Letters & Miscellanies
Belts and Dressing
I read the article about belts in the January 2004 issue
(Stationary Engine List, page 24). I will be 90 years old Feb. 9,
and I have had a lot of experience with belts.
The article mentioned stick rosin. I used rosin bought in hunks.
I would take a hammer and powder it up, put linseed oil in with it
and put it on while the belt was running. I ran threshers, corn
shredders and lot of other things with belts.
We had a New Year’s party that had string music, and I asked
the man playing fiddle where he got his rosin. He told me he got it
at a music store – that’s about the only place he can find
We have a Case LA four-plow and an IHC 22-36 and go to several
shows. I love to belt up and run something with the belt. I sure
like to sit on them and hear the sweet music from the exhaust as
the governor kicks in and out.
A lot of people ask me why they use such long belts on threshing
machines. I always tell them it’s for three reasons: 1) When
they used steam engines it was to keep the sparks away from straw
stack. 2) The long belt is heavy, and it puts a lot of pressure on
pulleys so they won’t slip. 3) It gives the men driving teams
and wagons more room to get lined up at the separator.
I read Helen’s article in the January 2004 GEM on
flat belts and saw the request to pass along information on belt
dressing. About a year and a half ago I posted a message on
SmokStak asking the same question: Where can I get
stick dressing? I got a reply from a gentleman who mailed me a
stick. I was elated! Here is what is on the stick (it looks like a
tube of grease that would fit in a grease gun):
SHEPS Stick Belt Dressing for Leather, Canvas, Gandy and
Rubber belting. A product of SHEPS Manufacturing Co. Arthur,
However, a search of the Internet fails to locate the
Norm Stobert, Grand Ledge, Mich. email@example.com
Delco Light Plants
The recent article in GEM (January 2004) nicely depicted the
Delco story and brought back memories of my younger days in the
appliance business in the 1930s.
We were not Delco dealers, but we sold a few Westinghouse light
plants. We also sold Gould’s light plant batteries. Getting rid
of the spent batteries was a problem, as the glass jars containing
the lead and acid had to be handled with extreme care. I remember
taking a set to the local town dump and shooting the jars with a
22-caliber rifle. After the plates dried out the lead was gathered
and sold to the junk man.
The success of Delco was attributed largely to the high-pressure
sales training of General Motors. I know firsthand, because we sold
Frigidaire products and were equally trained in a most aggressive
fashion. We were required to attend a yearly training seminar in
Philadelphia, and by the time you completed the session you knew
your product – and your competitors’ products. GMAC financing
was a convenient tool for the dealership, as it also provided a
floor plan for the dealer’s inventory.
The transmission of 32 volts DC power required much larger wire
than 110-volt AC. Many circuits required No. 10 wire, and the
generator would often be located between the house and barn so the
load would not be too far from the batteries. We sold Maytag
washers with 32-volt motors, but few other 32-volt appliances.
All told, the home light plant was a great success – probably
more than anyone can imagine when you consider the kerosene lantern
that was kicked over by a cow that burned down Chicago. I only wish
Dr. Delco’s museum was closer.
Dick Holcombe , P.O. Box 247 Dushore, PA 18614
I enjoyed your article on light plants, and 1 thought you might
like some more information.
The farmer had to make a choice of buying a 32-volt battery
plant with a generator to charge it (such as a Delco) or a 115-volt
plant, such as a Kohler. The 32-volt plant was cheaper and simpler,
and if the batteries were sized right the engine only needed to run
once a week. The major drawbacks were voltage loss over long runs
and the fact that 32 volts was ‘non-standard.’
The 115-volt AC plant was fully automatic and ran whenever power
was needed: Turn on a light anywhere in the house or barn, and the
light plant started. The big advantage was that it produced
advantage was that it produced 115 volts AC. Cities and towns were
wired for 115 volts AC, so corresponding appliances were produced
in higher numbers at lower prices. The ability to run a
refrigerator sold a lot of Kohler light plants.
The other thing we tend to forget is that once the light plant
was purchased, the house had to be wired. I have a few books from
1919 and 1920 on buying and installing light plants, and most of
each book is given to wiring the house.
It is interesting that all the layouts and many of the ads for
light plants show a porch light. Why? So your neighbors would know
you have electricity. I have a Web page devoted to light plants at:
Frank DeWitt, 2365 Cox Road Bloomfield, NY 14469
The article in the January 2004 issue on Delco light
plants was just the inspiration I needed to finish my
restoration. This winter I have been working on a 1,250-watt,
110-volt Delco unit I acquired about 30 years ago. Now that I’m
retired, I thought it would make a good cold-weather project.
As I began the disassembly process, I was impressed with the
design and construction of the unit. It features a counter-balanced
crankshaft with ball and roller main bearings.
However, the intake valve and mixer seemed rather small and
restricted according to modern practice. Then I realized that this
design prevents the engine from high over-speed if the electrical
load is disconnected. Breathing is adequate for its rated load when
charging the battery bank. It has a fairly flat speed-control
curve, without resorting to a governor.
The small, high-velocity mixer is extremely simple and delivers
adequate fuel whether the tank is full or almost empty, and without
a fuel pump or even a check valve in the fuel line.
The engine has an aluminum piston, overhead valves and the
flywheel incorporates an efficient blower to cool both the engine
and the DC generator. Some models even had a mercury-cooled exhaust
Crankcase vapors are re-circulated through the mixer, and a
crankcase ventilation valve creates a vacuum that prevents oil
leakage around the shaft. This is pretty sophisticated engineering
for a unit designed in the 1915 to 1920 era.
The DC generator also doubles as a starter motor, drawing power
from the battery bank. This eliminates the need for a separate
starter and flywheel ring gear. Charles Kettering and his
associates deserve our admiration for the Delco plant, and for
their many other contributions.
My thanks to you and Wayne Sphar for the very interesting
Dave Borchert, 47804 State Highway 22 Kasota, MN 56050
Trojan Bucket Loader
Hello and greetings to the good folks at Gas Engine
I thought I would drop you a picture of my daughter, Lisa, my
new (first) grandson, Brandon, and myself aboard our restored 1958
Trojan bucket loader as four-day-old Brandon enjoyed his first ride
around the farm. I call this picture ‘Get them started
young.’ Here are a few FUN specifications.
Thanks for producing the best magazine on the planet!
Clay Blair, 387 Collins Road Ellwood City, PA 16117
8 lbs. 5 oz.
R&V Registry Update
I want to let Root & VanDervoort owners know that my e-mail
address has changed. All information and inquiries for the Root
& VanDervoort Engine Register should be directed to:
If you’re sending details by mail, include an International
Reply Coupon, which is available at the post office. The registry
can trade the coupon for an airmail stamp so you can get a response
to your inquiry. With 670 members worldwide, the expense of running
the register is increasing.
I am completely rebuilding the R&V Web site, which can be
found at: www.oldengine.org/members
Peter Lowe, International R&V Registrar 9 Jamefield Drive
Maclean, 2463 Australia
Send letters to: Gas Engine Magazine, 1503 S.W. 42nd St.,
Topeka, KS 66609-1265; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Old Photograph of McCormick Deering-Binder and Farmall F-12
McCormick-Deering binder and Farmall F-12 fill out the scene in this old photograph.
In Memoriam of Howard E. Pray
Remembering Howard E. Pray, member of the Antique Engine & Tractor Assn. of Geneseo, Ill.
What Year Is This Reeves & Co.?
The Pottsville Historical Museum in Merlin, Ore., is looking for more information on their Reeves & Co. steam engine