4609 Pacific Avenue Vancouver, WA 98663
Probably one of the neatest things about collecting old gas
engines is the stories that come with them. I have been collecting
engines for a few years now and being in my mid 30’s these
stories are of great value. The biggest percentage of engine
collectors are of the age that actually used them in their day so
this information and knowledge they have is just taken for granted.
I urge the young collectors to spend time, ask questions, relay
stories with these guys, cause when they’re gone so is the
data. A good example of what I’ve just mentioned is in the
Helping my brother-in-law salvage some scrap iron along a river
bank gave me the chance to meet the owner of the place. His name is
John and we talked about the old iron and how it came about being
there for so long. He said during the war there were scrap iron
runs every so often in the area and that he would always contribute
to them, but what was here was never picked up. Knowing that this
is what happened to the majority of the old engines, I asked if he
had saved any of them from the past. He nodded his head yes and
motioned to the barn. My feet couldn’t get there fast enough.
Once the door opened there stood a 2? HP vertical Ideal and a 2 HP
Witte. I was really excited and decided I really had to have them.
I asked John if they could be made available. With a little thought
and talk and price settling the engines were mine. I came back a
few weeks later to get the engines out of the barn and noticed a
small boiler. I asked what it was used for and he said it was for
his steam engine. Now I was really excited! As we headed for the
house I was thinking maybe this is the marine compound I have been
patiently waiting for. Instead, here before me is this beautiful
replica of what appears to be a Corliss. He said his father, whose
name was Frank, made it when he was young. Frank, born in 1872,
started the engine when he was 17. He made his own castings for the
frame which is cast iron, the rest is in brass. The machining was
done on a treadle lathe, a drill press, and a file. The project
took a couple of years and if a trophy were to be given this is
truly a first place winner. The engine was modeled after a Corliss
that operated the Schlitz Brewery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The
brewery was running the engine in 1942 when John’s brother went
there for a visit.
The model has a 3′ bore, a 9′ stroke and is rated at 4
HP?. Frank was a stone cutter by trade and nicely placed the engine
on a marble slate 4? long, 16′ wide and 1?’ thick. This is
without a doubt a wonderful heirloom and John says he already has a
son. Oh well.
Now that’s not the end yet.
Frank liked machining and having that lathe and press he took on
odd jobs. One job in particular was for these two brothers Frank
knew really well. These two brothers had been working on an engine
design and needed some machine work by Frank. Well, between the
three they got that engine to run but it ran poorly. With
frustration they quit for a while. Frank moved out west around
1900-1901 yet still kept in contact with the two brothers. Later on
the two brothers met another guy and those three worked on a little
different version of their engine, this time with greater
In 1932 Frank went back to visit the HARLEY brothers and
‘their partner DAVIDSON. At this time Harley-Davidson was in
full production and selling like crazy.
You see it’s stories like this that are just as important in
our collecting as the collecting itself.