The Edwards Gas Engine: UGLY BUT UNIQUE!

By Staff
1 / 5
2 / 5
3 / 5
4 / 5
This ad cut reprinted on an 1884 printing press from a photo engraving plate was sent to us by Jasper Harmon of 1255 Edmund Avenue, Saint Paul, MN 55104.
5 / 5

12300 Club Road, Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52404-9010

Editor’s note: In our November issue, we ran a story about
the Edwards Motor Company of Springfield, Ohio. We were unable to
speak with Armand DeYoung before we went to press, but he has since
sent us this story and pictures of his Edwards engine.

The Edwards gas engine is somewhat of a rare bird, a bit on the
ugly side, but also unique. I purchased my Ed-wards engine several
years ago while at one of our local shows. It was one of those days
where I had scoured the buy/sell area several times when I walked
up to a trailer load of engines and noticed this Edwards. I prefer
open crankshaft engines, but for some reason I was intrigued by
this engine with no obvious flywheels. The seller allowed another
guy and me to remove the flywheel cover to have a look inside. I
noticed that the engine had two cylinders, but the thing that
really caught my eye was that this engine had igniters. I was not
aware of any two cylinder engines that used igniters. Even with the
magneto missing, I decided that this engine was something I should
have, and a deal was made.

In his book, Encyclopedia of American Gas Engines,
Charlie Wendel indicates that the Edwards engine produces 1.5 HP on
one cylinder, 6.0 HP with both cylinders firing, and that the
company was in business from 1924 to 1926. I know of no serial
number listings for these engines, but two fellows have written to
me stating they have name-plates on their sparkplug engines which
have serial numbers 17993 and 20214.

I brought the engine home, and after a few days proceeded with
the task of getting it started. I found a crank in the water hopper
and noticed that the engine would have to be cranked backwards. In
my opinion, cranking an engine is bad news, and cranking one
backwards was even worse. I was successful in getting the engine to
run using a battery in place of the mag. After a few minutes this
knocking started. I shut the engine down and removed the flywheel
cover to find that one of the rod bearings had disintegrated. This
was the result of not spending enough time to make sure everything
was being oiled. On the Edwards engine, there are two oilers, one
for each cylinder, which lubricate the wrist pin and piston like
most single cylinder engines. The oil also catches in a small
indent near the wrist pin where it is pushed up a tube that runs
along the side of the rod, apparently by centrifugal force, to
lubricate the rod bearing. The tube on one cylinder was plugged and
the bearing insert didn’t like running dry. Both rod bearings
were replaced with brass inserts made by Jim Patton, a friend (now
deceased) and member of our local club.

The search for an original mag became another story. I placed an
ad in GEM and had a call from a fellow in New Woodstock,
New Hampshire. He had a collection of mags and was sure that he had
one for an Edwards. I learned that he, Murray Clark, owned an
amusement park which included a historical village. He also
collected gas engines and had, among other things, several mags on
display in his general store. He shipped the Edwards mag to me, and
although half of the cone gear was missing, it was the right one. I
am sure Murray knew I had a unique engine and he could have really
taken advantage of my situation, but he refused to take a penny for
the mag. He, like a lot of us, wasn’t in this hobby to make
money. This was really a first for me, but I sent him a video of
the Mount Pleasant, Iowa, Old Threshers Show to show my
appreciation.

The remaining portion of the gear provided a pattern so I could
have one made. Carl Bruchner, a retired machinist and member of our
local engine club, came to my rescue and made a replacement gear
for me, and I was back in business.

I ran the Edwards a time or two at our local show, but it was so
hard to start that it was easier to belt it to another engine. I am
not crazy about fighting an engine while at a show, so it joined a
couple of my other engines in the back of the shed.

I decided that this was the year the Edwards was going to some
shows, but the starting problems had to be resolved. I had found
some documentation on the Edwards and a picture showing the engine
being started with a strap wrapped around the pulley. I made a
strap, which included a knob to fit into a hole on the pulley. I am
a fairly good sized guy, maybe not the strongest, but it was nearly
impossible to start that engine with the strap. And, after pulling
the strap, the knob would fly by my head like a bullet. There had
to be a better way.

After considerable head scratching, I decided that a six volt
battery and a coil, with a double throw switch, would be the
ticket. I would start the engine on one cylinder, as normal, but
use the battery for a sure spark. Then once the engine was running,
I would throw the switch up to MAG. The design works very well as I
can now prime one cylinder, use the crank to turn the engine over
compression, and it usually starts with minimal sweat.

The Edwards Gas Engine Company was one of many companies that
came to be in the early 1900s. This company was located in
Springfield, Ohio, and apparently started business in approximately
1924. The company folded, or at least stopped manufacturing
engines, in 1926. From the information I have gathered, it appears
that the early Edwards engines, those made in 1924, had igniters
with low tension magnetos. They then upgraded to spark plugs and
high tension magnetos. I have also been told that some of the early
engines had a smaller water hopper, but I have not seen anything in
print to substantiate this. But, if so, this probably was changed
early on, as this engine, when running with both cylinders, really
boils the water.

I have tried numerous times to locate other owners of Edwards
engines, and in particular, ignitor engines. I have seen a few
spark plug engines, but know of only four other ignitor engines. So
far, my engine owner registry is as follows: Evert Hayden, Tucson,
Arizona, SN 17993, spark plug engine; James Oster, Chicopee,
Massachusetts, SN 20214, spark plug engine; William Lamond Jr.,
Coatesville, Pennsylvania, no SN, ignitor engine; Alan Nowell,
Miami, Florida, SN 5944, spark plug engine; Charles Rakes,
Bentonville, Arkansas, no SN, ignitor engine; and Robert Johnson,
rojohn@aen.net, no SN, ignitor engine.

If you have one, please drop me a note.

Gas Engine Magazine
Gas Engine Magazine
Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines