Courtesy of Fred Hickerson, Box 602 - R.D. 6, Newton, New Jersey 07860
Box 60S - R.D. 6 , Newton, New Jersey O7S6O
I used to collect Model 'T' and 'A' Fords, however, when prices became high I lost interest. Ten to 15 years ago you could buy cars for $100. to $300. and parts were plentiful and relatively inexpensive. For the past few years I have been collecting old gas engines and enjoying the hobby very much. I also agree with a previous author in GEM who feels the people collecting engines nowadays are friendlier and a more interesting group than the antique car collectors. My youngest son, Tom, and I have about 80 engines from Maytag size up to 25 HP. The average price we have paid to date is around $22. per engine; most are restorable but a few are only good for parts. It is always hard to determine how much to pay for engines; we like to get them as cheaply as possible, which is natural. I think we've done pretty good. Any comments from GEM readers?
We particularly enjoy tracking down leads, negotiating for purchase, and hauling our new found treasures home for further examination, tinkering, and eventual restoration. Many people spend $25. for a day's outing or something; we end up our day's outing with an engine and great enjoyment finding and obtaining them.
My most prized engine is the 'Safety Vapor' engine patented 1889 - 1893. I purchased this for $25. from a Mr. Harvey from Connecticut. He tells me it was originally used by his father to grind coffee in New York City, and it operated on 'city gas.' When they moved to their farm, it was converted to burn gasoline. If anyone has a similar engine or knows about them, I would appreciate a letter. When we purchased this engine, it was, of course, 'stuck fast' and we did a lot of careful disassembly and 'freeing' of the moving parts. You'll notice that it has a belt driven flyball governor similar to a steam engine to regulate the fuel/gas mixture into a rotating 'disc' containing the fuel inlet and exhaust outlet ports. The timing chain works the trip igniter which breaks the electrical contact inside the cylinder, causing a low tension arc and subsequent ignition. When firing under no load, we sometimes have a problem getting the carburetor adjusted so that it doesn't misfire every other time. Under load she fires great.
Our largest and most costly engine is a 25 HP 'Y' semi-diesel Fairbanks Morse built in 1920. We purchased this from the State of New Jersey on sealed bid. We found the engine sitting in High Point State Park. It was originally used on a sawmill rig and was in pretty good shape (free). In bidding, I offered $51.75, as I thought some scrap metal dealer might have also bid. (I'll never know if $10. would have been enough.) It must weigh about 3 tons. For $40. more, I had it carried on tilt bed truck to my home 20 miles away. We first mounted it on a steel wheel wagon but my son made me remount it on a concrete base (which we built), since the wooden beams on the wagon were sagging and close to breaking. As soon as we rig up a water cooling system for it, we'll fire it up. It has a 'hot' plug for starting.
My 'heart breaker' is a 1 HP OTTO which is in such bad shape it breaks my heart to look at it. It is rusted into one piece. We tried soaking it and tinkering with it but only succeeded in making it worse by breaking the timing gear on the crankshaft.
Tom and I, with our 1920 vintage 25 HP FM Semi-diesel. We built the base for it and hope to have it running soon. Flywheels are 5 feet in diameter.
Other interesting engines include a 12 HP Witte, purchased for $10. from the owner of an abandoned farm. It is throttle governed and runs 'beautiful' on kerosene, two nice 6 HP Woodpeckers, a good running 5 HP Galloway, a nice Waterloo, a 2 HP Foos Jr. with an unusually high (35 inch) water hopper built to hold a pump jack arm, several (2-1/2 and 4 HP) Fairbanks 'Bulldogs', a 1 HP 'Tom Thumb' International salvaged from a WWII scrap drive by my father-in-law, a 6 HP 2 cylinder Edwards, a 5 HP Ottowa drag saw, a Fuller and Johnson Pump jack engine complete with pump, 2-1/2 and 4 HP Novos, and an assortment of Fairbanks Morses, Hercules, Stovers, Economys, Internationals, Maytags, a couple of steam engines, etc.
In the front to the left is a 6 HP INTERNATIONAL [savaged from a junk yard] being rebuilt. Behind it is a 12 HP WITTE and a 5 HP GALLOWAY. To the right front is a 6 HP Woodpecker.
Two Delco Light Plants, an 850 W. and a 650 W. Both operate good; the small one was completely restored by my son, Tom. Note the original type clear glass 32 volt light bulbs placed on the engines.
To free engines which are really badly rusted fast, I highly recommend the procedure of using a hand operated grease gun filled with oil. All that must be done is to make sure the valves are closed and seated fairly well, then modify an old spark plug or connect to any port entering the chamber (such as priming port on igniters), a standard grease fitting. Be sure to fill the cylinder with oil; this may be accomplished by pouring the oil in through a valve port, into the spark plug hole, or any other way. By pumping oil in with the grease gun, pressure is built up which expands the cylinder wall at the same time applying pressure to move the piston. Once the piston moves, the problem is 90% over and normal force will allow piston to continue to move. The grease gun system is superior to other methods because of the expanding wall. Hammering with a mallet or using a 'press' on the piston doesn't help the cylinder wall to expand, resulting in continued binding of the rusted parts.
A word of caution for those who may not be aware. Be careful not to turn your newly acquired flywheel engine over until you have chocked to be sure the valves, the igniter, the governor, and all other moving parts are free. The cast iron rocker arms can easily be broken when the flywheels are turned if the valve stems are frozen in the head. Stuck valves can usually be freed by clamping lock grip pliers on the shaft, squirting valves with penetrating oil, and twisting back and forth, being careful not to break the shaft. By continuing to use penetrating oil, the twisting action will allow oil to work in along the shaft and free the valve.
As a collector I am perhaps more fortunate than most, for my son, Tom, who is 17, is truly an excellent mechanic. He takes to engines like a duck to water. Last year he won the N. J. State Small Engine Repair contest so I am rightfully proud of him. My other three sons are good mechanics, also. Tom's pride and joy is a 650 watt Delco light plant beautifully restored, complete with original 32 volt DC light bulbs.
2 HP Foos Jr. Note the 35 inch tall water hopper which probably supported a pump jack. The carburetor is not original but works fine.
Tom and I enjoy reading GEM's stories and letters from other old engine enthusiasts. There is no other hobby that gives as much 'bang for the buck.'