In January 1966, Gas Engine Magazine made its
big debut, and what image did Elmer Ritzman choose to portray his
baby and represent the face of things to come? A 1903 6 HP Type A
Spring-field. The serial number on the engine was 3086 and it was
purchased new in 1903 by Charles Folk of what was then known as,
Longswamp Township, in Berks County, Pa.
As luck would have it, this engine found its way back to us.
Charles passed the engine on to his twin sons, Charles and Walter,
who used the engine until 1945. Howard Geisinger of Kutztown, Pa.,
then purchased the engine in 1962 and displayed it at the Kempton
Farm Museum. Howard also took the engine to the Kutztown Fair,
where a curious boy around 17 or 18 years old took a liking to it.
Howard allowed the boy past the ropes to take a closer look at the
engine, and the boy admitted he’d like to have it some day if
Howard ever wanted to get rid of it.
The boy was Ed Johnson, and he did get that engine in the 1980s.
Thus, the jewel of Elmer Ritzman’s heart that premiered on the
cover of his first issue is still very much alive and well. Ed has
done little more than clean the engine, which was in good, original
shape when he acquired it. He said it was mechanically sound, still
had the original paint and even the striping on the cart. The
horse-drawn cart was hand-built by Charles Fegely, a local
wagon-maker blacksmith. According to the January 1966 issue of GEM,
Charles purchased a Springfield engine to run his shop and was
given orders from the Springfield Co. to build wagons for them.
This was believed to be how he paid off the engine he
Ed Johnson first became interested in engines when he was 11 or
12 years old. His father, he said, went out to a dump in a field
behind a farm, where he found a 1-1/2 HP International Harvester
made in 1921. He and a friend turned the 350-pound engine over and
rolled it out like a wheelbarrow. Ed’s father had a repair shop and
a towing business, so he brought the engine home in the back of his
wrecker. When he pulled up to the repair shop, Ed ran out and asked
what it was. His father lovingly said, “It’s a gas engine. Now go
get me a piece of steel wool!”
Ed asked his father what he was going to do with it and his
father said, “You’re gonna fix it up!” Ed did as he was told,
though he admitted that kids are notorious for taking things apart
and not being able to put them back together, which he did. At his
young age, he “took it apart pretty good,” but it sat for a year
before his father helped him put it back together. Ed said his love
for the hobby really clicked at a show in Kinzers, Pa., and since
then he has had around 1,000 engines come and go.
Though he has seen so many engines come in and out of his life,
Ed has had the Springfield engine for 25-30 years now, and we are
certainly glad he held on to this wonderful piece of history.
Contact Ed Johnson at: P.O. Box 50, Baptistown, NJ 08803.