The Ironwood Engine


| October/November 1993

2500 Curtis Road, Leonard, Michigan 48367, and Jim Beauchamp, 27855 W. California,  Lathrup Village, Michigan 48076

These engines were called 'Iron-wood,' as they were built in Iron-wood, Michigan, in the Roosevelt High School by the students. They were built sometime between 1918 and 1930. It took several high school years for the students to complete the engine. The students drew the designs, built foundry patterns, poured brass and cast iron casting, machined them to blue print specifications. The last step was to assemble and paint the engine. They were painted green. We do not know the exact color of green. After students finished their engine it was graded and given to the students to take home and use on a churn, sewing machine, or whatever would operate on a 1/2 or 3/4 HP engine. These engines had no name tag. The students marked their engine parts with their initial. It is not uncommon to find the teacher's initial on the completed engines also.

These rare engines were shown at the Eastern Michigan Collector's Show at Seven Ponds Nature Center, Dryden, Michigan.

There were two styles built by the students. Some of the similarities were flywheels, crankshaft, connecting rod, piston, spark advance and restart. They both used a buzz coil and battery. The other parts are completely different. From what we can find out, there were approximately 200 of these engines built. We know of about ten.

Of the engine at left in the picture, owner John Preston says, 'I went to see a gas engine collector by the name of Clinton Mc Nett who lives in Brooklyn, Michigan. While looking over his engines, I saw a small engine that I liked. Clinton told me it was an Ironwood engine and that he would sell it. At that time Ironwood engines didn't mean anything to me, but I liked the engine, so we came to an agreeable price. After I got the engine home, I saw I was missing two parts of the governor. I found out that Arthur Gaier of Versailles, Ohio, had an Ironwood like mine. After contacting Art, I found we could help each other by loaning each other parts to duplicate. I machined my parts and got the engine working good mechanically. Then I painted it green and made a battery box and cart for it.'

The engine at right, owned by Jim Beauchamp, was built by Jim's uncle, Leo Beauchamp, and was completed in 1918. Jim says, 'My dad was six years old when his brother brought it home, but he remembered it ran and was unpainted. It was placed on the porch and ran his mother's washing machine until she died in 1932. Leo then retrieved it and took it to his automotive electrical shop in Ironwood, where it sat until he died. Several people have told me they remember it being placed in the front of this shop. His son then inherited it and it moved to Seattle, Washington. It was then given to my dad by his widow, who gave it to me and returned it to Michigan. After I brought it home, I cleaned it, painted it, made a battery box and cart for it. Of all the engines in my collection, needless to say, this is my most prized engine.'