Stationary Engine List

By Staff
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A subject which comes up every so often on the AT1S internet
mailing list is just how much an engine should be restored, to a
high-gloss, pin-striped perfection or left as much as possible
‘as found,’ with original paint work. The following
comments are a variety of opinions which surfaced during this
discussion, which just happened to have a most appropriate subject
heading: ‘Engine Show Heaven.’

I attended a small local show this weekend and got a neat treat
today. A collector friend of mine brought in his 1910 round rod 7
HP Galloway and a 1913 Gilson 6 HP, both in original condition on
their original horse carts.

He could not make it in to the show until late this afternoon,
so he told me that these were mine to run until he made it to the
show. What an absolute treat to sit between these two beautiful,
original, and smooth running pieces of art! As some have stated on
occasion, the spectators seem to be drawn to the engines that are
in their original working clothes, and these were no exception.

I believe that some of it is that the ‘rustys’ look more
like the mental image in many folks memories of ‘the good old
days.’ Growing up during the ’40s and ’50s, I do not
recall seeing that many shiny tractors. Sure there were new ones
being bought, but most of those had to sit out in the weather, and
there were a lot of really old ones in use, too. Those were seldom

I can’t recall ever seeing a clean shiny stationary engine
running as a kid. I never saw one repainted until they started
being collected. Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing the great
restorations, engines and tractors both, but that isn’t the
memory picture most of us have.

I will say that a really nice original ‘anything’ is
worthy of preserving and in fact should be preserved in its
original condition as far as ‘finish’ is concerned. I do
however, think that it should be put into like new mechanical

But! the showing of rusty broken down junk with homemade bailing
wire repairs and non-correct retrofitted parts is an act showing
disrespect to the original designers and the men who dedicated
their lives to building these tools. I will acknowledge that the
‘users’ of these tools had to do what they could to keep
them going, but I see no excuse for a collector to not make the
proper repairs.

Eleven of my fourteen stationary engines are in original finish,
but every one of them is in top mechanical condition, with all of
the correct parts. To me this hobby is not about ‘just make it
run,’ it is about learning the old ways, preserving it and
making it work today. I am also one who does not feel driven to
show engines doing a job. I carry a display board with my engines
that explains what they were used for, but all of these jobs are
still done today by electric motors. It’s the engines that are
the story; to me it has always been about the ‘Engines’ and
making them run like new, even if the are a 100 years old.

I agree with you, with one exception. If these were ‘of
necessity’ farm repairs or modifications, then they might be
worth preserving to show folks what sometimes had to be done to
keep these tools working in times of tight money. BUT… if
you’re gonna do that, then THAT should be the focus of the
display. Put up an info board explaining the repair or
modification, why it might have been done, what the cost of a
proper repair might have been, and what the ‘correct’
configuration should be. Don’t just exhibit a cobbled together
engine with no clarification.

I feel that both approaches preserve an interesting part of
engine history and show respect to the craftsmen who designed and
built the old engines AND the tinkers and smiths who modified and
repaired ’em.

I have a 2 HP Monitor, built in 1915, and it is pretty close to
being barn fresh. I made a couple of new pins for the governor
linkage and a new pushrod, gave it a quick and dirty valve job and
run it like it is. I wanted to do a full blown ‘trailer
queen’ restoration on it, but it runs and I spend most of my
time on big engines and stuff in the engine shed at the club
grounds. When the first show came around this year, I dug it out of
the shed and stuck it on an old set of trucks from a cement mixer,
figuring it was temporary, but easier to move. It ran all weekend
flawlessly and I got a lot of comments about how neat it was, left
original. My buddy told me how good it looked on those trucks! I
want to leave it this way and run it until it needs extensive
repairs. When it does, I suppose it will be blasted clean and the
whole she-bang, but I dread the thought of it. It just won’t be
the same. This Monitor was the first engine I have bought in
several years that actually would run when I hauled it home. When
it is left in the ‘unprettified’ state, you can see what it
really is, warts and all. So much heartbreak can lurk under a
little bondo and Krylon!

I like some of the old repairs, done when the thing was in use,
as long as it runs good. Crude modifications look pretty good,
except when they are covered with new paint! Paint is only
temporary, but good repairs last a long time!

May I just interject another view concerning preservation. I
would say one of the only times a ‘different’ style of
repair could be left alone is on a piece that has been in one’s
family since it was new, and has the owner’s kinfolk’s
‘fingerprint’ as it were that is, a ding here, a dent
there, or somewhat of a different style of repair. The I-beam that
holds the axle on my great-grandfather’s Galloway saw rig is
bent. I know that either he or my grandfather did it, so it stayed
that way when I restored it. The same will be true when I get my
grandfather’s Allis WD running this winter. The fenders are
dented up, but my grandfather did it, so they are going to stay
that way. If they had repaired something on them that wasn’t
quite kosher, I would be inclined to leave it that way for the same

I can’t touch the nail in the intake on Granpa’s United

I get one heck of a kick out of some of the jerry-rigging that
was done to keep an engine going.

One of the most rewarding, and most difficult things, is to
repair and restore an as found engine and make it all look a hunert
years old and unrepaired. In fact it’s my favorite kind of
engine. Trying to properly screw up the new and or homemade
fasteners and replicating corrosion and patinas in iron is much
more challenging than antique furniture ever was.

The only thing I take off the engines is any marking that was
put on for the sale (I sometimes get them at auction and they paint
#s and such on them with some kind of paint). I do just enough to
get them running and that is it. I figure the younger generation
deserve to find one in semi original condition.

Had to comment the ‘leave it like it is restoration.’ We
all spend lots of hours and megabucks dressing these old engines
up, when most of them really didn’t look or were that well
painted right from the factory.

Personally, I like the ‘working clothes’ look it takes
80 to 100 years to achieve that.

BUT, whatever it looks like (and variety of restoration levels
makes a show more interesting than if every engine were perfectly
original or beautifully restored), they should be RUNNING!

And on the subject of old repairs, it’s interesting to note
that in the general antiques market, the value of repaired items
used to be considerably less than those in perfect condition, but
now the trend is changing, as the ingenuity of some repairs (and
also the probable expense) is a good indicator of just how valuable
the item was considered to be at the time.

As for level of or even whether to restore I’ve read this
thread with much interest seems to me like we’re talking here
more about people than machinery more about what or whom is to be
commemorated than the iron itself. And that’s reflected in the
really great part of this hobby it ain’t the iron it’s the

Doesn’t that just sum it up!!! This hobby attracts a huge
variety of people and with that comes a diversity in

Once again, my thanks to Ted Brook over who saved this e-mail
thread for me when my computer crashed. I don’t know what
subject I’ll find for next month’s article right now
there’s a lively discussion going on about whether all crank
handles should be melted down, or that they are the only correct
way to start an engine.

If my calculations are correct, this article will be appearing
in the issue of GEM you get in December, so I’ll take this
opportunity to wish everyone all the best for the holiday season,
and to look forward to another wonderful year of restoring, running
and showing engines.

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