Rock Island Engine Spawns Friendship

New life for a 1923 5 HP Rock Island engine, serial no. A80817


| June/July 2013



Rock Island Engine After

New life for a 1923 5 HP Rock Island serial no. A80817.

Photo Courtesy Charles Hargreaves

Back in March 2001, I had a story in Gas Engine Magazine about a 2-1/2 HP Rock Island engine and how I got it. That is when I met Gary Calvin. He wrote me and included a return envelope, but I lost track of it. Gary collects Rock Island and Alamo engines. I finally found the envelope, but again misplaced it, and when I found it again I wrote back before it got misplaced again! The best thing to do if you are sent a return envelope – answer right away and it won’t get misplaced. I have learned that.

In my return letter I asked for his phone number so I could call him. He beat me to that and called me first, and we became close friends. Later, I met him and his brother, Lyle Calvin, in person, and we became the best of friends.

Gary has helped me to get four engines going. The first was an Empire that needed to be freed up. Gary got it loose and running. Then my youngest son pulled a sneaky one on me and had Gary get my 2-1/2 HP Rock Island engine going. He had it painted, ordered the muffler, had a new gas tank made, and got whatever else it needed. My oldest son made a cart for it. I had already sent the magneto to North Carolina to be rebuilt. Gary also helped me get a 4 HP Alamo running. I was not sure if I had the missing parts for it, as some engines I purchased in boxes. Anyway, I was able to find the parts, including the head bolt nuts, so with Gary’s help the Alamo now runs.

The fourth engine that Gary and Lyle helped me get running was my 5 HP Rock Island.

In 2001 a fellow in North Carolina wrote me and said he had a Rock Island engine and asked about the proper color. I wrote him and said I was not sure the correct shade.

As time went by things started to change. My wife ended up with multiple sclerosis (MS), so she could not drive anymore or do other things around the house. Then her Alzheimer’s disease started setting in. In 2007 we moved to where we are now. As of now she is wheelchair-bound. I do have her at home with me, so my projects don’t get done too fast.