Fairbanks-Morse Z Farm Team Resurrection

By Staff
article image
Photo By Brian Edgerton and Les Fossum
1917 3 HP Fairbanks-Morse Z and its companion Typhoon Power Pump get a new lease on life. 

1917 Fairbanks-Morse Z
 Fairbanks, Morse & Co., Beloit, Wis.
Year: 1917
Serial number: 225401
HP: 3
RPM: 500
Bore: 4-1/2-inch
Stroke: 6-inch 
Ignition: FM Model R, modified from original igniter configuration

1917 Fairbanks-Morse Z and farm team restoration

My wife, Deb, and I have been hosting an apple pressing bee (aka apple squeezing or cider pressing) at our hobby farm in Idaho Falls, Idaho, each autumn since about 1995. Over the years it has continued to attract many local residents and antique farm equipment aficionados from throughout the area. Featured in this annual pressing is an 1859/60 Emery Brothers (serial no. 311, Albany, N.Y.) cider press retrieved from my grandfather’s farm in Vermont, powered by various stationary engines I’ve restored over the years.

I’m usually busier than a fox in a henhouse during these cider pressings and don’t get a chance to mingle with all the participants, let alone enjoy the homemade baked goods and hand-turned ice cream served during these events. However, late in our September 2009 Apple Pressing I was approached by an elderly gentleman named Donald Trupp, who complimented me on all the restored and popping farm engines and then noted that his father had abandoned an old engine behind their farm near Rexburg, Idaho, after post-war electrification. He asked if I would be interested in retrieving this engine to restore. Needless to say I was interested, exchanged contact information and said I would be up to his place the next day (always strike while the iron is still hot!).

Buried treasure

The following day, I, along with my cousin Fred Allport and friend Bill Poole, met Donald and his wife, Jean, at their Rexburg farm. After a brief walk through their back “bone yard” we found the long-abandoned engine upside down, half sunk into the dry sagebrush landscape. Once dug out and turned over it was immediately recognized as an early Fairbanks-Morse Model Z, converted from igniter to plug. Other than a missing oiler, gas tank and rear guard, it was complete.

We took the opportunity to scour the adjoining iron artifacts scattered across the sagebrush and located a nearby Fairbanks-Morse pump. Further scouting located the broken accumulator tank and various pieces of the old pump. Mr. Trupp noted that the engine and pump had worked as a team for many years in the 1920s and 1930s, pushing water 150 feet from the nearby Teton River canyon up to a wooden water tower used for irrigation. The following week, with permission, these artifacts were retrieved with the help of my friend and fellow iron enthusiast Garry Anderson and brought to my shop in Idaho Falls.

Putting ‘er back together

Although the original engine was relatively complete, the 1917 Fairbanks-Morse Z restoration took almost two years with help from fellow engine enthusiast Rick Thurman and friend Les Fossum. After 65 years in the desert, the Z was virtually a solid piece of rusted iron; the piston, valves, gears, thumb screws, and all bolts and nuts were firmly frozen. Both engine and pump were taken to the shop of retired machinist Les and there the restoration saga began.

The magneto was unsalvageable and required replacement with a reconditioned Model R from Mark’s Magneto (Colchester, Conn.). The missing gas tank and vintage oiler were also replaced. The piston was firmly frozen in the cylinder and required patient heating with a flammable mixture of diesel fuel, brake fluid and gasoline followed by precision maul strokes to finally release the piston. The cylinder bore was honed and new piston rings fitted. The engine was completely dismantled, sandblasted, primed and repainted prior to reassembly. The early Z mixer with re-cycle pump was rebuilt by Les with help from the experts at Hit & Miss Enterprises of Orwell, Ohio. Meanwhile, I built a laminated oak and hickory hand truck with period iron wheels capable of jointly mounting the FM-Z engine and its companion Typhoon pump.

