2440 Thomas Street Ceres, California 95307
No one will ever know why John M. Kroyer thought the way he did about certain things. Man cannot reach across the years nor walk in the footsteps of men who lived a century ago. Much of a man is lost when the anvil is silent and the cupola is cold. But we can learn much by studying the thoughts of these men who put their ideas in cast iron. These thoughts transformed agriculture and reshaped the face of our nation.
Men like John M. Kroyer, a Danish immigrant who settled in America and made his home in Stockton, California. He brought new ideas to a new world and was consumed by a desire to build engines. He came in the age of power in flywheels, and his engines powered the factories and pumped the water which irrigated this lovely paradise called the San Joaquin Valley.
In 1898, on the corner of California and Washington Street, he poured liquid iron into molds of sand. He machined and assembled his engines which harnessed explosive vapor to turn a flywheel. He called it the Samson Gas Engine. A century later, it is one of the most sought after fuel vapor engines built in California. These remarkable engines reveal a man who thought deep, a man whose company enjoyed phenomenal growth and went on to become the largest producer of gas engines and pumps on the west coast.
Samson engines were installed in small buildings called pump-houses. Pits were sunk deep and lined with redwood. Samson centrifugal pumps were firmly mounted on skids in the bottom of these pits which brought them closer to the water table. A drive belt from the engine to the pump brought 'life' to the 'open runner impellers' which caused sweet water to flow and irrigate orchards and crops. It was mechanization never before seen, and it mated prosperity with a generation which looked toward an easier and more productive life. All in all, it was a wonderful thing.
These Samson pump houses were interesting places. Amidst their clutter sat a large wooden Samson battery box containing four potash Edison batteries and an Induro spark coil. Wires ran haphazardly to the igniter usually tied in with a knife switch. There were small corked bottles of Edison Battery Oil waiting their turn to stop the potash solution from evaporating. Pump packing hung coiled on rusty nails like snakes waiting to strike. The atmosphere was mysterious and oily. Even the pump house itself seemed to know its purpose was noble. It knew that within itself lay the secret of marvelous yields and the heart of every bountiful harvest.
I believe the first engines built by John Kroyer were charming little two and a half horse vertical engines using an 'open post' design. A side shaft actuates the exhaust valve and ignition timing. What sets them apart is an unusual way to counterbalance the crankshaft. The counterbalance is actually cast as part of the flywheel hub and integral with the two spokes. (See figure 1.) We call them 'Web spokes.' A five horsepower horizontal engine was also produced with a web spoke design but all other Samson engines I have seen (besides the 'solid frame') use the traditional counterbalance cast in the rim of the flywheel. Why the difference?