Sole Survivor: A Root & Vandervoort Engine

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Kenny and Joyce Lage pose with the Root & Vandervoort.
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The R&V marine, its three position transmission clearly visible.
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The marine Root & Vandervoort's crank handle is standard R&V fitment, set into the engine's flywheel.
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The R& V's original brass Schebler carburetor was found in the same building that housed the engine.
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The marine Root & Vandervoort's crank handle is standard R&V fitment, set into the engine's flywheel.
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Most gas engines spend their entire work lives … working. They
were purchased as labor saving devices to replace the hard work of
pumping water, shelling corn, grinding grain or sawing wood around
a farmstead. If they’re lucky enough to survive to the present
time they may end up looking better, but they still work at pumping
water, shelling corn, grinding grain or sawing wood at a gas engine
show.

Not so with Kenny and Joyce Lage’s 1912 3HP vertical Root
& Vandervort marine engine, serial number CM2084. Eighty years
ago, this engine was set up powering a 20-foot, wooden Chris-Craft
of boat that motored along the Mississippi River. Today, it still
supplies power, but now for a kid’s merry-go-round that a
loving grandpa built. This is an engine that gets to play.

Finding the R&V

Kenny has a wonderful collection of prairie tractors, a 1919
Avery 14-28, a 1930 Hart-Parr 28-50 and a very rare 1930 Baker
42-67. The Baker tractor was missing its small, Alemite grease
fittings, and Kenny thought there might be some in an old two-story
building in Wilton, Iowa, a few miles from where he lives. One of
those places you could barely walk through, the old building had
been a dealership since 1934 and a general store before that, and
nothing had been thrown out for years.

Kenny knew the owner of the building, and the owner thought
there might some fittings about and invited Kenny to come poke
around. Kenny hit pay dirt and found a box of fittings – but he
also spied the old R&V boat motor; rusty and lying on its side,
missing its fuel tank and brass Schebler carburetor. As if that
wasn’t enough, in another part of the building Kenny found a
circa 1899 4 HP hit-and-miss Lambert sideshaft engine.

Now, Kenny is a tractor guy, but he likes one-of-a-kind things,
so he decided he needed the engines, too. He made a fair offer for
the engines and fittings, which was accepted, but then he learned
he’d have to have everything off the property by 10 a.m. the
next day, or else it would be included in a pending auction sale
bill. As it happened it was the hectic Mt. Pleasant show weekend,
but Kenny cleared his busy schedule, secured his skidster from his
home six miles away, loaded his treasures and made the deadline.
During the pick-up he noticed the old open cockpit, 20-foot wooden
boat that once housed the R&V, missing its engine and filled
with firewood. The boat was, unfortunately, quite rotten, and it
was later destroyed. That boat was the only proof of where the
R&V began its life.

R&V Vertical Marine

Kenny’s engine is a marvel. When the R&V was originally
set up, its exhaust pipe would have gone through the boat’s
wooden hull, and if not cooled could easily have caused a fire. To
counter this, the R&V has a water pump that provides cooling
for both the engine and the exhaust, with cooling water routed
through the exhaust just after the exhaust exits the cylinder. The
engine’s igniter design and its starting handle in the flywheel
are classic R&V features.

The R&V’s water pump runs off an eccentric on the crank.
One line provides cooling water for the engine while a second
(disconnected here) is piped to the exhaust’s cast iron
elbow.

The restoration fell together nicely, as Kenny has been
restoring tractors since 1958 when he acquired the family farm
(he’s the fifth generation of the Lage family to run the farm)
and he has the facilities and tools for the job. It was obvious
that the engine had not seen many hours of service. The cylinder
bore was true, and there was very little carbon build-up in the
engine. In fact, Kenny’s biggest problem is keeping the engine
free during prolonged idle periods.

When Kenny picked up the R&V it was missing its carburetor
and clutching assembly, but as luck would have it both pieces were
found a couple of days later on the second floor of the old
dealership building. Kenny had to design a fuel tank and fabricate
an exhaust system, not to mention doing a lot of tuning, adjusting,
painting and pin striping to get the engine back into form. Because
of the engine’s unusual footprint a cart for it posed a special
challenge. Kenny settled on a Rock Island cart with an extended
rear axle to accommodate the R&V’s broad shape. Yellow pine
was the wood of choice for the rails.

The R&V’s feature of forward, neutral and reverse power
modes really excited Kenny, and he decided to build a
merry-go-round for his grandchildren using an old Sandwich horse
sweep. The engineering application worked out great, but Kenny
found it would take most of a river to cool the R&V – a 55
gallon drum cut in half didn’t work, and he is still working on
a solution.

Many people have challenged Kenny about this engine, saying
R&V never made a marine engine – that is until he shows them
the R&V’s factory data plate. For most of its life this
R&V engine has enjoyed a relative life of leisure, a playing
rather than working engine. But it’s sure to get a work out of
sorts at the 100 year R&V factory reunion set to be held in
East Moline, Ill., on Sept. 12-14, 2003. As the only known Root
& Vandervoort marine engine, it’s certain to get more than
its share of attention at the reunion, and Kenny is looking forward
to seeing R&V engine number CM2084 take its rightful place in
the Root & Vandervoort history.

Contact engine enthusiast Dick Wells at: 1954 12th Ave.,
Moline, IL 61265, (309) 797-2642, e-mail:
WellsRichardC@JohnDeere.com

Contact engine enthusiasts Kenny and Joyce Lage at: RR #2,
2014 310 St., Wilton, IA 52778

Extended rear axle to accomodate the R&V’s broad shape
obvious in this shot. Aside from the gas tank and the exhaust, the
engine itself is believed to be as built by Root & Vandervoort
in 1912. To date, this is the only known R&V marine engine. A
rare find, indeed.

R&V Reunion Slated For September 12-14, 2003

Root & Vandervoort engine owners are gearing up for the
R&V 100th Anniversary Reunion in East Moline, Ill. R&V
owners from around the country are making plans to attend – Patrick
Livingstone and Peter Lowe plan on making the trek all the way from
Australia.

Nebraska R&V engine owners are challenging any state
(excepting host state Iowa) to bring more R&V engines to the
reunion than Nebraska owners. Over 100 R&V engines are already
signed up for the 9reunion.

Registration packets are set to be mailed in February, and
R&V registrar Peter Lowe’s web site
(www.oldengine.org/members/plowe/) has more information, or you can
contact Dick Wells at the address listed

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