21 N. Abbe Road, Fairview, Michigan 48621.
Since the 1940s I have enjoyed camping and canoeing vacations at
Biscotasing, Ontario. ‘Bisco’ is a small community located
on the main line of the Canadian Pacific Railroad between Sudbury
and Chapleau, Ontario. Located on Biscotasing Lake near the
headwaters of the Spanish River, the village is the gateway to
excellent pike and walleye fishing. In 1949, I made a thirty-day
canoe trip up the Spanish River from Biscotasing to the headwaters
of the Mississippi River and then down the Mississippi to Iron
Bridge, Ontario. It was a two hundred and fifty mile trip by canoe.
I’ll never forget it.
During the 1980s, I became interested in flywheel engines. While
vacationing at our cabin on Bisco Lake, I asked a local friend, Hal
Kohl, if he was aware of any one-lungers in the area. He said that
his grandfather had a marine engine he had used on Bisco Lake
during the 1920s. The last known whereabouts of the engine was with
an uncle, George Kohl, who lived across the lake. On our next trip
to the area in 1989, I asked Hal to phone his uncle and find out if
the engine was available and if I could use it. Later that week, I
visited George Kohl. I found, to my surprise, a 17 HP
three-cylinder Ferro marine engine manufactured in Cleveland, Ohio,
and also a one-cylinder St. Lawrence engine, disassembled out in
his log shop.
Herman Kohl, George’s father, purchased the three-cylinder
Ferro from Rich Shannon, owner of the local sawmill, in the early
twenties. The engine was used to propel a 20 foot x 30 foot scow
hauling sand and gravel down the lakes for dam construction and
repair. This engine was sitting out in the ferns, near a
neighbor’s cabin. It was stuck and was missing several parts,
however, it looked unique and restorable.
The second engine, completely disassembled, was sitting on
shelves in a small log building behind the house. George assured me
that all the parts were available. The one-cylinder St. Lawrence
engine was manufactured at Brockville, Ontario, directly south of
Ottawa on the St. Lawrence River. The engine was used to propel a
hand-built pointer that was thirty-five feet long and six feet
wide. The pointer was built of white pine boards sawed with a pit
saw and was in service on Bisco Lake from 1936 to 1955.
Later that summer, I made arrangements with George Kohl to
purchase both engines. I returned to Michigan with the
three-cylinder Ferro in August of 1989. I picked up the St.
Lawrence, with a lot of extra parts, on July 4, 1990. The
one-cylinder looked complete, so I decided to tackle it first. Next
came the assembly.
I was assisted professionally by a friend from Hillman,
Michigan, named David Robertson. David is a master mechanic when it
comes to tractors and flywheel engines. This engine came with a lot
of assorted propellers, a rudder, several drive shafts, five
mufflers, oils and carburetors. David and I reviewed the various
parts and decided what would need cleaning and painting. I
sandblasted all the iron and cleaned up the brass. The motor was
originally painted a medium green, but I had always wanted a royal
blue engine, so I decided on that as the new color.
With the painting completed, I constructed a stand of native red
oak. It would accommodate the crank case, a brass gas tank and some
type of cooling tank to be constructed.
Now it was time for a visit to Hillman with the video camera. A
record of the assembly would be fun viewing on a cold winter
Needless to say it didn’t take long to figure out why the
engine was taken out of service. Every moving part had lost its
efficiency and bushings were required everywhere. With David’s
patience and machining skills, before long the engine was running.
I have decided to construct a portable water cooling tank so I can
use it on several marine engines simply by changing water pump
hoses. The engine vibrated a lot when running, which we assumed was
because of the pointer’s ability to absorb the vibrations in
water. It was a happy day when everything came together and the
engine ran. Our next project is a three-cylinder Ferro,
manufactured in Cleveland, Ohio. The engine is stuck and looks
impossible. Therefore, the rewards will be a little sweeter!
Happy engine hunting!