably needed to call him.
Actually, he was simply being stubborn since he was the one with
the engine schooling and never thought I would be able to do this
without his help. I called him and asked what he thought about the
sound of those engines. He laughed and said, “I was wondering how
long it would take you to mention them.” We then had a long talk
about the engines.

The following Thursday the local television station had a piece
on the Rough and Tumble show going on nearby. I took Friday off and
went to Kinzer. I had lived 20 miles from R&T for 35 years and
never visited the park. I joined R&T at that show and got Larry
a membership for Christmas.

That was the start of a great hobby for Larry and myself. We
have met a lot of great people who my wife simply can’t bring
herself to understand. However, when she questions this hobby I
simply remind her about all the shoes in her closets. Larry and I
now have about 30 engines between us including a Genco Powerplant,
an Ottawa Buzzmaster with cordwood saw, a Myrick 4 HP and many
others.

I also have a Fairbanks 3 HP Z direct-gear-drive typhoon
pressure pump assembly on its cart. The serial number is 26115, but
the engine number is unreadable. If anyone knows if Fairbanks would
have used the same serial number for the engine that they used for
the pump or has any information on this machine, I really would
appreciate a manual for the pump. I have an operating engine and am
working to restore the pump and have a working display. Once this
is operating, well, that will be another story.

Contact Gary Berlin at: 1439 Jerry Lane, Manheim, PA 17545;
(717) 665-7382; garystoys1@aol.com

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