What’s Found on the Farm Stays on the Farm

By Staff
1 / 11
Robert’s son, Jim Meixell, with the owner of the farm outside of the pump house that housed the Olds.
2 / 11
A first look at the engine in the shed.
3 / 11
Original lettering on the hopper in unbelievable condition.
4 / 11
Taking the head off revealed a mud-dauber palace and cocoons.
5 / 11
The hopper full of “insulating material.”
6 / 11
The Olds tag showing manufacture by Seager Engine Works, Lansing, Mich.
7 / 11
The hopper full of “insulating material.”
8 / 11
The governor side.
9 / 11
The crankshaft end.
10 / 11
Detail of the crankguard.
11 / 11
The restored engine back at its farm home.

At a school function, my son, James, was talking with a fellow
parent and our gasoline engine hobby was mentioned. The parent
said, “I think I’ve got one of those down in the old pump
house.”

It was a few months before we followed up on it, but on March
29, 2006, Jim and his friend and I pried the old weathered door off
a pump house that had been nailed shut since 1923. Thus began a
very strange and wonderful experience.

Our friend had seen the engine through the dirty, cobwebbed
window. All the buildings on this farm had been maintained on the
outside and kept weather-tight, but the pump house had not been
entered, except by insects and rodents, for about 83 years.

Our best information tells us that the engine was built between
1917 and 1921. The farm got electricity in 1923. Then an “L” was
built onto the pump house with a separate entrance and an electric
pumping system replaced the engine and pump jack. The original part
of the pump house was simply nailed shut. As soon as the door came
off, I said, “That looks like an Olds!”

The spark plug was broken, but an old Champion X was in the
room. The sheet metal crank guard was off the engine, but it, too,
was in the room. The governor side of the engine was toward the
window and the paint on that side is a little faded. On the filler
side, the paint is as unspoiled as I’ve ever seen on a “farm-fresh”
engine.

Nothing on this engine was stuck hard. The piston could be moved
right away. We gently tapped the valves with an old tool found near
the engine and they both came free easily.

On April 2, Jim and his son, Chris, went to the pump house and
brought the engine home. When we got it to our shop, a little WD-40
and a few spins of the crank and the pushrod roller was turning. We
never had to touch it with a tool of any kind. Of course everything
was dirty, especially the oiler. It was quite a job to clean
everything. Amazingly, the galvanized fuel tank was intact – almost
pristine.

The engine had been left with the exhaust valve open a bit. When
the head came off, there was a virtual palace in the cylinder built
by mud daubers. One of the fuel lines was also full of their
building material.

All we did was disassemble, clean, re-assemble, lubricate and
provide an ignition system and a cart. Unlike our usual procedure,
we re-used the head gasket. The buzz coil was missing and the
battery, although there, was dead. The battery box was there, but
the cover was missing. The crank guard was off the engine and bent,
but it was there. It was easily straightened and re-installed. On
many engines this got discarded early. The sheet metal crank guard
had a beautiful decal, but about half of it was missing, as though
something had once fallen on it and scraped off about half of the
decal. We kept the original skids – they were not rotted at
all.

Once re-assembled, fueled and lubricated, this has turned out to
be the easiest starting engine you could ask for. It starts without
choking on the first or second firing stroke and just sits there
running beautifully without missing a beat. This is the only engine
we’ve ever seen with the muffler cast as part of the cylinder head
and the only one we’ve seen with a governor that works like this
one.

The nametag looked curiously off balance. There are two screws,
but they are not centered on the right and left sides as you might
expect. Instead, they are below center. Also, there’s no border on
the bottom. We have a restored Type A 1-1/2 HP, shop no. F3452. On
this one, the border is complete and on the bottom part, the tag
reads: “Rumely Products Co. Distributors LaPointe, Indiana.” We
think that Olds and Seager had an agreement with Rumely and when
that arrangement ended, there were some of these tags that were now
wrong. Someone decided to just cut off the bottom part and use the
tags anyway. Our source in Nazareth, Pa., says he has seen this
before, so it wasn’t just this one tag. I have no idea how many
were used this way, but this is the first one Jim or I had ever
seen.

On April 16, Jim and I took the Olds back to its farm home. Jim
and I are not trying to acquire this one. The farm dates back to
well before the civil war and the engine is part of its history.
The farm is still owned and operated by the descendants of the
original owners. As long as the engine is being valued and
appreciated by the current owners, it belongs on that farm.
Restoring this machine to operating condition has been a rare
privilege. We may borrow it on occasion to display at a show, but
it will probably live on this farm for a long time. We consider
this to have been the discovery of a lifetime.

Contact Robert Meixell, one of the founders of the Maine Antique
Power Assn., at: 221 N. End Road, Westport Island, ME 04578; (207)
882-5440.

SPECS:

OLDS

Manufacturer: Seager Engine Works
Location: Lansing, Mich.
Type: R
Shop number: 10621
Horsepower: 1-3/4
Year: 1917-1921

Gas Engine Magazine
Gas Engine Magazine
Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines