Coolspring Spotlight: 1885 2 HP Schleicher, Schumm Otto

By Staff
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The 1885 2 HP Schleicher, Schumm Otto has a crosshead piston design similar to steam engines of the day.
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Bevel gears on crank.
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1885 2 HP Schleicher, Schumm Otto.

Manufacturer: Schleicher, Schumm & Co., Philadelphia, PA
Serial number: 954
Horsepower: 2 HP
Bore & stroke: 4in x 9in
Ignition:  Flame
Governing: Hit-and-miss

This is a 2 HP Otto made in 1885 by the Schleicher, Schumm Co. in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is one of the oldest 4-cycle engines in the country. “The layout of this engine is similar to almost any modern engine of today,” notes Otto expert Wayne Grenning. “It has a crankshaft, a piston [and] a camshaft that has a poppet valve that works off the sideshaft – it is, in essence, the first version or first attempt at a modern engine.”

This engine has a crosshead design very similar to what you’ll find on early steam engines, and it was incorporated to prevent side-loading of the piston. Another notable feature on this early engine is on the crankshaft, which has straight-cut bevel gears, the predecessors to the more common crossed helical or “sidewinder” gears used on later sideshaft engines.

On the front of the engine is a slide valve, which is a sliding rectangular plate that controls air admission, fuel admission and timing of the ignition, which in this case is flame ignition. The exhaust valve on this engine is a poppet valve system – a system that was on the very earliest 4-cycle engines and is still used on 4-cycle engines of today.


Organized by James and Adolph Schleicher and Hermann Schumm in 1880, Schleicher, Schumm & Co. was the United States branch of the Otto Gas Engine Co. of Germany. Operating under this name until 1894, the company built many styles of Otto engines in sizes ranging from 1/2 HP to more than 50 HP. Manufactured in Philadelphia under license from the inventor of the 4-stroke cycle, Dr. Nikolaus Otto, this engine embodies design features considered revolutionary at this time.

The early history of this particular engine is not known. It was donated to the Henry Ford Museum by the Otto Gas Engine Works in 1928. It was purchased from the Ford Museum and restored by Calvin Susong’s Antique Power Museum in Akron, Ohio. It was brought to Coolspring in 1992.

“I have been associated with the engine ever since it was sold by the Henry Ford Museum,” the late Preston Foster said in 2011. “I had the pleasure of restoring the engine for Cal Susong. The engine was originally placed on loan to the Owls Head Transportation Museum in Maine. My son, Kurt, and I traveled to Maine many times to complete the restoration of the engine. We also went to Maine to run the engine for the Owls Head Museum at many of their functions. The trip to Maine to bring the engine to Coolspring was filled with a flood of emotions. I still treasure the fact that this engine is in my care.”

Want to learn more about this engine and 38 others? Check out Coolspring: Discovering America’s Finest Antique Engine Museum and see them run on the Coolspring Museum DVD.

Visit Coolspring Power Museum for more information about exhibits of early stationary internal combustion engines and events held at the museum.

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