A Story in GEM Leads to a West Coast in Wyoming
The West Coast engine as found.
Detail shot of the governor and mixer on the 15 HP West Coast engine. The West Coast Gas Engine line was manufactured by Sterne Bros., San Diego, Calif. The age of this engine is unknown, but it likely dates from the very early 1900s.
The August 2002 issue of Gas Engine Magazine featured an article I submitted on the private engine show Bob Critz held in Vista, Calif., last year. The article ran a picture of a West Coast Gas Engine manufactured by Sterne Bros, in San Diego, Calif.
Coincidentally, shortly after the August issue was published, a gentleman in Pinedale, Wyo., was asked to help dispose of several old engines. Not being a collector and not knowing much about the engines, he started his research by reading some recent issues of Gas Engine Magazine. One of the engines he was tasked with selling had the name West Coast Gas Engine cast into the base. After reading the August GEM article, he contacted Bob Critz, owner of the engine in the article, to see if he was interested in purchasing another West Coast engine. Bob asked for some dimensions and photographs, which were promptly forwarded to him.
After several telephone conversations Bob made an offer on a 15 HP West Coast Gas Engine and a 12 HP Alamo with a three-ball vertical governor (the Alamo was my share of the find). Bob and I discussed how much the engines would weigh, how we would get them hauled home and, more important, how we would time the trip between predicted snow storms. This was early October, and winter was fast coming to Wyoming.
The gentleman we were dealing with needed to be there to show us the engines and assist in their loading, and we finally settled on a weekend that fell between his deer hunting and moose hunting week ends. The plan was to meet up at a local supermarket on Saturday morning, Oct. 26.
Bob and I headed for Wyoming with trailers in tow, but we were so eager to get there and beat any inclement weather that we arrived on Friday around noon. We met up Saturday morning as planned, and moved on to the loading process.
The 12 HP Alamo, complete with its original three-ball governor (not visible) and cast iron carburetor. This engine has number 19032 stamped on the head and likely dates to 1913-1914.
The West Coast engine was stuck but mostly complete, missing only the igniter and trip mechanism. Even the original crank guard, magneto and carburetor were on the engine. These are items commonly missing from any old engine. The Alamo was also mostly complete, including its optional clutch pulley, but was missing its ignition parts, fuel pump mechanism, muffler and crank guard. Amazingly, its large cast iron carburetor and three-ball vertical governor were still on the engine - and complete!
According to the man we bought the engines from, the Alamo had been used to power a saw rig, which had been used to cut lumber for log cabins on the other side of Fremont Lake, just down the road from Pinedale. Once their work was done, the engine and saw rig were loaded on a raft and floated across the lake to Pinedale. At some later time the Alamo was mounted to a homemade skid and belted to a #3 Samson water pump, and that was the condition the engine was in when I acquired it, pump and all. There was no history on the West Coast engine, and neither engine had its nameplate.
By noon Saturday we were loaded and headed back home, and with the exception of a shredded tire on my trailer the 900-mile return trip to southern California was incident free. The West Coast engine now resides in Vista, about 30 miles from the original West Coast factory site in San Diego. Both engines are presently undergoing restoration, but that's another story for another time.
Contact engine enthusiast Mike Tyler at: 320 S. Locust St., Ridgecrest, CA 93555 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org