Sole Survivor: A Root & Vandervoort Engine

It's been a life of leisure for this Root & Vandervoort engine, the only R&V marine known.


| January/February 2003



Pose with the Root & Vandervoort

Kenny and Joyce Lage pose with the Root & Vandervoort.

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.