The Twin-Cylinder Novo Engine

By Staff
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Shawn Halle's 12 HP Novo, serial number 55117, comes out of hiding after nearly 40 years in a barn in West Virginia. These engines were first introduced in 1914, and this one is believed to date from 1914 to 1915. Shawn's good friend Steve Smith, left, and Shawn's dad, Normand Halle, right, help to move lumber out of the way as the Novo is moved into position for its final removal from the barn.
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Normand Halle takes a breather and inspects the Novo engine before hooking up a come-along winch to pull it the rest of the way out of the barn. At 2,500 pounds, this engine is no lightweight.
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First peek at the 12 HP Novo twin, barely visible in its resting place in the barn where it was found.
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The Novo getting ready to leave for its new home.
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The barn where the Novo engine quietly sat, unused for close to 40 years. Sited in a remote area of West Virginia and 30 miles from the closest town, it's no surprise Shawn's Novo went unknown for so long, Shawn also bought the grist mill, flour dresser and brush finishing machine the Novo had run before it was retired.
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The Novo before it was moved from its resting spot. Note how complete the engine was, despite having lain undisturbed for some 40 years.
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The grist mill.
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The Eureka 'brush finishing' machine. Its exact age is unknown, but it shows patent dates of 1873 and 1878.

In the spring of 2001 we put on our first engine show here in Buckhannon, W.Va. It wasn’t very big, but at least it was a start. At one point during the show a man approached me with some pictures of an engine he had. I looked at the pictures briefly, and they showed a Novo twin-cylinder 12 HP engine. I had never seen a twin-cylinder Novo, and I didn’t know much about them.

We talked a little, and he told me the Novo was in a barn where it was belted up to a gristmill. After awhile we discussed a price for the engine, but we never settled on anything. I got his name and phone number, and after he left the show I didn’t give much more thought about the Novo -for awhile.

A few weeks went by and I started thinking about the man and his Novo engine, so I gave him a call. He was quite brief with me, telling me he had decided to keep the motor after all. I suddenly felt I had made a big mistake not following up on this potential find.


Months went by and still I couldn’t stop thinking about the Novo. I talked to a good engine friend, Chester Bill from St. Marys, W. Va., asking him if he knew anything about Novo engines. He was excited to hear about the 12 HP twin-cylinder Novo, telling me it was certainly a really nice find.

Christmas was soon approaching, and still no engine. Right before Christmas my wife had surgery. Because of that she never had a chance to try and find me a Christmas present, so she decided to call the Novo’s owner one more time and try and buy it for my Christmas gift. She tried to buy the Novo numerous times, but frustrated by not being able to make a deal she finally gave up.

Some months passed, and one Sunday I was thinking of that Novo engine again, so once again I made the dreaded phone call to try and purchase the engine. The owner and I talked briefly, and this time he invited me to come see the engine and the grist mill in the barn where it sat. I was very excited, and with my wife alongside I went rushing off to see this long-awaited motor and grist mill. I decided to call my dad, Normand, and on the way out we picked him up so he could come along.

When we showed up the owner met us at the driveway and took us to the barn. Finally, after almost a year of waiting, I got to see the Novo engine for the first time. It seemed huge, sitting in a corner of the barn behind a wall of boards. The owner showed us the whole setup, telling us that the Novo hadn’t run in at least 38 years and that he didn’t know much about the workings of the engine.

Showing a patent date of 1873, the mill was amazing. We don’t know for sure when it was actually built, but clearly it is a very old unit. Amazingly, all of the paperwork and directions for the mill were still on it, all very clean and in excellent condition. After a short while, and with that sinking feeling deep down inside, I asked the all-important question again, knowing the answer might be the same as before: Not for sale. After a slight pause the owner asked if I wanted just the motor or the whole mill, and I told him I wanted to buy it all. He shot me a price and we agreed on it. I couldn’t believe it – I was actually going to own this engine. I went home very excited.

The very next day we started the removal of the engine, and two days later I had it in my garage. The Novo is quite amazing, complete with its original oiler, mag – even the original crank handle! It’s in pretty nice shape, with the original paint on most of the engine. Once I got it home we cleaned up the engine and tested the mag, and it worked well with a nice hot spark. My dad and I worked hard cleaning and loosening up a few stubborn parts, all with a push to see if it would run. After sorting thing out we finally put a shot of ether in the carb and got it to fire, and since then we’ve run a number of bowls of fuel through the Novo. There are still details to tend to, but it’s now a running, working engine, after sitting idle for around 40 years.

Meanwhile, I still have to remove the rest of the mill from the old barn, which will be a task in itself. We have, however, decided to sell the gristmill to offset the cost of the Novo and the expected cost of getting it properly restored.

I’m taking this Novo engien to the Coolsprings, Pa., show in June 2004 with my son Shane and maybe my dad, and with any luck we might find some useful information to help in our new restoration project. There seems to be a real lack of information about these old twin-cylinder Novo engines, and we’re hoping to find some friendly and helpful people for our new project.

Contact engine enthusiast Shawn Halle at: 5 Elias St., Buckhannon, WV 26201.

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