I found this engine at a local antique shop in the early 1960s,
priced at $10. I did some talking and got it for $7. Did I pay too
much? It was missing quite a few pieces, but I understand engines
and I made the following missing parts: the sideshaft and its gear;
the head; intake and exhaust valve cams; and the rocker arm.
It’s still missing its burner tube, but we’ll come back to
that. It has a 1-3/8-inch bore, a 2-3/4-inch stroke and the
flywheel is 6-1/2-inch in diameter. It has most of its original
paint and pin striping. It is, it should be noted, a toy engine,
and was never built to actually work for a living.
Dale Nickerson’s Schoenner engine, missing many of its
pieces when found. Dale made the engine’s cylinder head,
sideshaft, valve cams and the rocker arm.
In the early 1970s while on my way to a show in Ohio, I made a
side trip and stopped at Don Irvin’s model shop in Burbank,
Ohio. Don had an identical engine (I don’t recall how complete
it was), and according to Don, Jean Schoenner of Nuremburg,
Germany, made my engine some time between 1880 and 1890.
It’s a three-cycle, non-compression flame-ignition engine.
The engine’s operating sequence is thus: On the intake stroke
the sideshaft cam opens the fuel intake valve on the side of the
cylinder admitting a small amount of gas – at the same time the
automatic valve on the front of the cylinder opens, letting in air.
When the piston reaches half its stroke the gas valve closes. The
piston goes a wee bit more, exposing a port on the side of the
cylinder. Flame provided by a burner tube is sucked in causing
combustion, followed by a quarter-turn power stroke. At the end of
that stroke the exhaust valve on the front of the cylinder head
opens, discharging the spent gases.
Looking at the Schoenner from above. The tube at the back of the
cylinder is an oiler, the fitting at the front is the air intake
valve. The sideshaft gear is just visible on the left side of the
I first tried running it on propane, but with no result – no
doubt I had the wrong fuel/air ratio. Next, I made an acetylene
generator with two outlets; one supplying gas for the inlet valve,
the other supplying gas for the flame. The only problem was, as gas
was admitted the flame was pulled out. Following that I made a
small, separate reserve tank for the flame’s gas supply, but
the engine still pulled the flame out.
I then added a wick to where the gas jet was located, filled the
tank with denatured alcohol, lit the wick and spun the flywheel. It
fired but blew the flame out. I tried lowering the flame so just
its tip would be sucked in, but it still blew it out. It has been
at least 30 years since all that took place, and I figure it’s
time to try again.
Does anyone in the U.S., United Kingdom, Germany, Netherlands or
anywhere else in the world have one of these engines in operating
condition? I need to know the diameter and length of the burner
tube, the diameter of the gas jet, the diameter of the air holes
and how many. I’d also like to know what type of gas it used
and at what kind of pressure. Was there a shield inside the burner
tube to prevent the flame from being blown out?
A lot of questions, but I hope to get some answers and finally
get this interesting little engine running once again.
Contact engine enthusiast Dale Nickerson at: 8670 Glasgow
Road, Cassadaga, NY 14718-9617, (716) 595-3260.