John Smyth 4-1/2 hp Restoration – Part 1 of 5

Peter Rooke begins the restoration of a John Smyth engine.

| February/March 2016

John M. Smyth Co. General Merchandise of Chicago, Illinois, sold all manner of goods for home and farm via mail order, including gas engines. This catalog business was not as big as Sears or Wards, but it was predominant in the Chicago area.

The engines sold under the John Smyth name were manufactured by the Waterloo Gas Engine Company, Waterloo, Iowa, which supplied engines to some 67 other companies including Eaton, Jackson, Majestic and Sandow, to name but a few. When Waterloo was sold to John Deere in 1918, supplies of these contract engines ceased.

The Waterloo Gas Engine Co. added serial numbers to the engines they produced, and for some brands of contract engines a letter prefix was added. Plain serial numbers were used on the Smyth engines, and this engine, serial number 106,203, would have been manufactured in 1914, when numbers ran from 91,673 to 113,017.


This engine weighed too much for the usual mobile workbench, so it was stripped before being lifted onto it. The first step was to remove the cylinder head. After removing the four nuts securing the head, and the rocker arm pivot, the head was still stuck tight. The piston and connecting rod were then removed, along with the governor and pushrod. To try and knock the head free, some 3-inch square lumber was inserted into the cylinder from the back and hit with a dead-blow hammer, but without success. However, a 3-foot long length of 3-inch diameter aluminum acquired for another project was inserted in the bore, and used like a battering ram the head eventually started to move.

The flywheel pulley had to be removed next, but the securing bolt had no head. Fortunately, there was some thread left, so the appropriate nut was screwed on and then welded to the remains of the bolt. After applying penetrating fluid the bolt eventually yielded and was removed.

The visible end of the crankshaft was lightly sanded with emery cloth to remove the worst visible rust, then penetrating fluid was applied. The hydraulic puller was set up, but with pressure applied there was no sign of movement. The puller was left under tension, but after a couple of days, during which more penetrating fluid was applied and the pulley hub was occasionally shocked with a hammer blow, the pulley started to move and was then gradually eased off.