Everyone should have a hobby. Mine are varied-I like to garden, crochet, knit, needlepoint and do all kinds of handcrafts. So how did I get started working with gas engines? It goes back quite a few years. My husband, Harvey, had a friend in Carlisle who was an engine buff. John and Harvey would talk engines while I listened.
Harvey had learned his machinist trade in Carlisle as a young man, so he had mechanical ability to tackle the tearing down and building up of the gas engines. Harvey found his first engine in a junk yard in Potts-town and a friend brought it home in his station wagon.
That was the start of the saga. The numbers increased and there were many humps in the back yard under the covers of which were engines- restored, being restored and waiting to be restored. Some of these engines were restored in our basement and some in the yard.
We acquired so many we had an engine house constructed. This meant I had painting to do inside to get the garage ready for the engines. Our 32 V Delco power plant furnishes the light for the engine house.
The first engine restored was an Economy. After Harvey had it finished and running I painted the lettering and background. This was fairly simple. I had never done any thing like this, but since I had liked art in school (which had included working with paints) I was willing to try.
My first attempt turned out fairly well and gave me courage to go on and tackle the more difficult striping tasks that followed. In each instance Harvey was delighted with the results even though there was room for improvement. This gave me the encouragement to tackle the more difficult and tedious striping of the New Holland engines.
The 1? HP single flywheel New Holland came by trade. Harvey had problems with this one because of sand holes in the hopper, but he conquered the problems. He was particularly anxious to have this engine because it was like one that was used on the farm when he was a boy. We borrowed a decal so I could copy the name and along with a New Holland book I started to stripe the New Holland engines. His 2 HP New Holland was sunk in a springhouse for a good many years before it was rescued.
These engines were taken to the Rough & Tumble Reunion at Kinzers. At that time Harvey was offered a 5 HP New Holland that was for sale. This engine was fully restored and striped by a professional. We were delighted to get it. This gave me the opportunity to actually see how it should be done.
Wouldn't you know the red we had painted the 2 New Hollands wasn't the right red! In the meantime, I had found a better gold paint with which to do the striping. So we started over. Then came the 5 HP New Holland with the double tree and all. This one took one summer of scraping grease and paint. Harvey did the mechanical work needed and I did the painting and striping.
Best of all was the time when Harvey came home and started to tell me about a friend to whom he had shown pictures of his engines. The friend said his brother had a small one something like that. I knew right away it must be a ? HP New Holland. Harvey lost no time in visiting the brother and sure enough he talked him into selling it. It was all apart and partly buried in auto parts. It didn't take Harvey long to get to work on it and have it running! Guess where it was striped? Right on the dining room table, no less!
Harvey thinks auction sales are my passion. I have to admit I like to go even if I buy nothing. One Saturday morning there was an auction listed that had advertised two gas engines. I had quite a time convincing my husband that we should go. He had all kinds of excuses-the engines would be too high, there would be too many people bidding on them, etc., but he finally gave in. The engines were offered early in the morning and we came home with a 1? HP Sandwich Cub that was very reasonable.
During the course of conversations on engines with a high school classmate of mine, he said he had a power plant at a hunting lodge that had been there for 20 years and his grandfather had had it for 40 years before that. He said it hadn't been used since the power lines went through and we were welcome to have it. This meant a round trip of about 250 miles. When the power plant was pulled out of the shed, lo and behold, it was a Fuller & Johnson of which there were only a few known to still be in existence. On the way home we stopped at the home of a friend in Stillwater and rescued an engine headed for the junk man. This was a Fairbanks Morse that hadn't worked and had been converted to an air compressor to pump tires. When this engine was restored, it worked perfectly.
One day while I was working in my flower bed outside the engine house under an open window, the engine was running and it just sounded as if it were saying 'peanut butter, peanut butter,' so it ended with a nickname of peanut butter. Could it be I was hungry for peanut butter?
So many of the engines came decrepit and broken down-the Economies, the Hercules, the Stover, the Domestic, the Fuller & Johnsons, the Internationals, the Titan, the Cushman, the Fairbanks Morse, the Sandwich Cub, the 7 New Hollands and the Maytags. I got to know them all! Harvey wanted a Maytag and a friend had a box of parts he said Harvey could have and challenged him to put one together. If he could build a Maytag, he could have it-that's all Harvey needed. A Maytag gradually evolved.
Some of the engines left-traded or sold. All were restored and running through the labor of my husband and an occasional hand from a friend, even the mailman got in on it. Of course, the painting and striping were my department.
The engines sold were the means of restoring a 1925 model T Ford coupe. On the car I sanded the spokes of the wheels and helped to sand the body. I did the upholstery all but the seat and seat back and the door panels, which were done professionally.
The restoration took us to flea markets and antique automobile shows to get parts until we had a fully restored car of which we are very proud.
I still yearn to look for gas engines, but my husband says 'no more'- our 15 are enough!
This article is by Catherine Cook, of Norristown, PA, a member of Rough & Tumble Engineers Historical Association. Patricia Kreider, president of R&T, is looking for articles from all the women in our readership, who have interesting engine stories to tell. Send them care of GEM, Box 328, Lancaster, PA 17603.