Trash to Treasure

By Staff
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Bruce Knight with his 1906 Keller engine made by Bloomer Machine Works of Bloomer, Wis.
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While viewing the unusually large turnout of
gas engine displays at the 18th annual Power of the Past show in
Greensburg, Ind., last August, Bruce Knight caught my attention.
Bruce, an avid collector of gas engines and a longtime friend,
directed me to his latest restored project. “This project has to be
the biggest restoration accomplishment I have undertaken,” said
Bruce. “I really got into a lot of difficult challenges with this
little 3 HP engine.”

The engine is a Keller, and Bruce bought it from Don Elkins, a
friend who used to travel with Bruce to the many shows throughout
Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and Illinois. Don had purchased the engine
with hopes of someday restoring it, but he lost interest and
decided to sell it to Bruce.

The Keller engine was manufactured between 1906 and 1915 by
Bloomer Machine Works, of Bloomer, Wis. Charles Keller started the
machine shop in 1905, and Bruce believes his 3 HP engine was built
around 1906 according to the engine serial number. There were three
sizes of engines available – 1-1/2, 3 and 5 HP – and they were sold
with a one-year guarantee. The Keller engine was a lower-priced
engine at $55 for a 5 HP compared to a similar size Fairbanks
priced at $130. Evidently, a lot of Keller engines were shipped to
Australia, according to past records, and the low price might have
been why. The castings were hollow, making them lighter for
shipping to foreign markets.

Bruce purchased the engine one year ago and started the
painstaking, expensive restoration process. The engine had to be
sleeved, and the valves and valve guides had to be searched out and
purchased. Also, the connecting rod was missing although someone
years ago attempted to make a replacement. Bruce was sure it was
too heavy for the little engine. “The rod with the engine was a
good attempt and bushed well, but the weight was over 15 pounds and
I felt that was too heavy for this 3 HP engine,” said Bruce. “I
spent a lot of time looking for another rod but I really didn’t
know the exact length.

“Lewis Keyes in Louisville, Ky., helped me with the restoration,
and we learned of a few other collectors who had a Keller engine.
They very graciously helped with some of the critical
specifications that we needed for our replacement parts. We soon
learned of Tom Johnson in Lafayette, Ind., who owns all three sizes
of the Keller engines.” Tom proved very helpful to Bruce, enabling
him to see the exact finished engine that he wanted to build.
“Dwayne Bailey in Linville, Ind., also had a 3 HP Keller and helped
me with specifications for the many replacement part sizes I
needed,” said Bruce.

Bruce knows of only six Keller engines around his traveled

Contact Bruce Knight, 8005 Dale Court, Georgetown, IN
47112 • (812) 951-3699

Bob and Linda Crowell travel to many antique farm
equipment shows throughout the Midwest promoting steam, gas engine
and antique tractor magazines. Reach them at P.O. Box 103,
Batesville, IN 47006 • vintage •

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