Typhoon Power Pump
Fairbanks, Morse & Co., Beloit, Wis.
Year: Unknown
Serial number: T36610
Bore: 2-1/2-inch
Stroke: 5-inch
RPM: 40
Gal. per rev: 0.199
Gal. per min: 7.98
Suction pipe: 1-1/2-inch
Discharge pipe: 1-inch
Gear ratio: 5:1
Floor space: 40-inch by 30-1/2-inch
Overall height: 35-1/2-inches
Weight: 400 lb

Ambitious Typhoon pump restoration

From my perspective, the hope of resurrecting the Fairbanks-Morse Typhoon pump appeared to be a long shot, but Les was clearly relishing the challenge and was eager to proceed. We had never seen such a pump restored or operating, and literature on this item is sparse. Other than a reprint of a 1918 Fairbanks-Morse Bulletin 179 we located on eBay from which we identified the pump as a 2-1/2-inch 8 GPM double-acting, reciprocating mechanism, we had no information on the operation of this device. The pump was rusted nearly solid. The pump shaft and piston rod had to be sawed apart in order to disassemble the corroded hulk.

Les thereupon patiently took on the painstaking pump restoration project from 2009 to 2011: dismantling, measuring, reverse-engineering and re-machining the pump piece by piece. After disassembly, all original parts were sandblasted and primed. All pump shafts and crank pins had to be renewed. New pistons, connecting rod and a packing box were machined to replace the original components.

The original piston was a three-piece unit constructed of cast iron while the replacement was identically machined in aluminum. All mating surfaces were trued up and re-machined as necessary. The babbitt bearings were salvageable after some diligent scraping and filing. Pump reassembly proceeded with current-day shop techniques, yet in a non-intrusive manner, holding to the original pump configuration and function. The disassembly and reassembly of the Typhoon pump is exacting, requiring a precise sequence – so my restoration companion has me by the “short ones” for any future maintenance of this uncommon pump. I’m still waiting on him to pull together a disassembly-assembly procedure!

The broken pump accumulator was cleaned and brazed to its mounting flange. External mating surfaces were carefully realigned and machined. For both the engine and pump, all external cast pieces, once sandblasted and primed, were painted with Rust-Oleum #7733 dark hunter green, which best matches the original “Brewster Green” of Fairbanks-Morse equipment, in my opinion. Replacement leather cups were found and modified for use (Lehman’s Pump, Kidron, Ohio). Graphite packing rope was located to complete the restored piston rod gland.

Overall, the pump resurrection was quite a forensic process, and Les relished every minute of it!

Farm team together again

Finally in the summer of 2011, we mounted and aligned the restored Fairbanks-Morse engine and its companion Typhoon pump on the newly built hand truck. We successfully started and tuned the Fairbanks-Morse Z engine on the truck.

The engine is surprisingly easy to start with the re-circulating mixer and fuel pump lever. With the help of Rick Thurman an old thresher canvas belt was cut and stitched to length to use as a drive belt from the engine to its companion pump.

Historically correct engine and pump labeling were locally designed (Landmark Signs, Idaho Falls, Idaho) and added to the finished hand truck and pump. All pipe spools were secured and the untested engine-pump assembly was rolled out for our Iron Play Day and Apple Pressing on September 24, 2011. We started the engine with a mixture of water and soluble oil, primed the resurrected Typhoon pump, and after a few seconds of bated breath and anticipation, the pump discharge burped out a good flow of water at the appropriate flow rate. It was an emotional moment for Les and me, and it was greeted by a cheer from the surrounding IRON Club (Idaho Rusty Object Nuts, EDGE&TA Branch 7) enthusiasts.

Later that day, Don Trupp and his wife, Jean, joined us for the apple squeezing and watched with pleasure the operation of their old farm engine and pump working together as a team again after being abandoned in the sagebrush so many years ago.

We gave Don some quiet time alone with the old engine and pump popping and gushing away that day. Perhaps he remembered a time as a young boy helping his dad on the farm almost 70 years ago, priming and running that old “Engine and Pump Team” as it pushed water up from the ice-cold Teton River into that wooden storage tank, then using it to irrigate the parched Idaho fields. It was clearly a private moment and we respectfully chose not to pry.

This challenging project was truly a pleasure for all involved. I gratefully thank my colleagues Les Fossum and Rick Thurman for all their time and talent, my wife, Deb, for her patience, and I also thank Don and Jean Trupp for their generosity to allow us the opportunity to bring this old “Farm Team” back to life for all to enjoy today!

Contact Brian Edgerton at (208) 520-9434 • edgertbg@gmail.com

Gas Engine Magazine
Gas Engine Magazine
Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines