The Real Field of Dreams

By Staff
1 / 10
4 HP Christensen, 1-1/2 HP Termaat & Monahan, 3-1/2 HP “Leader” Field Force pump.
2 / 10
3 HP Monitor, 3 HP Termaat & Monahan, 4 HP Christensen, 1-1/2 HP Termaat & Monahan, 3-1/2 HP “Leader” Field Force pump, 5 HP Bloomer, 3 HP Stickney.
3 / 10
8 HP O.K. (Algoma).
4 / 10
6 HP Thompson Tiger and 4 HP IHC Famous with hay press in background
5 / 10
1914 Waterloo 2 HP
6 / 10
5 HP Bloomer.
7 / 10
8 HP Lauson
8 / 10
The 5 HP, serial no. 647, Western King as found in the field.
9 / 10
Dan Dorece tackeled this engine
10 / 10

I started collecting engines 60-plus years ago
at the age of 8. I still have my first engine, a Model 92 Maytag,
which was given to me by my uncle. He spent several months trying
to get it running with no success. After discovering I couldn’t
shock the neighborhood kids by letting them holding the plug wire,
I asked one of the men who worked at the junkyard down the road how
to fix the spark. He said the condenser was probably bad. After
removing the inspection plate on the flywheel, he showed me where
the condenser was. He then gave me a handful of used ones, and
I?spent hours figuring out how to make a condenser that wasn’t made
for the engine fit into the space available. It started on the
third or fourth kick, and when my uncle found out about it he
wouldn’t talk to me for six months.

From that time until I finished high school, I accumulated about
a dozen more engines, mostly Briggs & Stratton and a couple of
air-cooled Lausons plus a 4-cycle Jacobsen lawn mower engine with
overhead valves and two pushrods, which I learned much later is a
very scarce engine (I detest the over use of the term “rare” and
only use it to identify items where only one or two are known).
After high school, I enlisted in the Navy, and on being discharged
I began an apprenticeship in machine maintenance at American Motors
Corp. in Kenosha, Wis. During this time I also got married, started
a family and built a house, so the engine collecting went on the
back burner for several years.

Some time in the mid-1970s, while at a farm auction, I wound up
bidding on a pile (literally) of old flywheel engines, which I won
for the princely sum of $7.50. In the pile were a couple of
Fairbanks-Morse Zs, an IHC LA, an engine with no name that turned
out to be an Economy, and a strange looking thing that I thought
was an air compressor, but was actually a Baker Monitor pump jack
engine.

I spent some time repairing and cleaning these engines and got
all but the Monitor running in a few weeks. I restored the Monitor
a couple of years later. I played with these toys for a few years
but never showed any of them. In 1985, while trying to select a
Christmas gift for me, my wife saw American Gasoline Engines Since
1872 advertised in a catalog, and remembering the engines I had in
the shop, ordered a copy for me. This book was a real eye-opener. I
had no idea that there were so many types and varieties of old
engines and my wife had no idea of the can of worms she was
opening. Over the next four years, I won a few more engines at farm
auctions and bought a couple more from vendors at shows that I had
started to attend. Then in 1989, at the age of 52, I retired from
my job at American Motors and started my own machine shop
business.

The business did well, and with more discretionary income and
free time, I purchased a few more engines. About 1995, it began to
occur to me that a large number of the old flywheel-type engines
had been built in Wisconsin. The production of just two companies,
Fairbanks-Morse in Beloit and International Harvester at the
Milwaukee Works, accounted for close to 50 percent of all these
engines ever built in the U.S. I started a list of the
Wisconsin-built engines I knew of, which now exceeds 200, and began
to direct my collecting interests almost exclusively to these
engines. I now have over 100 Wisconsin-built engines from about 30
different manufacturers.

In the Fall of 2004, I saw an engine in an eBay auction that was
listed as “unknown maker,” but I recognized it as a small
Simplicity. I had been looking for one of these for quite some
time, so I placed a bid and a few days later was notified that I
was the high bidder. I contacted the owner and found that the
engine was in far northwestern Wisconsin. Because of the machine
shop business, it was the middle of November before I could get
away to pick it up.

While planning the trip, I saw an auction listed in our state
farm paper with a couple of engines to be auctioned off. This sale
was in the Wausau, Wis., area so I planned to go to the auction and
pick up the Simplicity the next morning. The two engines in the
auction were described as “John Deere 1-1/2 HP” and “a second large
engine.” You can imagine my amazement when I arrived at the auction
site and discovered that the “large engine” was a complete and very
original Lauson-Lawton 6 HP with factory trucks. Of course I had to
buy it and because I only had the pickup and not the trailer, I
loaded the trucks for the engine and left the engine to pick up
later. The next morning, I went to the farm where the Simplicity
engine was. While we were loading the engine, the farmer asked me
if I would be interested in some other engines. I explained that I
collect only Wisconsin-built engines and he said he thought that
was what most of them were.

I didn’t quiz the owner too closely, but as I was following him
to the other farm where the engines were stored, I couldn’t help
but think this was going to be a bunch of LAs and LBs or FMZs with
lots of parts missing. When we arrived at the other farm, I changed
my mind instantly! The very first engine I saw was a 6 HP Thompson
Tiger on trucks and right behind it was an 8 HP John Lauson on
factory trucks. These engines were very complete. The Lauson still
had the original clutch and the factory magneto. And the Thompson
still had the Lunkenheimer mixer. We walked through this “field of
dreams” and I kept seeing more and more engines, and not a common
one in the bunch. I finally counted 25 engines. I immediately asked
the price of the Thompson and purchased it on the spot. I made a
preliminary list of what was in the field, but because I wasn’t
expecting to find this treasure trove, I hadn’t packed a camera. Of
course the drive home that day was a wild jumble of thoughts.
Finally, about the time I got home I decided another trip to the
field to examine the engines more closely was necessary and an
attempt to purchase the entire collection was the only logical
course to follow.

I phoned Bill, the owner of the engines, and told him I would
like a chance to buy all of the engines. Bill agreed not to sell
any of the engines for a few weeks. Since a couple of the engines
in the field were IHCs, I contacted my friend Chris, who collects
everything IHC, and we decided to pick up the Lauson-Lawton and a
couple of other engines I owned that were in the Wausau area and
then go up to look at the field. The late November day we went to
pick up the engines dawned cold, clear and windy. We collected the
three engines in Wausau without incident and proceeded on to the
field where we arrived about an hour before sunset. The wind was
blowing at about 25 MPH and the temperature was 5 degrees
Fahrenheit above zero. There were several inches of snow on the
ground and with the fading light it gave the field a surreal look
that I will never forget.

This time I had the camera, so I took a bunch of photos. I also
made a detailed list of the engines and the condition of each one.
Since I only had an hour of light, I had to move pretty fast.
Meanwhile, Chris was bouncing around from engine to engine like a
kid in a toy store. He has a better eye for detail than I do, so
his input during the later negotiations was invaluable.

Later, on the ride home, we decided that Chris would buy a 10 HP
Famous, hopper-cooled on factory trucks, and a 4 HP Famous on an
early-style IHC hay press. The hay press is 27 feet long and I
really had no place to keep it anyway. I then spent the next couple
of weeks agonizing over how much to pay for the remaining 22
engines.

After a little haggling, I bought the field just before Dec. 25,
2004. Wow! What a Christmas present! Because there was already a
foot of snow on the field, we let the engines sit until Spring.
Chris and I both have 1-ton Dodge duelies with Cummins diesels and
16-foot flatbed trailers, so we made two trips and the engines were
all home. Because of several things, including an auction I had
last Spring to thin the herd, I have only had time to get three of
the engines running. They are the 3 HP Alpha, which is a real
sweet, slow-running engine with lots of original paint; the 8 HP
O.K. or as they are more commonly called, Algoma, for the
northeastern Wisconsin city where they were built (this one needed
some piston work, but it is also a nice runner); and the 5 HP
Western King, which I did a complete restoration on.

This August, the Badger Steam and Gas Engine Club in Baraboo,
Wis., will feature Wisconsin-built products and I will try to have
a lot of this new old iron ready to show. One of the more amazing
things about these engines is the fact that except for a few
oilers, grease cups and mufflers, the only parts missing are two
igniters. Since I am already an “old fart” this is probably the
adventure of a lifetime, and I will never forget my first sight of
“The Real Field of Dreams.”

Contact Dan Dorece at: 4814 47th Ave., Kenosha, WI
53133-2029.

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Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines