Woodworking and Waterloos

Missouri Native George Martin's Unique Waterloo Collection

| Septemeber 2005

  • George Martin has had this nice 1902 5 HP Fairbanks-Morse for about 30 years
    George Martin has had this nice 1902 5 HP Fairbanks-Morse for about 30 years. It is one of his favorites.
  • An orderly array of 2-1/2 HP Waterloo gas engines
    An orderly array of 2-1/2 HP Waterloo gas engines restored with the colors and decals of some of the company's many customers. Each engine is on a hand-built cart made from a different species of native wood.
  • One of George's many 2-1/2 HP Waterloo engines
    One of George's many 2-1/2 HP Waterloo engines. This Sandow is mounted on a wild cherry cart and features a cooling tank lid with a nicely sculpted top.
  • New Tank
    A newly-completed fuel tank, to be painted silver upon completion of the restoration.
  • Imperial
    This Waterloo engine (built for Imperial, a Canadian company) uses a battery and coil igniter to initiate combustion.
  • American Boy
    Some of the many brands applied to George's Waterloo engines. His son Charlie does all the pinstriping on the engines. George used to do it, but his hands aren't quite as steady as they once were.
  • Jackson
    Some of the many brands applied to George's Waterloo engines. His son Charlie does all the pinstriping on the engines. George used to do it, but his hands aren't quite as steady as they once were.
  • Faultless
    Some of the many brands applied to George's Waterloo engines. His son Charlie does all the pinstriping on the engines. George used to do it, but his hands aren't quite as steady as they once were.
  • Pieces
    A small collection of drilled-out valves, broken castings and other casualties of bringing old engines back to life. George has buckets of these parts, in part because they might come in handy someday, and because they make great conversation pieces.
  • Van duzen
    Some of the many brands applied to George's Waterloo engines. His son Charlie does all the pinstriping on the engines. George used to do it, but his hands aren't quite as steady as they once were.
  • Master Workman
    This 2-cylinder Master Workman engine literally stands on its head. The compact engine makes around 12 HP on two cylinders. If that much power isn't required, either cylinder can be shut down and the engine will put out about 5-1/2 HP.

  • George Martin has had this nice 1902 5 HP Fairbanks-Morse for about 30 years
  • An orderly array of 2-1/2 HP Waterloo gas engines
  • One of George's many 2-1/2 HP Waterloo engines
  • New Tank
  • Imperial
  • American Boy
  • Jackson
  • Faultless
  • Pieces
  • Van duzen
  • Master Workman

George Martin used to build B-24 bombers and wing sections for the A-20 Havoc. He shoveled tons of coal as a Santa Fe Railroad fireman, worked as a Naval Air Corps electrician, and delivered the mail for 30 years while farming at the same time. However, to this long-retired Northeastern Missouri native son, none of those experiences quite compare to restoring engines or getting creative in the woodshop.

“I like to keep my hands busy,” George says, a philosophy that serves him as well now as it has in the past.

For example, when he and his wife, Hazel, purchased their rural Wyaconda, Mo., farm about 50 years ago, the couple hand-dug and built a basement under their new home. Using native logs timbered on the farm and elsewhere around the county, he created floors, doors and cabinetry that are every bit wonderful works of art as they are functional. The Martins may have the only fireplace mantle in the world constructed with 29 different species of native wood, including boards sawn from massive poison ivy trunks. And they may also be the only folks in their part of the country with a brick outhouse … a testament to George's sense of humor that still stands, even though they have long had indoor plumbing.

George first got into stationary engines as a kid because they were in use everywhere and he liked to work on them. Years later, he brought one down to his basement to overhaul, and then he was hooked. “I really started collecting engines in the 1970s, but people thought I was nuts,” he says with a smile. “At that time around here, they were considered junk.” The engines being undervalued made them easy for a young family man to collect, and before he knew it he had scores of them around his place.



George's approach to engines has been one of practical and even economical solutions. He finds more value investing in tools to help with fabrication than he does in purchasing parts new. And the fact he enjoys making components from scratch and figuring out how to make them is a testament to his creative tenacity. “I just take it one step at a time,” he says. “If you take time to think and experiment, you'll find solutions.” That approach, and plenty of patience, has guided George through the process of drilling entire valve stems to remove stuck valves, replacing babbitt melted away by a fire that burned his shop down on top of his tools and engines, and fabricating untold gears, shafts, cams, levers and much more over the years. “You have to believe there is a way to do something or you'll get stuck,” he notes. “But you have to be careful not to rush it.”

Can-Do Approach

George admits that he enjoys coming up with creative solutions almost more than anything else when it comes to restoring an engine. For example, he not only taught himself to pour babbitt, but he machined several jigs to make it easier; he built a small walking crane to hoist engines around the shop and get them on and off their carts; he has an old kitchen oven in the shop to pre-heat metal pieces for welding, brazing or soldering; and he has even fabricated dies to help form sheet metal fuel tank parts with his homemade 30-ton press. And he uses those parts to make the tanks from scratch.