USAF (Retired) Box 495, Manchester, WA 98353
Fifteen years of searching for a sideshaft engine, and then
suddenly it was there in front of me! A six horsepower Perkins Wind
Mill Company, mostly intact. Why hadn’t some collector spotted
this rare old engine during its long retired spell of sitting on a
rotted fir stump? To find it, all you had to do was drive about
three miles from Manchester, Washington, take two country roads for
a short distance, and then drive over a twisting, bumpy, one-lane
dirt road through tall timber for a half-mile!
In the middle of a 20-acre forested farm site, near a
Mom-and-Pop sawmill, sat the prettiest piece of iron an engine
collector could ever hope to see. At first glance, I noticed that
one flywheel had been replaced by a large pulley; this temporary
disappointment was overcome by the sight of the second flywheel
nestled in among other tractor wheels and tires along side of a
nearby shed. But I am getting ahead of my story, so bear with me
for a minute or two while I backtrack a bit.
The change-over from a 31-year career as a pilot in the U. S.
Army Air Corp and Air Force to a retirement life of collecting and
restoring one-lunger engines came easily in 1974. Like many in the
hobby, I acquired my share of the Economys, Stovers, F/M and
Sattleys that made up the bulk of farm and ranch power sources
prior to the arrival of electricity in the 1930’s. But the
challenge to continue searching for another engine never slackened
because I didn’t have a ‘sideshaft’. One day, a fishing
acquaintance said that I should meet a friend of his in that he had
a lot of ‘old rusty things’ around his place…the kind of
‘things’ that I might be interested in. One telephone call,
along with 10-12 friendly visits involving some low-keyed barter
negotiations, the six horsepower Perkins Wind Mill engine changed
hands. My 15-year goal had finally been reached.
The Perkins Wind Mill engine was located on Vashow Island (in
the middle of Puget Sound a few miles southwest of Seattle) in the
early 1900’s powering a sawmill/firewood operation. From there,
it was ferried across Puget Sound to the Jonason farm where it
again powered a wood saw until retired to the old fir stump about
the time World War II ended. Despite the damp climate of the Puget
Sound basin, the 45 years of weathering hadn’t really hurt the
engine too badly.
The substitute carburetor seen here is familiar to vintage Ford
fans. Mr. Jonason, last owner of the Perkins, said, ‘I have the
original carburetor if you want it, but the engine runs better with
this one.’ We took the original! Note the open exhaust pipe at
right front of picture. We were certain the head and cylinders were
full of water but a unique design by Perkins kept water from
collecting; thus there were no freeze breaks. The spark plug on the
valve inspection plate-top of engine-is a field modification by the
previous owner. The ignitor was sealed in place in the head with
plaster of Paris! Three hours of drilling, chipping and poking
cleaned out the small ignition chamber and freed the ignitor.
With the help and encouragement of my friends, John and Carl
Neitzel, Butch Windhurst, and Bob Tracy, the Perkins was safely
removed from its stump home, cleaned, and dismantled without any
difficulty. At the present time, the ‘missing’ flywheel is
being fitted to the crankshaft along with some key-way work. My
partner on this engine is John Neitzel, a young, energetic
collector well on his way to being recognized as a full-fledged
expert on the old one-lungers. If all goes according to our plan,
the Perkins Wind Mill engine should be fully restored and on the
show circuit by the summer of 1991.
As a special note of interest to the other Perkins Wind Mill
engine collectors, we found some original paint which was a dark
green color comparable to the Ideal engine by R.E. Olds. Another
big help was in getting a copy of the Perkins Wind Mill Company
catalog 45 (it mentioned 50 years in business since 1860). John
Neitzel and I would be pleased to hear from other Perkins owners as
we still must solve the trip mechanism for the ignitor.
If you are wondering what the engine cost us, I regret that
I’m not at liberty to say in detail, but it’s safe to say
that a bucket or two of Old Irish cough medicine changed hands.
When the winter chill sets in, I will know where to go for some
medicinal advice and yarn swapping!