Letters & Miscellanies

Notes and Responses From Readers

| September/October 2002

  • Bulls Eye

  • Bulls Eye

Fairbanks-Morse Engine Color and Nelson Bros. Engines

In the March 2001 issue of Gas Engine Magazine you published a letter from Stan Agacinski, in which he inquired about black paint he had found on his 1919 FM Model Z. Here is justification, in the form of a letter from Fairbanks-Morse, for the black paint. The engine about which this letter was written is a 1914 4 HP Type H FM.

Although the previous owner painted it a nasty green, he left the original paint around the 'Jack of all Trades' decal. It is definitely black. Not all FM greens are the same, either. My 1908 Type N was a Brewster green. There are at least three FM engine in the area with dark red paint; a 2 HP Type T, a 6 HP Z and 3 HP Z.

In the April 2002 issue you have a picture of a Bohon Dixie King. Although some Bohons may have been made by Nelson Brothers, I doubt that this one was. It has none of the Nelson hallmarks. The MacLeod engine in the August 2002 issue on page 3 is a Nelson Bros., one of the 23 or more names Nelson used on their contract engines. It was probably built between 1915 and 1923. If it has open well oilers on the main bearings it would be toward the earlier end of the range. I have an identical-looking 5 HP, but it has a Gray tag on it - badge engineering at its finest.

The more I research into Nelson engines, the more variations I find. There are many engines that show a family resemblance but are not identical. Does anyone know when Nelson took over Gray?

Al Wait 177 Park Ave. Contoocook, NH 03229-3083

Western Electric Dynamotor

This is in reference to the Western Electric 'Dynamotor' inquiry from Douglas Poor of Yucaipa, Calif. (see GEM, June 2002).

I believe this might be a 'tone' plant, also called a 'ringing machine.' It was installed in a central office building and generated dial tones, busy signals and ringing tones as well as the current that actually rang phones. From its size, it sounds like it would have been installed in a smaller office. Larger ones were about five feet long.

In 1918, the year the machine was patented, the Bell System was about to begin installing automatic (dial) switching systems. Smaller offices and those in smaller (at the time) cities, such as Denver, Houston and Raleigh, would get 'step-by-step' equipment, and almost all the larger cities (except the Los Angeles area) would get 'panel' equipment, which was much more complicated but had a much greater capacity. Tone plants were made in different sizes to meet the needs of different offices.

I suggest Mr. Poor contact the Vintage Telephone Equipment Museum in Seattle, Wash., at (206) 767-3012. The head curator is Don Ostrand. This is a museum of working telephone equipment and is well worth visiting. They have both step-by-step and panel switching machines, as well as the later crossbar systems. All are up and running, and you can make calls on them. I'm sure they'd have something on Mr. Poor's Dynamotor or know someone who does.

Frank Wilsey 2702 Whitney Ave. Baltimore, MD 21215-4149 E-mail: fwilsey@juno.com

Crown Engines

Just thought I'd report to you that I finally struck pay dirt locating another Crown Motor Works engine, thanks to the article you published in GEM (see GEM, April 2002). It's the only Crown I know about other than the two I have that were left over from my grandfather's engine-making operations in the 1910-1920 era.

Early last week I received the latest of several dozen responses to the GEM article, this one from a Mr. Charles (Chuck) Werntz of St. Peters, Mo., and it turns out he has a 1/2 HP Crown engine (confirmed with the exchange of color photos and several phone conversations) that's in perfect working condition. In fact, he runs it regularly at local antique engine shows.

Chuck is 86 years old, and he's had the engine for 75 years! It was given to him when he was a boy by his father, a machinist, who obtained it about 1924 in a trade with the Fleming Rake Co. (now defunct), a manufacturer of farm equipment near Huntsville, Mo. Since the engine has no markings on it (consistent with what I pointed out in my article -my grandfather never put any markings on his engines), Chuck and his father never knew who made the little engine, where it came from or even when it was made. First his dad, and now he'd been wondering and speculating over this little mystery for nearly eight decades. So now, after all those years, he knows, and he's thrilled - thanks to the April 2002 GEM article.

And I'm pleased, too. It's fun to know there's at least one other Crown engine still kicking, and it's a 1/2 HP model, the one model I'd never seen before (it's the one shown in the line drawing on page 26 of the GEM article). So now I have a chance to obtain more data and refine the story about the Crown Motor Works. Chuck Werntz is arranging for a friend to make and send me a video record of his engine - in both static and running form. I'm looking forward to getting that video.

Chuck also related a charming tale of how when he was a young boy, not too long after Charles Lindbergh's famous solo flight across the Atlantic to Paris, he would run his little engine in his backyard in Huntsville, Mo., with a propeller on it rather than its normal flywheel.

He says he'd sit out there in the yard thinking of Lindbergh's long, lonely flight, and, with his own leather helmet and goggles on, listen to the roar of his little engine and feel the Missouri wind from the prop blowing across his face. He said that in this way his boyhood imagination, and his little Crown engine, took him on many solo flights to many places, all around the world. Thanks again for the publishing the Crown Motor Works article.

Doug Nash 32906 Avenida Descanso San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675 E-mail: dnash32906@aol.com

Send letters to: Gas Engine Magazine, 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609-1265, or e-mail: rbackus@ogdenpubs.com

Excerpted from a letter from Colt Industries Fairbanks-Morse Engine Division:

February 3, 1976 Subject: Fairbanks-Morse (Jack of all Trades) In reference to your letter dated Dec. 30, 1975, we have enclosed a copy of instructions for setting up and operating subject engine. The approximate date of manufacture for your engine was 1915, the color, black. We're sorry, there are no decals. Good luck now in restoring your engine.

J. C. Johnson Colt Industries/Fairbanks-Morse Engine Division


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